Values clarification, or sorting out what matters to a patient or family relevant to a health decision, is a fundamental part of shared decision making. We aimed to describe how values clarification occurs in routine primary care.
Using framework analysis and an established taxonomy, 2 independent researchers analyzed 260 consultations in 5 family medicine clinics across Quebec. Two questions guided our analyses: 1) What categories exist regarding what matters to patients? 2) What patterns exist in discussions of what matters to patients?
1) Five distinct categories of what matters to patients and families were discussed during values clarification: preferences, concerns, treatment-specific values, life goals or philosophies, and broader contextual or sociocultural values. Preferences and concerns were the matters most commonly raised. 2) Diverse patterns of values clarification emerged based on 3 analytical questions: Who initiates the discussion about what matters to patients? When? What information is discussed? The most frequent pattern was clinicians soliciting patients’ concerns and preferences during the information-gathering phase. The second most common pattern was similar, except that patients’ spontaneously raised what matters to them.
The study was descriptive and based on audio-recorded visits. We did not interview patients and clinicians to elicit their perspectives.
There are 5 distinct categories of what matters to patients and families as well as clear patterns of how values clarification occurs in routine primary care consultations. Clinicians could be sensitive to these categories when engaging in the process of values clarification and may wish to pay particular attention to the opening minutes of a consultation. This study provides a structure for future identification of best practices in values clarification.