- Background Shared decision making (SDM) encourages the patient to play a more active role in the process of medical consultation and its primary objective is to find the best treatment for a specific patient. Recent findings, however, show that patient preferences cannot be easily or accurately judged on the basis of communicative exchange during routine office visits, even for patients who seek to expand their role in medical decision making (MDM). Objective The objective of this study is to improve the quality of patient–physician communication by developing a novel design process for SDM and then demonstrating, through a case study, the applicability of this process in enabling the use of a normative model for a specific medical situation. Design Our design process goes through the following stages: definition of medical situation and decision problem, development/identification of normative model, adaptation of normative model, empirical analysis and development of decision support systems (DSS) tools that facilitate the SDM process in the specific medical situation. Case study This study demonstrates the applicability of the process through the implementation of the general normative theory of MDM under uncertainty for the medical–financial dilemma of choosing a physician to perform amniocentesis. Discussion The use of normative models in SDM raises several issues, such as the goal of the normative model, the relation between the goals of prediction and recommendation, and the general question of whether it is valid to use a normative model for people who do not behave according to the model's assumptions.