Skip to main content

Why Shared Decision Making Matters

What is Shared Decision Making?

Shared decision making (SDM) is a key component to a patient feeling empowered and allows patients and their providers to make health care decisions together. It honors both the provider’s and the patient’s expertise: the provider’s expert medical knowledge of scientific evidence, treatment options and their potential benefits and risks, and the patient’s expert knowledge of what’s most important to them.

Infographic. Descriptive text follows.

Improves patient outcomes

Patients report more satisfying interactions with their healthcare team

Improves sense of wellbeing

Increases self-esteem, independence, and control

Patients adapt faster to illness

How Can you Involve Your Patient in SDM?

  • Encourage and invite your patient to participate in their healthcare decisions, especially when it comes to choosing the right cancer screening, test, and treatment. It’s important for them to know that they have a choice, that their voice must be heard, and you would like to make an informed decision together.
  • Present their treatment options and the benefits and risks of each one. Remember to use plain language to share scientific evidence with your patient.
  • Ask your patient, “What’s most important to you?” By assessing your patients’ values, preferences, culture, and living and work conditions you may uncover their reasonings for leaning toward a certain screening, test, or treatment option.

  • Through deliberation and informed decision making, help your patients choose the right cancer and health screenings, tests, procedures, and treatments that take into consideration your expertise with their preferences and values.

  • Assist your patient in implementing their plan. Encourage them to revisit the decision if their conditions change. Making decisions could be a continuous process.

This resource was created through a collaboration between Patient Empowerment Network and Empowered Health, a partnership between the CDC Foundation and Amgen Oncology, with technical support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


  • Elwyn G, Frosch D, Thomson R, Joseph-Williams N, Lloyd A, Kinnersley P, Cording E, Tomson D, Dodd C, Rollnick S, Edwards A, Barry M. Shared decision making: a model for clinical practice. J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Oct;27(10):1361-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-012-2077-6. Epub 2012 May 23. PMID: 22618581; PMCID: PMC3445676.

  • Bomhof-Roordink H, Gärtner FR, Stiggelbout AM, Pieterse AH. Key components of shared decision making models: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2019 Dec 17;9(12):e031763. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031763. PMID: 31852700; PMCID: PMC6937101.

  • Resnicow K, Catley D, Goggin K, Hawley S, Williams GC. Shared Decision Making in Health Care: Theoretical Perspectives for Why It Works and  For Whom. Med Decis Making. 2022 Aug;42(6):755-764. doi:  10.1177/0272989X211058068. Epub 2021 Nov 16. PMID: 34784805; PMCID: PMC9108118.