Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Congruence between patients’ preferred and perceived participation in medical decision-making: a review of the literature

Linda Brom1*, Wendy Hopmans1, H Roeline W Pasman1, Danielle RM Timmermans1, Guy AM Widdershoven2 and Bregje D Onwuteaka-Philipsen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and care research, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 Amsterdam, BT, The Netherlands

2 Department of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for Health and care research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2014, 14:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-25

Published: 3 April 2014



Patients are increasingly expected and asked to be involved in health care decisions. In this decision-making process, preferences for participation are important. In this systematic review we aim to provide an overview the literature related to the congruence between patients’ preferences and their perceived participation in medical decision-making. We also explore the direction of mismatched and outline factors associated with congruence.


A systematic review was performed on patient participation in medical decision-making. Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library databases up to September 2012, were searched and all studies were rigorously critically appraised. In total 44 papers were included, they sampled contained 52 different patient samples.


Mean of congruence between preference for and perceived participation in decision-making was 60% (49 and 70 representing 25th and 75th percentiles). If no congruence was found, of 36 patient samples most patients preferred more involvement and of 9 patient samples most patients preferred less involvement. Factors associated with preferences the most investigated were age and educational level. Younger patients preferred more often an active or shared role as did higher educated patients.


This review suggests that a similar approach to all patients is not likely to meet patients’ wishes, since preferences for participation vary among patients. Health care professionals should be sensitive to patients individual preferences and communicate about patients’ participation wishes on a regular basis during their illness trajectory.

Patient participation; Decision-making; Patient involvement; Congruence; Review