Decision aids effective for older adults

Decision aids increase older adults’ risk perception, improve their knowledge, decrease decisional conflict, and improve older patients’ participation in decision making. This is concluded by a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the efficacy of decision aids as compared to usual care or alternative intervention(s) for older adults facing treatment, screening or care decisions.

Decision aids have been overall successful in improving the quality of health decision making. Until now, it was unclear whether the impact of the results of using decision aids also apply to older people (aged 65+). A systematic search was conducted on studies investigating the effect of interventions designed to improve shared decision making by older adults or studies that analyzed the effect of the intervention in a subgroup with a mean age of 65+. After screening of 11,034 abstracts, 22 papers were included. Although the results indicate that decision aids have potential to support older people’s decision making, it must be noted that the body of literature on the effectiveness of decision aids for older adults is still in its infancy. The mean age in most studies was between 65 and 70, indicating that the oldest-old were not included. Only few of the included studies in the review conducted subgroup analysis in adults with low health literacy or numeracy, low educated adults, frail patients or other vulnerable (sub)groups. Future research should expand on the design, application and evaluation of decision aids for these groups at risk.

This study was conducted by Julia van Weert and Remco Sanders in collaboration with Barbara van Munster of the University Medical Center Groningen/Gelre Hospitals Apeldoorn, René Spijker and Lotty Hooft of Cochrane Netherlands, and Jesse Jansen of the University of Sydney. The study is recently published in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. Previously, the authors received an Honorary Mention Research Presentation Award for this study at the DC Health Communication Conference in 2015 in Fairfax, US.

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Published on: 04-05-2016