Health care decision-making can be distorted by how risk/benefit data are presented

Two important studies on health care decision-making in the journal PLoS Medicine were nicely summarized by MedPage Today. Excerpts:

How doctors portray clinical risks and benefits -- statistically and visually -- can influence the decisions patients make about healthcare, and whether those decisions reflect their own values, two randomized studies found. ...


One study asked patients whether they would take statins to prevent coronary heart disease (CHD) at a cost of $50 a month, knowing the risks and benefits of taking the drugs.

They found that people were more likely to choose treatment when the data were presented as relative risk reduction -- for example, telling patients they would be 30% less likely to develop CHD by taking statins -- rather than as absolute summary measures.

However, far more participants believed their understanding of and satisfaction with risk information -- and their confidence in their decisions -- were greater when natural frequency data were presented.

It seems like every day on HealthNewsReview.org we hammer away at stories that give only relative risk data - not absolute risk data as well. This is really important stuff - as shown in these studies.

The editors of the journal commented:

"It is clear ... that there is the potential for shared decision-making to be biased through the adoption of more persuasive presentations -- such as relative statistics. As a result, the underlying principle of shared decision-making -- that of empowering patients to make decisions most compatible with their values -- can be undermined."

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on August 26, 2009 7:07 PM.

Old news, news releases & confidence intervals was the previous entry in this blog.

Scan-happy Americans better wake up to radiation risk is the next entry in this blog.

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