Shared Decision-Making Makes Sense for Patients and the Bottom Line

If shared decision-making is good for patients, is it good for the bottom line as well? A new study from NPC and Real Chemistry sheds light. 

In the last decade, we’ve seen stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem embrace shared decision-making (SDM) as a way to promote patient-centered care and foster a more collaborative partnership between patients and their healthcare team. But if SDM is good for patients, is it good for the bottom line too? 

A new study from NPC and Real Chemistry published in December’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Pathways offers new insights. 

While research has demonstrated that shared decision-making (SDM) can play a role in supporting high-quality, patient-centered care, systematic studies haven’t offered clear answers on whether SDM, and the patient decision aids (PtDAs) that help facilitate it, impact the use of healthcare services. As stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem design and deploy mechanisms to manage utilization and rein in costs – too often in ways that are not supported by evidence of patient benefit or improvements in value – NPC and Discern explored the question to provide more definitive answers. 

The NPC/Discern research team examined existing studies that assessed the impact of SDM on costs, utilization, and use of prevention-related care. While study design and findings were mixed across the studies evaluated, the research team was able to derive important insights. In the majority of studies, they found that the use of SDM and PtDAs led to: 

  • A decrease or no change in costs
  • Reduced utilization 
  • Increased use of prevention-based approaches

The variability of study design and findings on this topic signals that further research is warranted. In particular, more work is needed to understand the mixed impact of prevention-based care on costs as well as the persistent “tug” that fee-for-service models have on utilization. 

But this study demonstrates to healthcare teams and payers that meaningfully engaging with patients to navigate complex healthcare decisions isn’t just the right thing to do. Supporting a patient/clinician partnership to evaluate evidence of the benefits and risks of care choices, understand goals and preferences, and jointly make informed care decisions may also be a sound approach to delivering value in healthcare. 

Read more about the study. 

Learn more about the authors.