How does decision complexity affect shared decision making? An analysis of patient-provider antiretroviral initiation dialogue

Wynne Callon, Somnath Saha, Ira B. Wilson, Michael Barton Laws, Michele Massa, P. Todd Korthuis, Victoria Sharp, Jonathan Cohn, Richard D Moore, Mary Catherine Beach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: This study analyzed patient-provider dialogue regarding anti-retroviral therapy (ART) initiation, assessing the degree to which shared decision making (SDM) occurred. Methods: We analyzed 24 audio-recorded dialogues between 14 HIV providers and their patients regarding ART initiation. We coded transcribed dialogues for seven SDM elements. We stratified dialogues into three levels of decision complexity (basic, intermediate, complex) based on patient CD4 counts and evaluated SDM criteria fulfillment at each level of decision complexity. Results: There were five basic, twelve intermediate, and seven . complex decisions in our sample. While only two met the defined criteria for SDM, the mean number of SDM elements present increased with each level of decision complexity. Discussion of the clinical issue requiring the decision occurred most frequently (88%), while discussion of pros/cons (13%), patient's understanding (21%), and decision alternatives (29%) occurred least frequently. Conclusion/Practice implications: While few dialogues met the defined SDM criteria, providers are having conversations that respond to decision complexity. Clinicians should be aware that discussion of pros/cons, alternatives, and uncertainties are frequently skipped, even when these elements are clearly relevant, as in complex decisions. In addition, rhetorical questions to assess patient preferences and understanding are insufficient to fully engage patients in SDM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
StateAccepted/In press - Sep 23 2016



  • Antiretroviral initiation
  • Patient-provider communication
  • Shared decision making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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