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Health Literacy Staff Guide

Shared decision making - what does it look like?


Shared decision-making:

  •   Is the practice of educating patients, consumers, families and carers about their conditions, outlining possible treatment options and outcomes, and considering patient lifestyle preferences before coming to a decision about care
  •  can require extensive patient education and communication.
  •  fully engages the patient or consumer, ensures care plans align with lifestyle needs and preferences, and can ultimately lead to improved adherence to health care
  •  is largely seen as a key element of good health care and patient and consumer engagement
  •  puts the patient and consumer at the centre of care and can result in higher-quality care that meets patient preferences
  •  requires a shift in which patients are acknowledged as true partners and experts in their own lived experience and context of care


  •  Decision making may unfold over time, in multiple interactions, and with different clinicians
  •  Family and caregivers who are often involved in healthcare decisions
  •  Older adult patients and patients from certain cultural backgrounds may prefer a patient-provider relationship in which the provider makes the decisions


Australian context

Shared decision making is not just about providing education, and it is not the same as informed consent. It involves discussing the risks and benefits of each option available, taking into consideration the person’s values, preferences and circumstances.

NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation

  • Shared decision making can improve satisfaction with care and leads to better quality decisions
  • Consumers using evidence-based decision aids have improved knowledge of the options, more accurate expectations of possible benefits and harms, and feel that they had greater participation in decision making than people receiving usual care
  • Better-informed consumers make different  choices about treatment;
    • they may have a more realistic appreciation of likely benefits and risks of treatment
    • they make decisions about the potential outcomes in a more considered way.
    • inappropriate or excessive treatment is reduced

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. 2019


Further reading


Shared decision making: what do clinicians need to know and why should they bother? Medical Journal of Australia. 2014.