Communication practices that encourage and constrain shared decision making in health-care encounters: Systematic review of conversation analytic research.

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Shared decision making (SDM) is generally treated as good practice in health-care interactions. Conversation analytic research has yielded detailed findings about decision making in health-care encounters.


To map decision making communication practices relevant to health-care outcomes in face-to-face interactions yielded by prior conversation analyses, and to examine their function in relation to SDM.


We searched nine electronic databases (last search November 2016) and our own and other academics' collections.


Published conversation analyses (no restriction on publication dates) using recordings of health-care encounters in English where the patient (and/or companion) was present and where the data and analysis focused on health/illness-related decision making.


We extracted study characteristics, aims, findings relating to communication practices, how these functioned in relation to SDM, and internal/external validity issues. We synthesised findings aggregatively.


Twenty-eight publications met the inclusion criteria. We sorted findings into 13 types of communication practices and organized these in relation to four elements of decision-making sequences: (i) broaching decision making; (ii) putting forward a course of action; (iii) committing or not (to the action put forward); and (iv) HCPs' responses to patients' resistance or withholding of commitment. Patients have limited opportunities to influence decision making. HCPs' practices may constrain or encourage this participation.


Patients, companions and HCPs together treat and undertake decision making as shared, though to varying degrees. Even for non-negotiable treatment trajectories, the spirit of SDM can be invoked through practices that encourage participation (eg by bringing the patient towards shared understanding of the decision's rationale).

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