SDM in Pediatric Dermatology: Step Approach Recommended

SDM in Pediatric Dermatology: Step Approach Recommended

SAN DIEGO — In the clinical experience of Kelly M. Cordoro, MD, many pediatric dermatology encounters involve shared decision-making (SDM): A collaborative model in which physicians and patients work together to make health care decisions based on the best evidence and on the patient’s values, priorities, and preferences.

“SDM is a cornerstone of person-centered care,” Dr Cordoro, professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, said at the Society for Pediatric Dermatology meeting, held in advance of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. “We do it all the time. It can be patient-led, clinician-led, or a patient/family dyad approach. If we do it well, it can improve outcomes. Patients report more satisfying interactions with their care team. It brings adolescent patients especially a sense of independence, and they adapt faster to their illness.”

First described in 1982, SDM is now recognized as being a measure of high-quality decision-making. In fact, some reimbursement models include SDM in assessments of complex medical decision-making. “SDM is ideally used for complex, preference-sensitive decisions when there are several reasonable alternatives,” she said. “It makes sense that these are heavily used by oncology, cardiology, surgery, and palliative care. Certainly, there is room for SDM in dermatology. Though we are behind other specialties in terms of the research, there are some patient decision aids available for some skin diseases.”

Conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis have multiple treatment options, often without a single best choice. The ideal treatment depends on disease characteristics (extent, sites affected, symptoms, and natural history), the patient (age, comorbidities, overall disease burden), therapies (safety, efficacy, duration, and adverse events), and preferences (logistics, time, shots vs pills, etc.). “These factors vary between patients and within the same patient over time, and at each step along the course of the condition, SDM approaches are relevant,” she said.

AHRQ’s Five-Step Approach

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality developed a five-step approach to SDM known as SHARE: Seek your patient’s participation, Help your patient explore and compare treatment options, Assess your patient’s values and preferences, Reach a decision with your patient, and Evaluate your patient’s decision. “We do this all the time in practice with adult patients, but may not label it as SDM,” said Dr Cordoro, chief and fellowship director of pediatric dermatology at UCSF.

“Where it gets a little murkier is in pediatric decision-making, which is a complex type of surrogate decision-making.” In this situation the patient — a minor — does not have full autonomy. The challenge for caregivers is that giving or withholding permission for interventions is a difficult role. “Their job is to protect the patient’s well-being while empowering them toward independence,” she said. “It can be hard for caregivers to understand complex information.” The challenge for clinicians, she continued, is to know when to invite SDM. This requires relational and sharp communication skills. “We must consider our patient’s/family’s health literacy and be sure the information we share is understood,” she said. “What are the social and structural determinants of health that are going to influence decision-making? You want to move into a relationship like this with cultural humility so you can understand what their preferences are and how they’re seeing the problem. Because there’s no universal agreement on the age at which minors should be deemed decision-making competent in health care, the approach is nuanced and depends on each individual patient and family.”

Dr Cordoro proposed the following four-step approach to SDM to use in pediatric dermatology:

Step 1: Share relevant information about the condition and treatment options in a clear and understandable manner. The average US resident is at the seventh-to eighth-grade level, “so we have to avoid medical jargon and use plain language,” Dr Cordoro said. Then, use the teach-back approach to assess their understanding. “Ask, ‘What is your understanding of the most important points that we talked about?’ Or, ‘Please share with me what you heard so I’m sure we all understand the plan.’ Using these techniques will reduce the barriers to care such as health literacy.”

Step 2: Solicit and understand patient/patient family perspectives, preferences, and priorities. The goal here is to uncover their beliefs, concerns, and assumptions that may influence their decisions. “Be mindful of power asymmetry,” she noted. “Many families still believe the doctor is the boss and they are there to be told what to do. Be clear that the patient has a say. Talk directly to the patient about their interests if developmentally appropriate.”

Step 3: Invite patients/family into a shared decision-making conversation. Consider statements like, “There are many reasonable options here. Let’s work together to come up with the decision that’s right for you.” Or, “Let’s start by exploring your specific goals and concerns. As you think about the options I just talked to you about, what’s important to you?” Or, “Do you want to think about this decision with anyone else?”

Step 4: Check back in frequently. Pause between significant points and check in. “See how they’re doing during the conversation,” she said. “At future appointments, remember to solicit their input on additional decisions.”

In Dr Cordoro’s opinion, one potential pitfall of SDM is an over-reliance on patient decision aids. “Very few are available in dermatology,” she said. “Some are relevant but none specifically to pediatric dermatology. They are often complex and require a high reading comprehension level. This disadvantages patients and families with low health literacy. Keep it clear and simple. Your patients will appreciate it.”

Dr Cordoro reported having no relevant disclosures. 

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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