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health decision making, physician-patient relationship, treatment decision



  1. Ryan, John
  2. Sysko, James


Background: Studies indicate that better patient compliance and higher patient satisfaction result when agreement exists between the physician and the patient regarding the medical problem and its treatment.


Purposes: This study will extend previous work by investigating (1) under what conditions patients prefer to be actively involved in their treatment decisions, (2) the underlying theoretical reasons that may account for patient decision-making preferences, and (3) what medical decision-making model can guide physicians and medical policy makers when adapting their medical decision-making styles.


Methodology/Approach: A total of 2,765 individuals were surveyed by the National Opinion Research Center as part of the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS). This survey included a one-time topical module on "Doctors and Patients," which incorporated questions on patient preferences concerning the physician-patient relationship. Demographic information (e.g., age, education, and sex) was analyzed against patient preferences for medical decision making.


Findings: Results support patient preferences for participatory medical decision making, and this is especially true for younger, more educated, and female patients.


Practice Implications: Common prudence would suggest that the best way to determine a patient's preference for participating in medical decision making is to simply ask them. However, the very asking of this straightforward question is based on the assumption that patients do wish to be actively involved. Results of this study support such an assumption. In the absence of all other knowledge, the results of this national survey support the health care practitioner's belief that U.S. patients, in general, have a preference for being actively involved in medical decision making and that this preference is truer for younger, female, and more educated patients.