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Does a strategy to promote shared decision-making reduce medical practice variation in the choice of either single or double embryo transfer after in vitro fertilisation? A secondary analysis of a randomised controlled trial.

Brabers, A.E.M., Dijk, L. van, Groenewegen, P.P., Peperstraten, A.M., Jong, J.D. de. Does a strategy to promote shared decision-making reduce medical practice variation in the choice of either single or double embryo transfer after in vitro fertilisation? A secondary analysis of a randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open: 2016, 6(5), e010894
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Objectives
The hypothesis that shared decision-making (SDM) reduces medical practice variations is increasingly common, but no evidence is available. We aimed to elaborate further on this, and to perform a first exploratory analysis to examine this hypothesis. This analysis, based on a limited data set, examined how SDM is associated with variation in the choice of single embryo transfer (SET) or double embryo transfer (DET) after in vitro fertilisation (IVF). We examined variation between and within hospitals.

Design
A secondary analysis of a randomised controlled trial.

Setting
5 hospitals in the Netherlands.

Participants
222 couples (woman aged <40 years) on a waiting list for a first IVF cycle, who could choose between SET and DET (ie, ≥2 embryos available).

Intervention
SDM via a multifaceted strategy aimed to empower couples in deciding how many embryos should be transferred. The strategy consisted of decision aid, support of IVF nurse and the offer of reimbursement for an extra treatment cycle. Control group received standard IVF care.

Outcome measure
Difference in variation due to SDM in the choice of SET or DET, both between and within hospitals.

Results
There was large variation in the choice of SET or DET between hospitals in the control group. Lower variation between hospitals was observed in the group with SDM. Within most hospitals, variation in the choice of SET or DET appeared to increase due to SDM. Variation particularly increased in hospitals where mainly DET was chosen in the control group.

Conclusions
Although based on a limited data set, our study gives a first insight that including patients’ preferences through SDM results in less variation between hospitals, and indicates another pattern of variation within hospitals. Variation that results from patient preferences could be potentially named the informed patient rate. Our results provide the starting point for further research.

Trial registration number
NCT00315029; Post-results.
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