Cultural challenges to engaging patients in shared decision making

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Objective Engaging patients in their health care through shared decision-making is a priority embraced by several national and international groups. Missing from these initiatives is an understanding of the challenges involved in engaging patients from diverse backgrounds in shared decision-making. In this commentary, we summarize some of the challenges and pose points for consideration regarding how to move toward more culturally appropriate shared decision-making. Discussion The past decade has seen repeated calls for health policies, research projects and interventions that more actively include patients in decision making. Yet research has shown that patients from different racial/ethnic and cultural backgrounds appraise their decision making process less positively than do white, U.S.-born patients who are the current demographic majority. Conclusion While preliminary conceptual frameworks have been proposed for considering the role of race/ethnicity and culture in healthcare utilization, we maintain that more foundational and empirical work is necessary. We offer recommendations for how to best involve patients early in treatment and how to maximize decision making in the way most meaningful to patients. Innovative and sustained efforts are needed to educate and train providers to communicate effectively in engaging patients in informed, shared decision-making and to provide culturally competent health care.




Hawley, S. T., & Morris, A. M. (2017). Cultural challenges to engaging patients in shared decision making. Patient Education and Counseling, 100(1), 18–24.

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