I admit it. I don't really like to share. Maybe something went awry in my kindergarten class that I've successfully blanched from memory, or maybe it's because I'm a female and my main experiences with 'sharing' have involved other women wanting to borrow my clothes. And then returning them not dry cleaned and stretched out and smelling like Clinique's 'Happy.'
Despite what the smell of my rumpled sweaters may suggest, the situation of sharing rarely has left me feeling happy.
One woman who's found more positive ways of sharing is family physician, Dr. Maura J. Sughrue. She, along with her colleagues at Fairfax Family Practice in Maryland, have adopted a style of practice called 'shared decision-making.' If this is a term you've only heard bantered about in marriage counseling, it will behoove you to know it is also a term that has emerged in the medical community to mean physicians equipping their patients with tools that help with 'filling in the gaps in knowledge that patients routinely face when their doctors either don't know about or don't fully explain the uncertainties of a test or a proposed course of treatment.' (Washington Post)
According to the Washington Post article 'Giving Patients A Larger Voice,' shared decision-making may involve 'short videos, brochures, questionnaires and interactive computer programs, which patients may take home and go through at their own pace.'
Shared decision-making is slowly catching on among physicians and hospitals around the country. Along with Dr. Sughrue and the physicians at Fairfax Family Practice, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire has adopted the practice with funds set aside specifically for decision aids for patients considering procedures such as mastectomy and lumpectomy, prostatectomy and back surgery.
It is believed by researchers that shared decision-making will become more widely adopted with further research, and also when Medicaid and other payers begin reimbursing physicians for adopting the practice.
Hopefully one day we will all be happy sharers. And not the kind of happy that's smeared on Banana Republic merino wool blend V-neck sweaters, but the kind that comes from working more closely with our healthcare providers in making fully informed decisions about our health.
I also hope this type of happy will have a more flowery rather than a spicey bouquet. It just seems to work best with my particular chemistry.
Maura Sughrue, M.D. joined Fairfax Family Practice in 1983. She is a board certified family physician who earned her medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.