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Dual equipoise shared decision making: definitions for decision and behaviour support interventions

  • Author(s): Elwyn, Glyn
  • Frosch, Dominick
  • Rollnick, Stephen
  • et al.

Abstract Background There is increasing interest in interventions that can support patients who face difficult decisions and individuals who need to modify their behaviour to achieve better outcomes. Evidence for effectiveness is used to categorise patients care. Effective care is where evidence of benefit outweighs harm: patients should always receive this type of care, where indicated. Preference-sensitive care describes a situation where the evidence for the superiority of one treatment over another is either not available or does not allow differentiation; in this situation, there are two or more valid approaches, and the best choice depends on how individuals value the risks and benefits of treatments. Discussion Preference-sensitive decisions are defined by equipoise: situations where options need to be deliberated. Moreover, where both healthcare professionals and patients agree that equipoise exists, situations may be regarded as having 'dual equipoise'. Such conditions are ideal for shared decision making. However, there are many situations in medicine where dual equipoise does not exist, where health professionals hold the view that scientific evidence for benefit strongly outweighs harm. This is often the case where people suffer from chronic conditions, and where behaviour change is recommended to improve outcomes. However, some patients, are either ambivalent or find it difficult to sustain optimal behaviours, i.e., patients will be in varying degrees of equipoise. Therefore, situations where dual equipoise exists (or not) help to clarify the definitions of two classes of support, namely, decision and behaviour change support interventions. Decision support interventions help people think about choices they face; they describe where and why choice exists, in short, conditions of dual equipoise; they provide information about options, including, where reasonable, the option of taking no action. These interventions help people to deliberate, independently or in collaboration with others, about options by considering relevant attributes; they support people to forecast how they might feel about short, intermediate, and long-term outcomes that have relevant consequences, in ways that help the process of constructing preferences and eventual decision making appropriate to their individual situation. Whereas, behavioural support interventions describe, justify, and recommend actions that, over time, lead to predictable outcomes over short, intermediate, and long-term timeframes, and that have relevant and important consequences for those who are considering behaviour change. Summary Decision and behaviour support interventions have divergent aims, different relationships to equipoise, and form two classes of interventions.

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