What Exactly Is Shared Decision-Making? A Qualitative Study of Shared Decision-Making in Lung Cancer Screening

Anne C Melzer, Sara E Golden, Sarah S Ono, Santanu Datta, Kristina Crothers, Christopher G Slatore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Shared decision-making (SDM) is widely recommended and required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for patients considering lung cancer screening (LCS).

OBJECTIVE: We examined clinicians' communication practices and perceived barriers of SDM for LCS at three medical centers with established screening programs.

DESIGN: Multicenter qualitative study of clinicians participating in LCS.

APPROACH: We performed semi-structured interviews, which were transcribed and analyzed using directed content analysis, guided by a theoretical model of patient-clinician communication.

PARTICIPANTS: We interviewed 24 clinicians including LCS coordinators (2), pulmonologists (3), and primary care providers (17), 4 of whom worked for the LCS program, a thoracic surgeon, and a radiologist.

RESULTS: All clinicians agreed with the goal of SDM, to ensure the screening decision was congruent with the patient's values. The depth and type of information presented by each clinician role varied considerably. LCS coordinators presented detailed information including numeric estimates of benefit and harm. Most PCPs explained the process more generally, focusing on logistics and the high rate of nodule detection. No clinician explicitly elicited values or communication preferences. Many PCPs tailored the conversation based on their implicit understanding of patients' values and preferences, gained from past experiences. PCPs reported that time, lack of detailed personal knowledge of LCS, and patient preferences were barriers to SDM. Many clinicians perceived that a significant proportion of patients were not interested in specific percentages and preferred to receive a clinician recommendation.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that clinicians support the goal of SDM for LCS decisions but PCPs may not perform some of its elements. The lack of completion of some elements, such as PCPs' lack of in-depth information exchange, may reflect perceived patient preferences for communication. As LCS is implemented, further research is needed to support a personalized, patient-centered approach to produce better outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Early online dateNov 19 2019
StateE-pub ahead of print - Nov 19 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society (RSG-15-155-01, Slatore (PI)). The study was supported by resources from the VA Portland Health Care System, Portland, OR, and the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Society of General Internal Medicine (This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply).


  • communication
  • lung cancer screening
  • shared decision-making

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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