BACKGROUND: Little research has examined whether shared decision making (SDM) occurs in consultations for acute respiratory infections (ARIs), including what, and how, antibiotic benefits and harms are discussed. We aimed to analyse the extent and nature of SDM in consultations between GPs and patients with ARIs, and explore communication with and without the use of patient decision aids.
METHODS: This was an observational study in Australian general practices, nested within a cluster randomised trial of decision aids (for acute otitis media [AOM], sore throat, acute bronchitis) designed for general practitioners (GPs) to use with patients, compared with usual care (no decision aids). Audio-recordings of consultations of a convenience sample of consenting patients seeing a GP for an ARI were independently analysed by two raters using the OPTION-12 (observing patient involvement in decision making) scale (maximum score of 100) and 5 items (about communicating evidence) from the Assessing Communication about Evidence and Patient Preferences (ACEPP) tool (maximum score of 5). Patients also self-completed a questionnaire post-consultation that contained items from CollaboRATE-5 (perceptions of involvement in the decision-making process), a decisional conflict scale, and a decision self-efficacy scale. Descriptive statistics were calculated for each measure.
RESULTS: Thirty-six consultations, involving 13 GPs, were recorded (20 for bronchitis, 10 sore throat, 6 AOM). The mean (SD) total OPTION-12 score was 29.4 (12.5; range 4-54), with item 12 (need to review decision) the highest (mean = 3) and item 10 (eliciting patients' preferred level of decision-making involvement) the lowest (mean = 0.1). The mean (SD) total ACEPP score was 2 (1.6), with the item about discussing benefits scoring highest. In consultations where a decision aid was used (15, 42%), compared to the 21 usual care consultations, mean observer-assessed SDM scores (OPTION-12, ACEPP scores) were higher and antibiotic harms mentioned in all (compared to only 1) consultations. Patients generally reported high decision involvement and self-efficacy, and low decisional conflict.
CONCLUSIONS: The extent of observer-assessed SDM between GPs and patients with ARIs was generally low. Balanced discussion of antibiotic benefits and harms occurred more often when decision aids were used.