A new personalized training program for shared decision-making (SDM) was found to improve physician communication skills and their ability to identify patient needs, according to an article published in The Journal of Rheumatology.

Researchers sought to create an SDM training program for rheumatologists that focuses on better understanding patients’ preferences, as well as needs to increase physicians’ communication skills and the ability to identify said needs. The basis of the training program was established by identifying different personality types of patients and how the physician should and can engage in SDM with them based on their type.

The study investigators assessed the effects of their program by engaging 30 rheumatologists and their patients (n=268) through surveys before the training and 10 weeks after. These surveys looked for self-reported improvement from the physicians and increased satisfaction from the patients. Immediately after the training, 57% of the rheumatologists reported they were “capable of appreciating the preference of their patients to engage in SDM,” and 62% reported improved communication skills. After 10 weeks following the training, 74% reported improved communication skills with 33% reporting increased SDM participation. As for patient satisfaction, there were no statistically significant differences from before and after the training.

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Limitations of this study include the existing high satisfaction rates of the patient population, potentially diminishing the effect the training had on the population. Additionally, the results may have been skewed by the fact that some of the rheumatologists had been practicing SDM with their patients prior to the improved training program. Also of note is that the population of patients had little variation.

From their results, the researchers concluded that “the training was well received by the participating rheumatologists” and that the program “increased awareness about the principles of SDM in patients and physicians, and improved physicians’ communicative skills.” They recommend further research to focus on the direct effect of SDM training on daily practice.

Disclosure: This clinical trial was supported by Pfizer. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Mahmood S, Hazes JMW, Veldt P, et al. The development and evaluation of personalized training in shared decision-making skills for rheumatologists [published online April 1, 2019]. J Rheumatol. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.180780