Decision aids is the name commonly used to describe interventions that are designed for patients, or people facing health care decisions. These tools are used to facilitate shared decision making. A recent definition is cited: decision support interventions help people think about choices they face; they describe where and why choice exists; they provide information about options, including, where reasonable, the option of taking no action. These interventions aim to help people to deliberate, independently or in collaboration with others, about options by considering relevant attributes to help them forecast how they might feel about short, intermediate and long-term outcomes which have relevant consequences. They support the process of constructing preferences and eventual decision making, appropriate to their individual situation.
There are numerous ways in which decision support interventions can be used. They can be brief enough to be used in clinical encounters or they can be designed to have sufficient content such that patients can use them both before or after clinical encounters, with the possibility that they are introduced and supported by decision coaches. Nevertheless, although these interventions have been in production since the early 1980s, there is evidence of considerable difficulty of implementation into routine practice. The mainstream producers of decision support interventions are based in North America, including The Informed Medical Decisions Foundation and Healthwise. There are also many active research groups in the field, including the University of Ottawa, Dartmouth College, Cardiff University and Hamburg. A multilingual comprehensive collection of decision aids is at www.Med-Decs.org.
Evidence from randomized trials has been summarized in a Cochrane Collaboration systematic review. The most recent iteration in 2011 included 86 trials. This review confirmed the following findings from the previous (2009) review. Decision support interventions performed better-than-usual care interventions in terms of: a) greater knowledge; b) lower decisional conflict related to feeling uninformed; c) lower decisional conflict related to feeling unclear about personal values; d) higher participation in decision making. As in the previous review, exposure to decision aids demonstrated reduced rates of elective invasive surgery in favour of conservative options.
There has been an increase in use of decision support and a global interest in developing these interventions exists among both for-profit and not-for-profit organisations. It is therefore essential to have internationally accepted standards to assess the quality of their development, process, content, potential bias and method of field testing and evaluation. The International Patient Decision Aids Standards (IPDAS) Collaboration has published a checklist, and, more recently, an assessment instrument named IPDASi that is designed to evaluate the quality of decision support interventions. These standards are in the process of being updated (2009). There are signs in the USA that legislation mandating the use of these interventions will be developed.
- Elwyn G, Frosch D, Volandes A, Edwards A, Montori V (2009). Investing in deliberation: defining and developing decision support interventions for people facing difficult health decisions. White Paper Series. Gaithersberg, Maryland, USA: John M Eisenberg Center for Clinical Decisions and Communication.
- Gravel K, Légaré F, Graham ID (2006). "Barriers and facilitators to implementing shared decision-making in clinical practice: a systematic review of health professionals' perceptions". Implement Sci 1: 16. doi:10.1186/1748-5908-1-16. PMC 1586024. PMID 16899124.
- Stacey D, Bennett CL, Barry MJ et al. (2011). "Decision aids for people facing health treatment or screening decisions". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (3): CD001431. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001431.pub3. PMID 19588325.
- O'Connor AM, Wennberg JE, Legare F, et al. (2007). "Toward the 'tipping point': decision aids and informed patient choice". Health Aff (Millwood) 26 (3): 716–25. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.26.3.716. PMID 17485749.
- Elwyn G, O'Connor A, Stacey D, et al. (August 2006). "Developing a quality criteria framework for patient decision aids: online international Delphi consensus process". BMJ 333 (7565): 417. doi:10.1136/bmj.38926.629329.AE. PMC 1553508. PMID 16908462.
- Elwyn G, O'Connor AM, Bennett C, et al. (2009). "Assessing the quality of decision support technologies using the International Patient Decision Aid Standards instrument (IPDASi)". PLoS ONE 4 (3): e4705. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004705. PMC 2649534. PMID 19259269.