Decision aids for people facing health treatment or screening decisions.

Dawn Stacey, Carol L. Bennett, Michael J. Barry, Nananda F. Col, Karen B. Eden, Margaret Holmes-Rovner, Hilary Llewellyn-Thomas, Anne Lyddiatt, France Légaré, Richard Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1427 Scopus citations


Decision aids prepare people to participate in decisions that involve weighing benefits, harms, and scientific uncertainty. To evaluate the effectiveness of decision aids for people facing treatment or screening decisions. For this update, we searched from January 2006 to December 2009 in MEDLINE (Ovid); Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library, issue 4 2009); CINAHL (Ovid) (to September 2008 only); EMBASE (Ovid); PsycINFO (Ovid); and grey literature. Cumulatively, we have searched each database since its start date. We included published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of decision aids, which are interventions designed to support patients' decision making by providing information about treatment or screening options and their associated outcomes, compared to usual care and/or alternative interventions. We excluded studies in which participants were not making an active treatment or screening decision. Two review authors independently screened abstracts for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed potential risk of bias. The primary outcomes, based on the International Patient Decision Aid Standards, were:A) decision attributes;B) decision making process attributes.Secondary outcomes were behavioral, health, and health system effects. We pooled results of RCTs using mean differences (MD) and relative risks (RR), applying a random effects model. Of 34,316 unique citations, 86 studies involving 20,209 participants met the eligibility criteria and were included. Thirty-one of these studies are new in this update. Twenty-nine trials are ongoing. There was variability in potential risk of bias across studies. The two criteria that were most problematic were lack of blinding and the potential for selective outcome reporting, given that most of the earlier trials were not registered.Of 86 included studies, 63 (73%) used at least one measure that mapped onto an IPDAS effectiveness criterion: A) criteria involving decision attributes: knowledge scores (51 studies); accurate risk perceptions (16 studies); and informed value-based choice (12 studies); and B) criteria involving decision process attributes: feeling informed (30 studies) and feeling clear about values (18 studies).A) Criteria involving decision attributes:Decision aids performed better than usual care interventions by increasing knowledge (MD 13.77 out of 100; 95% confidence interval (CI) 11.40 to 16.15; n = 26). When more detailed decision aids were compared to simpler decision aids, the relative improvement in knowledge was significant (MD 4.97 out of 100; 95% CI 3.22 to 6.72; n = 15). Exposure to a decision aid with expressed probabilities resulted in a higher proportion of people with accurate risk perceptions (RR 1.74; 95% CI 1.46 to 2.08; n = 14). The effect was stronger when probabilities were expressed in numbers (RR 1.93; 95% CI 1.58 to 2.37; n = 11) rather than words (RR 1.27; 95% CI 1.09 to 1.48; n = 3).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)CD001431
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 8 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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