Confronting evidence: individualised care and the case for shared decision-making.
In many clinical scenarios there exists more than one clinically appropriate intervention strategy. When these involve subjective trade-offs between potential benefits and harms, patients' preferences should inform decision-making. Shared decision-making is a collaborative process, where clinician and patient reconcile the best available evidence with respect for patients' individualized care preferences. In practice, clinicians may be poorly equipped to participate in this process. Shared decision-making is applicable to many conditions including stable coronary artery disease, end-of-life care, and numerous small decisions in chronic disease management. There is evidence of more clinically appropriate care patterns, improved patient understanding and sense of empowerment. Many trials reported a 20% reduction in major surgery in favour of conservative treatment, although demand tends to increase for some interventions. The generalizability of international evidence to Ireland is unclear. Considering the potential benefits, there is a case for implementing and evaluating shared decision-making pilot projects in Ireland.