Dissertations & Theses (Open Access)

Graduation Date

Spring 3-31-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School Name

The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics at Houston

Advisory Committee

Dr. Kim Dunn


Applying Theoretical Constructs to Address Medical Uncertainty

Situations involving medical reasoning usually include some level of medical uncertainty. Despite the identification of shared decision-making (SDM) as an effective technique, it has been observed that the likelihood of physicians and patients engaging in shared decision making is lower in those situations where it is most needed; specifically in circumstances of medical uncertainty. Having identified shared decision making as an effective, yet often a neglected approach to resolving a lack of information exchange in situations involving medical uncertainty, the next step is to determine the way(s) in which SDM can be integrated and the supplemental processes that may facilitate its integration. SDM involves unique types of communication and relationships between patients and physicians. Therefore, it is necessary to further understand and incorporate human behavioral elements - in particular, behavioral intent - in order to successfully identify and realize the potential benefits of SDM. This paper discusses the background and potential interaction between the theories of shared decision-making, medical uncertainty, and behavioral intent.

Identifying Shared Decision-Making Elements in Medical Encounters Dealing with Uncertainty

A recent summary of the state of medical knowledge in the U.S. reported that nearly half (47%) of all treatments were of unknown effectiveness, and an additional 7% involved an uncertain tradeoff between benefits and harms. Shared decision-making (SDM) was identified as an effective technique for managing uncertainty when two or more parties were involved. In order to understand which of the elements of SDM are used most frequently and effectively, it is necessary to identify these key elements, and understand how these elements related to each other and the SDM process. The elements identified through the course of the present research were selected from basic principles of the SDM model and the “Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom” (DIKW) Hierarchy. The goal of this ethnographic research was to identify which common elements of shared decision-making patients are most often observed applying in the medical encounter. The results of the present study facilitated the understanding of which elements patients were more likely to exhibit during a primary care medical encounter, as well as determining variables of interest leading to more successful shared decision-making practices between patients and their physicians.

Understanding Behavioral Intent to Participate in Shared Decision-Making in Medically Uncertain Situations

Objective: This article describes the process undertaken to identify and validate behavioral and normative beliefs and behavioral intent of men between the ages of 45-70 with regard to participating in shared decision-making in medically uncertain situations. This article also discusses the preliminary results of the aforementioned processes and explores potential future uses of this information which may facilitate greater understanding, efficiency and effectiveness of doctor-patient consultations.
Design: Qualitative Study using deductive content analysis
Setting: Individual semi-structure patient interviews were conducted until data saturation was reached. Researchers read the transcripts and developed a list of codes.
Subjects: 25 subjects drawn from the Philadelphia community.
Measurements: Qualitative indicators were developed to measure respondents’ experiences and beliefs related to behavioral intent to participate in shared decision-making during medical uncertainty. Subjects were also asked to complete the Krantz Health Opinion Survey as a method of triangulation.
Results: Several factors were repeatedly described by respondents as being essential to participate in shared decision-making in medical uncertainty. These factors included past experience with medical uncertainty, an individual’s personality, and the relationship between the patient and his physician.
Conclusions: The findings of this study led to the development of a category framework that helped understand an individual’s needs and motivational factors in their intent to participate in shared decision-making. The three main categories include 1) an individual’s representation of medically uncertainty, 2) how the individual copes with medical uncertainty, and 3) the individual’s behavioral intent to seek information and participate in shared decision-making during times of medically uncertain situations.


Shared decision-making, medical uncertainty, behavioral intent, ethnography, semi-structured interviews