The SHARE Approach—Essential Steps of Shared Decisionmaking: Quick Reference Guide

Workshop Curriculum: Tool 1

Cover Note: The SHARE Approach is a 1-day training program developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to help health care professionals work with patients to make the best possible health care decisions. It supports shared decisionmaking through the use of patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR).

What is shared decisionmaking?

Shared decisionmaking occurs when a health care provider and a patient work together to make a health care decision that is best for the patient. The optimal decision takes into account evidence-based information about available options, the provider's knowledge and experience, and the patient's values and preferences.

The SHARE Approach—

The SHARE Approach presents a five-step process for shared decisionmaking that includes exploring and comparing the benefits, harms, and risks of each option through meaningful dialogue about what matters most to the patient.

This approach will help you and your patients use evidence-based information while working together to make the best possible treatment decisions.

Step 1: Seek your patient's participation.

Step 2: Help your patient explore and compare treatment options.

Step 3: Assess your patient's values and preferences.

Step 4: Reach a decision with your patient.

Step 5: Evaluate your patient's decision.

A few words about communicating with patients…

As you know, patients attending a medical appointment appreciate a meaningful discussion that takes full advantage of a provider's expertise while allowing patients to communicate their questions or concerns.

To achieve these goals, providers should:

  • Acknowledge the complexity of the patient's medical condition.
  • Speak slowly and avoid using medical jargon.
  • Listen actively and provide information in small segments.
  • Pause to allow patient participation.
  • Periodically check with your patient for understanding.
  • Use the teach-back technique to assess comprehension of key points.
  • Use decision aids and other resources to help comprehension.
  • Offer interpreter services for people with language or hearing barriers.
  • Invite family members and caregivers to participate when appropriate.

Essential Steps to Shared Decisionmaking

The shared decisionmaking process begins when your patient has a health problem that needs a treatment decision. Shared decisionmaking also applies to decisions about preventive services and other interventions, such as screening and diagnostic tests.

Use these five steps to help your patient make evidence-based decisions about his or her medical care.

Step 1: Seek your patient's participation

Communicate that a choice exists and invite your patient to be involved in decisions.

Patients have a right to understand their treatment options. They may choose not to participate, but try to engage them in their health care decisions whenever possible.

Tips for engaging your patient

  • Summarize the health problem.
  • Let your patient know about any options for their health problem.
  • Ask your patient to participate with the health care team in making health care decisions.
  • Include family or caregivers in discussions.
  • Remind your patient that his or her participation is important.

Step 2: Help your patient explore and compare treatment options

Discuss the benefits and harms of each option.

Many health care decisions have multiple treatment options, including the option of no care. Often no single option is clearly superior. Use evidence-based decisionmaking resources to compare the treatment options.

Tips for exploring treatment options with your patient

  • Assess what your patient already knows about his or her options.
  • Write down a list of the options and describe them in plain language.
  • Clearly communicate the risks and benefits of each option. Explain the limitations of what is known and unknown about the treatment options and what would happen with no treatment.
  • Communicate numbers in a way that your patient can understand. Use simple visual aids (graphs, charts, pictographs) to help your patient understand your explanations.
  • Offer evidence-based decision aid tools whenever possible.
  • Summarize by listing the options again.
  • Use the teach-back technique to check for understanding. Ask your patient to explain in his or her own words what the options are.

Step 3: Assess your patient's values and preferences

Take into account what matters most to your patient.

An optimal decision is one that takes into account patient values and treatment goals.

Tips for assessing values and preferences

  • Encourage your patient to talk about what matter most to him or her.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Listen actively to your patient. Show empathy and interest in the effect that a problem is having on your patient's life.
  • Acknowledge the values and preferences that matter to your patient.
  • Agree on what is important to your patient.

Note: What matters most to your patient?

It might be:

  • Recovery time.
  • Out-of-pocket costs.
  • Being pain free.
  • Having a specific level of functionality.

Step 4: Reach a decision with your patient

Decide together on the best option and arrange for a followup appointment.

Guide your patient to express what matters the most to him or her in deciding the best treatment option. When your patient is ready, he or she will make a decision. Your patient may also choose to delegate the decision to someone else.

Tips for decisionmaking

  • Help your patient move to a decision by asking if he or she is ready to make a decision.
  • Ask if your patient would like additional information tools such as educational materials or decision aids to help make a decision.
  • Check to see if your patient needs more time to consider the options or discuss them with others.
  • Confirm the decision with your patient.
  • Schedule followup appointments to carry out the preferred treatment or active surveillance.

Step 5: Evaluate your patient's decision

Support your patient so the treatment decision has a positive impact on health outcomes.

For many decisions, particularly those related to the management of a chronic illness, decisions can and should be revisited after a trial period.

Tips for evaluation of the decision

  • Monitor the extent to which the treatment decision is implemented.
  • Assist your patient with managing barriers to implementing his or her decision.
  • Revisit the decision with your patient and determine if other decisions need to be made.

Collaborative Roles in Shared Decisionmaking

Who is involved?



The patient is an active participant in decisionmaking and is at the center of the decisionmaking process.

Clinician/Health Care Provider

The primary provider, such as physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, communicates that a health care choice exists and invites the patient to be involved in the decision. The provider presents the options, describes the risks and benefits of each, and explores the patient's values and preferences.


Decision Coach

The role of a decision coach can be assumed by members of the health care team, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists, or health educators. A decision coach can help assess factors influencing a patient's decisional conflicts, provide support to address decisional needs, monitor progress in decisionmaking, and screen for factors influencing implementation.

Manager/Support Staff

A shared decisionmaking manager organizes the clinical practice to incorporate shared decisionmaking. This person manages the library of decision aids and technologies and manages the clinic processes.

Family Members/Caregivers

Family is an important influence on patient decisionmaking. They lend support in clarifying values and preferences. Family is sometimes a legal proxy for children and elderly or seriously ill patients.

Medical Treatment Specialists

Treatment options may require input from specialists.

Resources for Patients and Clinicians

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Effective Health Care (EHC) Program offers a growing library of free, easy-to-read, treatment option resources for many health conditions. These resources can help patients and caregivers prepare for their next medical appointment and help clinicians and decisionmakers save time by viewing reliable, unbiased summaries of evidence-based research.

EHC Program Resources for Patients

Consumer Research Summaries

There are over 50 plain-language print and online summaries on treatments for chronic conditions ranging from Type 2 diabetes to hypertension to depression. Available in English and Spanish

Patient Decision Aids

These are online, interactive tools designed to help patients with certain clinical conditions think about what is important to them when talking with their clinician about treatment options.

EHC Program Resources for Clinicians

Clinician Research Summaries

There are over 50 print and online summaries on treatments for chronic conditions ranging from Type 2 diabetes to hypertension to depression. These resources provide the clinical bottom line and identify gaps in knowledge and what to discuss with your patients.

CME/CE Modules, Faculty Slides, Webcasts, and Other Resources

Other AHRQ Resources

Questions Are the Answer

Question Builder for Patients

Conozca las preguntas

AHRQ's Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit

Shared Decisionmaking Toolkit

The following resources are available at

Communication Resources

Shared Decisionmaking Resources

This tool is to be used in conjunction with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's SHARE Approach workshop. To learn more about the workshop, visit

Return to SHARE Approach Curriculum Tools

Page last reviewed July 2014
Page originally created July 2014
Internet Citation: The SHARE Approach—Essential Steps of Shared Decisionmaking: Quick Reference Guide. Content last reviewed July 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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