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Barriers and facilitators to implementing shared decision-making in clinical practice: a systematic review of health professionals' perceptions

Karine Gravel1, France Légaré12* and Ian D Graham3

Author Affiliations

1 Research Centre of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec, Québec, Canada

2 Department of Family Medicine, Université Laval, Québec, Canada

3 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

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Implementation Science 2006, 1:16  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-1-16

Published: 9 August 2006



Shared decision-making is advocated because of its potential to improve the quality of the decision-making process for patients and ultimately, patient outcomes. However, current evidence suggests that shared decision-making has not yet been widely adopted by health professionals. Therefore, a systematic review was performed on the barriers and facilitators to implementing shared decision-making in clinical practice as perceived by health professionals.


Covering the period from 1990 to March 2006, PubMed, Embase, CINHAL, PsycINFO, and Dissertation Abstracts were searched for studies in English or French. The references from included studies also were consulted. Studies were included if they reported on health professionals' perceived barriers and facilitators to implementing shared decision-making in their practices. Shared decision-making was defined as a joint process of decision making between health professionals and patients, or as decision support interventions including decision aids, or as the active participation of patients in decision making. No study design was excluded. Quality of the studies included was assessed independently by two of the authors. Using a pre-established taxonomy of barriers and facilitators to implementing clinical practice guidelines in practice, content analysis was performed.


Thirty-one publications covering 28 unique studies were included. Eleven studies were from the UK, eight from the USA, four from Canada, two from the Netherlands, and one from each of the following countries: France, Mexico, and Australia. Most of the studies used qualitative methods exclusively (18/28). Overall, the vast majority of participants (n = 2784) were physicians (89%). The three most often reported barriers were: time constraints (18/28), lack of applicability due to patient characteristics (12/28), and lack of applicability due to the clinical situation (12/28). The three most often reported facilitators were: provider motivation (15/28), positive impact on the clinical process (11/28), and positive impact on patient outcomes (10/28).


This systematic review reveals that interventions to foster implementation of shared decision-making in clinical practice will need to address a broad range of factors. It also reveals that on this subject there is very little known about any health professionals others than physicians. Future studies about implementation of shared decision-making should target a more diverse group of health professionals.