Asthma treatment: The importance of shared decision-making between physicians and patients

By Payel Gupta, MD, FACAAI | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published June 15, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Shared decision-making in healthcare is a collaborative care approach that involves active participation and engagement of both the physician and patient.

  • Shared decision-making can help to empower patients in their treatment, create tailored treatment plans, and improve communication and trust among patients and providers.

  • Physicians may find great benefit in breaking down the traditional hierarchical structure of healthcare interactions by collaborating with their patient on a care plan, ultimately improving health outcomes.

Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition affecting millions worldwide, requires comprehensive care that goes beyond the mere provision of medical treatment. Shared decision-making (SDM) between physicians and patients is an integral part of its treatment. By involving patients in decision-making processes, physicians can enhance patient satisfaction, improve treatment adherence, and ultimately optimize asthma management outcomes.

Shared decision-making empowers patients

SDM empowers patients by providing them with information and involving them in discussions regarding their asthma management. Traditionally, physicians have held the authoritative role in medical decision-making. However, with increasing informational resources and a growing emphasis on patient-centered care, SDM has become essential.

SDM not only enhances patient autonomy but also fosters a sense of ownership over their health. 

Research shows that empowering patients through SDM means they are more likely to adhere to treatment plans, take responsibility for self-management, and actively participate in their care.[]

Tailored treatment plans

Asthma is a heterogeneous disease with varying triggers, symptom severity, and treatment response among individuals. Implementing SDM enables physicians to understand the unique needs and preferences of each patient. By taking into account factors such as lifestyle, comorbidities, and personal goals, physicians can collaboratively develop individualized treatment plans.

Involving patients in discussions regarding their treatment options allows them to voice their concerns, ask questions, and express their preferences. This ultimately allows for a more personalized treatment plan, offering a holistic approach to asthma management and going beyond mere medication prescription. Patients may become involved in discussions regarding the use of inhalers or biologics, the role of environmental modifications, the importance of adherence to medication, and the integration of self-management strategies into daily routines.

Improving communication and trust

SDM provides an avenue for open and honest conversations, fostering trust and mutual understanding.

"Effective communication between physicians and patients is crucial for successful asthma management."

Payel Gupta, MD, FACAAI

A systematic review from Quebec University Hospital Center found SDM improves communication between physicians and patients.[] When patients feel heard and respected, they are more likely to disclose relevant information, such as triggers, symptom patterns, and concerns about medication side effects. This information is essential for physicians to make accurate diagnoses and develop appropriate treatment plans. Conversely, physicians can provide patients with accurate and comprehensible information, clarify any misconceptions, and address any fears or anxieties.

The SDM process encourages a collaborative partnership between physicians and patients, breaking down the traditional hierarchical structure of healthcare interactions. 

This approach not only strengthens the patient-physician relationship but also encourages patient engagement in their care plan. Ultimately, improved communication and trust contribute to enhanced patient satisfaction, increased treatment adherence, and improved health outcomes.

Available tools to foster SDM  

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) has created tools for patients to help them with SDM for various conditions. These interactive tools include a symptom test and specific SDM aids.[] ACAAI also created the Severe Asthma Shared Decision-Making Toolkit; physicians can access the Toolkit by becoming a member of the ACAAI, which is free for all medical residents.

What this means for you

SDM is a crucial component of effective asthma management. By using this approach for empowering patients, tailoring treatment plans, and improving communication and trust, physicians can optimize patient outcomes, promote patient satisfaction, and foster a patient-centered approach to care. Implementing SDM in clinical practice is not only beneficial for patients but also serves as a cornerstone of modern collaborative healthcare delivery.  

Read Next: A breath of fresh air: An expert’s perspective on the future of asthma

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