Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physicians' intentions and use of three patient decision aids

Ian D Graham123*, Jo Logan2, Carol L Bennett1, Justin Presseau1, Annette M O'Connor123, Susan L Mitchell4, Jacqueline M Tetroe1, Ann Cranney135, Paul Hebert13 and Shawn D Aaron136

Author Affiliations

1 Ottawa Health Research Institute, Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa, ON, Canada

2 University of Ottawa, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ottawa, ON, Canada

3 University of Ottawa, Faculty of Medicine, Ottawa, ON, Canada

4 Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA

5 Division of Rheumatology, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, ON, Canada

6 Division of Respiratory Medicine, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, ON, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2007, 7:20  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-7-20

Published: 6 July 2007



Decision aids are evidence based tools that assist patients in making informed values-based choices and supplement the patient-clinician interaction. While there is evidence to show that decision aids improve key indicators of patients' decision quality, relatively little is known about physicians' acceptance of decision aids or factors that influence their decision to use them. The purpose of this study was to describe physicians' perceptions of three decision aids, their expressed intent to use them, and their subsequent use of them.


We conducted a cross-sectional survey of random samples of Canadian respirologists, family physicians, and geriatricians. Three decision aids representing a range of health decisions were evaluated. The survey elicited physicians' opinions on the characteristics of the decision aid and their willingness to use it. Physicians who indicated a strong likelihood of using the decision aid were contacted three months later regarding their actual use of the decision aid.


Of the 580 eligible physicians, 47% (n = 270) returned completed questionnaires. More than 85% of the respondents felt the decision aid was well developed and that it presented the essential information for decision making in an understandable, balanced, and unbiased manner. A majority of respondents (>80%) also felt that the decision aid would guide patients in a logical way, preparing them to participate in decision making and to reach a decision. Fewer physicians (<60%) felt the decision aid would improve the quality of patient visits or be easily implemented into practice and very few (27%) felt that the decision aid would save time. Physicians' intentions to use the decision aid were related to their comfort with offering it to patients, the decision aid topic, and the perceived ease of implementing it into practice. While 54% of the surveyed physicians indicated they would use the decision aid, less than a third followed through with this intention.


Despite strong support for the format, content, and quality of patient decision aids, and physicians' stated intentions to adopt them into clinical practice, most did not use them within three months of completing the survey. There is a wide gap between intention and behaviour. Further research is required to study the determinants of this intention-behaviour gap and to develop interventions aimed at barriers to physicians' use of decision aids.