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A Matter of Perspective (Jul-07)

Are opinions on whether health care funding should be rationed dependent on an individual's perspective? Imagine that there are two regional health systems, each responsible for providing health care for one million people. The Director of each system has enough money to fund only one of two medical treatment programs. The health systems have the same limited budget and are the same in every way except for the treatment program that each Director decides to fund.

One Director decides to fund Program A, which will cure 100 people with moderate shortness of breath. People with this condition have shortness of breath when walking an average block with no hills.
The other Director decides to fund Program B, which will cure 100 people with severe shortness of breath. People with this condition have shortness of breath even when walking only short distances, such as from the bedroom to the bathroom.
Which Director made the better decision?
  • Director who funded Program A (moderate shortness of breath)
  • Director who funded Program B (severe shortness of breath)
  • Both choices were equally good
If you chose either the Program A Director or the Program B Director, how may how many people would have to be cured of other condition to make the two choices seem equally good to you? Reminder: Program A and Program B would both cure 100 people.
 
Next, please check your responses to these statements:
"The thought of only one group of people being able to get treatment while other people may not be able to get treatment makes me feel outraged."
  • strongly agree
  • agree
  • neutral
  • disagree
  • strongly disagree
"I believe that there are situations where health care has to be rationed because sometimes there are not enough financial resources (eg, money for health care programs)."
  • strongly agree
  • agree
  • neutral
  • disagree
  • strongly disagree

How do your answers compare?

Before we analyze your responses to the scenario, we'd like to offer some background information about this area of research.

In an environment of scarce health care resources, policy makers and leaders of health care organizations often must make difficult choices about funding treatment programs. Researchers find out how people value different health states by asking questions like the ones you've answered. This area of research is called "person tradeoff elicitation."

The problem is that many people refuse to give a comparison value, saying that both choices are equal ("equivalence refusal") or saying that millions of people would have to be cured of one condition to be equal to the other treatment choice ("off-scale refusal"). Sometimes these responses are appropriate, but many times these responses seem inappropriate. Furthermore, the frequency of these decision refusals depends on how the questions are asked.

What were the specific goals of this research study?

In an article published by Laura J. Damschroder, Todd R. Roberts, Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, and Peter A. Ubel (Medical Decision Making, May/June 2007), the authors explored whether people would be more willing to make health care tradeoffs if they were somewhat removed from the decision making role. As part of their study, the researchers asked people to comment on choices made by others, in this case, the Directors of two identical regional health systems. For this study, the researchers anticipated that asking participants to judge someone else's decision would make it easier for the participants to compare the benefit of curing two conditions that have a clear difference in severity. The researchers thought that adopting a perspective of judging someone else's decision might lessen the participants' feeling about making "tragic choices" between groups of patients and hence result in fewer refusals to choose. The researchers also hypothesized that respondents taking a non-decision-maker perspective would be more detached and would feel less outraged about the idea of having to ration medical treatments. As we will explain below, the researchers were surprised to learn that their hypotheses were wrong!

What did this research study find?

Some people surveyed in this study were asked to decide for themselves which of two treatment programs for shortness of breath should be funded. Others, like you, were asked which health system Director made the better decision about treatment programs for shortness of breath. Significantly, the respondents who had the evaluator perspective had nearly two times higher odds of giving an equivalence refusal�that is, saying that the decisions were equal. Why did this evaluator perspective fail to decrease these decision refusals? One possibility is that respondents did not feel as engaged in the decision. It's also possible that respondents felt that they were judging the Directors who made the decision rather than the decision itself. Or maybe respondents didn't want to second-guess the decisions of people they perceived as experts. The researchers predicted that people who had to make the decision about treatment themselves would be more outraged about the idea of rationing health care treatments. This prediction was also wrong! 69% of all respondents agreed that rationing is sometimes necessary, and yet 66% of all respondents also felt outraged about the idea of having to ration. The percentages were nearly the same for those deciding directly and those evaluating the decision of Directors of health care systems.

What conclusions did the researchers draw?

The researchers in this study concluded that perspective definitely matters in making hard choices about allocation of health care resources. They attempted to increase people's willingness to make tradeoffs by changing their perspective from decision maker to evaluator of someone else's decision. These attempts backfired. Contrary to the researchers' predictions, people were dramatically more likely to give equivalence refusals when they were assigned to a non-decision-maker perspective. The researchers also concluded that the degree of emotion aroused by health care rationing also plays a role in people's willingness to make tradeoffs.

So, how does your response to the Directors' decision in the shortness-of-breath scenario compare with the responses of the people surveyed for this study?

If you responded that the choices of both Directors were equal, you were not alone! Overall, with this scenario and related ones, 32% of respondents in the published study refused to make the tradeoff. These were the equivalence refusals. In comparison, 21% of respondents in the study who were asked to decide themselves between two patient groups gave an equivalence refusal.

If you made a choice of Directors in the shortness-of-breath scenario, how does your numerical answer compare with the responses of people surveyed for this study?

In the study, 15% of respondents gave a number of one million or more as the point at which the Directors' decisions about the two treatment programs would be equal. These were the off-scale refusals. In comparison, 19% of respondents in the study who were asked to decide themselves about the two programs gave an off-scale refusal.

What about your level of outrage?

In the study, 69% of respondents agreed that rationing of health care treatment is sometimes necessary, but 66% also felt outraged about the idea of having to ration. These attitudes were the same whether the respondents were assigned an evaluator perspective (as you were) or a direct decision maker perspective.

Read the article:

Why people refuse to make tradeoffs in person tradeoff elicitations: A matter of perspective?
Damschroder LJ, Roberts TR, Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Ubel PA. Medical Decision Making 2007;27:266-288.

 

Mon, June 11, 2018

A new study shows how to personalize the lung cancer screening decision for every patient. The results could help doctors fine-tune their advice to patients, so that it’s based not just on a patient’s individual lung cancer risk and the potential benefits and harms of screening, but also a likely range of patient attitudes about looking for problems and dealing with the consequences.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study forms the backbone for new free online decision tools aimed at physicians and their teams, and at members of the public.

The tool for clinicians, called Lung Decision Precision, was designed by a University of Michigan and Veterans Affairs team to help clinicians talk with patients and their loved ones about whether to a lung CT scan might be a good idea for them.

The same team has also launched a website for patients and their loved ones, U.S. News & World Report: Should You Get Screened for Lung Cancer?, that gives easy-to-understand information about the positives and potential negatives of lung cancer screening, and allows individuals to calculate their personal risk of lung cancer.

Tanner Caverly, M.D., M.P.H., led the team that did the new computer-based simulation analysis using data from major studies of lung cancer screening, and national data on the potential screening population under the current guidelines.

Tanner Caverly was also recently interviewed for U.S. News & World Report on the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening. According to Dr. Caverly, it important to tailor the conversation about screening because the benefit-versus-risk calculation differs for each patient.

Fri, March 02, 2018

Jeffrey Kullgren was recently interviewed for the US News & World Report article, "Why You Should Talk to Your Doctor About Drug Pricing." According to Dr. Kullgren, "It's important then, especially if a patient's health changes as they age, to periodically be reviewing those medications with their health care team to ensure that they are able to get the medications that are going to be the most beneficial to them, while we avoid prescribing medications to patients who are unlikely to benefit from them and for who those unneeded prescriptions can lead to cost burdens."

The full article can be found below.

Fri, October 04, 2013

The US News & World Report quoted Sarah Hawley and cited her research in a story about the tendency of young women with breast cancer to overestimate their risk of getting cancer in the opposite, healthy breast. 

An excerpt from the article, "Unfounded Fear Prompts Some Preventive Mastectomies: Study":

The findings echo some previous research, according to Sarah Hawley, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, in Ann Arbor. In her study, presented last year at a medical meeting, Hawley found that nearly 70 percent of women choosing the contralateral prophylactic mastectomy actually had a low risk of developing cancer in the healthy breast.

"Their findings are consistent with ours, in that desire to prevent cancer in the non-affected breast is a big reason patients reported for getting [contralateral prophylactic mastectomy]," Hawley said.

Better communication is needed to be sure women know the risks and benefits, and lack of benefit of getting the preventive surgery, Hawley pointed out. Better strategies to help patients manage anxiety and worry would help, too, she added.

 

Research Topics: 

Funded by the NIH

The overarching goal of our research is to improve opioid analgesic safety and efficacy by optimizing opioid risk recognition, informed analgesic decision-making, and drug storage/disposal behaviors among parents of youth who are prescribed these agents for home use. With this proposal, we aim to demonstrate that our Scenario-Tailored Opioid Messaging Program (STOMP?) will: 1) Improve parents' opioid risk understanding and their analgesic decision-making; 2) Enhance parents' analgesic self-efficacy, analgesic use, storage behaviors and their children's pain outcomes, and 3) To demonstrate that the STOMP? plus provision of a method to get rid of left-over medications will effectively nudge parents to safely dispose of left-over opioid analgesics. For more info: http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R01-DA044245-01A1

PI: Terri Lewis-Voepel

CBSSM Co-Is: Brian Zikmund-Fisher & Alan Tait

Brian Zikmund-Fisher, PhD, a CBSSM investigator and Director of the CBSSM Internet Survey lab, is the principal investigator on an Investigator Initiated Research award from the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making that began in October 2008.  The grant, entitled "Learning by Doing: Improving Risk Communication Through Active Processing of Interactive Pictographs," will fund the development and testing of of Flash-based interactive risk graphics that research participants or patients can use to visually demonstrate how likely they believe some event is to occur. Dr. Zikmund-Fisher hopes that people who create risk graphics themselves will have a better intuitive understanding of risk than people who just view static images. Co-investigators on the award include Angela Fagerlin, Peter A. Ubel, and Amanda Dillard.

Brian Zikmund-Fisher, PhD, is the featured guest editor for a special supplement to Medical Decision Making's September/October 2010 issue, highlighting the DECISIONS study, a nationwide survey of adults in the US regarding common medical decisions.  Lead author on the main paper of the supplement, Zikmund-Fisher and co-authors (including CBSSM faculty Angela Fagerlin, PhD and Mick Couper, PhD) describe the DECISIONS study, a telephone interview of a nationally representative sample of 3010 adults age 40 and over faced with making a medical decision in the past two years.  Researchers defined medical decisions as the patient having initiated medications, been screened, or had surgery within the past 2 years or having discussed these actions with a health care provider during the same interval.  Key findings from the study:

Although patients frequently receive information about the benefits of a procedure or medication, they don't always learn about the disadvantages.

Healthcare providers don't always ask patients what they want to do.

Most patients don't use the Internet to help them make common medical decisions; healthcare professionals remain the most important source of information.

Patients often don't know as much as they think they do.  Many patients feel well informed even when they don't know key facts that would help them make a better decision.

African-Americans and Hispanics were less knowledgeable than other patients about medications to treat high cholesterol.  In addition, they were more likely to say their doctor made decisions about cholesterol medications for them.

Most patients think they are more likely to get cancer than they really are, and tend to view cancer screenings as more accurate than they are.

Men and women think about cancer risks differently.  Women are more active participants in cancer screening decisions regardless of their perception of risk, whereas men tended to get involved only if they felt at higher risk.

Funded by National Institutes of Health

Funding Years: 2015-2020

Every day in hospitals across the country, patients with severe stroke and their families are faced with decisions about life-sustaining treatments in the initial hours of admission. These decisions about resuscitation status, invasive treatments, or possible transitions to comfort care are typically made by a surrogate decision- maker due to communication or cognitive deficits in the patient. This surrogate must consider the patient's life goals and values to determine if their loved one would choose on-going intensive treatments where they may survive and yet have long term disabilities, or prioritize comfort and accept the likelihood of an earlier death. Serving as a surrogate decision maker for a patient in the intensive care unit can have long lasting negative consequences. However, almost nothing is known about surrogate decision makers in diverse populations with stroke. Hispanic Americans are now the largest minority group in the US, rapidly growing and aging, with Mexican Americans comprising the largest subgroup. Multiple disparities have been identified in stroke incidence and outcome between Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Whites, particularly in the use of life- sustaining treatments. Minority populations may be particularly vulnerable to inadequate communication about end-of-life issues due to socioeconomic disadvantage, poor health literacy, and lack of provider empathy and health system strategies to improve communication. However, Mexican American culture includes strong values of family support and religiosity that may have a positive influence on discussions about life-sustaining treatment and adapting to stroke-related disabilities. There is currently a critical gap in understanding the perspectives and outcomes of stroke surrogate decision makers, making it impossible to design interventions to help diverse populations of patients and families through this incredibly trying time.

PI(s): Lewis Morgenstern, Darin Zahuranec

Co-I(s): Lynda Lisabeth, Brisa Sanchez

The novelty of risk and vaccination intentions (May-12)

It's 2009.  Early in the year, a 9-year-old girl from California became the first person with a confirmed case of H1N1 ("swine") influenza in the United States.  Shortly thereafter, the U.S. declared a public health emergency and the World Health Organization declared a phase 6 pandemic (the highest level possible).  By September 2009 a vaccination was developed and was available within a month.

You've been following the news about the H1N1 influenza as developments have unfolded throughout the year, and you feel some concern.  You have been wondering about the risk of coming down with the H1N1 flu yourself and have been thinking about whether you should be vaccinated. 

Funded by Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

Funding Years: 2014 - 2018

Obesity is increasingly considered among the most important public health problems of our times. Bariatric surgery is arguably the only treatment that has proven effective in producing long-term weight loss for patients with morbid obesity. Bariatric surgery also results in resolution of obesity related comorbid conditions, improvements in quality of life, and increased survival.

There are currently four different bariatric surgical procedures in use: adjustable gastric banding, gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and duodenal switch. Bariatric surgery is considered a highly preference sensitive medical issue. Existing decision aids in bariatric surgery are limited in that they provide information about the average comparative risks and benefits of the treatment options, but do not provide customized estimates of the risks and benefits of the different procedures for individual patients. As a result of these draw-backs, decision aids are not frequently used in making treatment decisions in bariatric surgery.

Our proposal is highly innovative in that our decision support tool integrates data from a large clinical registry with individual patient data to provide patients with real-time, customized, accurate information regarding the risks and benefits of the treatment options to better inform decision making. This tool will be continuously updated to ensure that the data on risks and benefits that it provides are accurate and current. Our tool also provides information about other attributes of the treatment options that bariatric surgery patients and other relevant stakeholders feel are important for patients to consider in deciding whether and what type of bariatric surgery to have.

The proposed research promotes shared medical decision making for patients who are considering bariatric surgery for the treatment of morbid obesity. If our intervention proves effective, it will result in improved decision quality and outcomes of care for patients. It may also result in improved efficiency of care to the extent that it serves to augment or guide communication between the patient and physician to promote shared medical decision-making.

PI(s): Nancy Birkmeyer/Amir Ghaferi

Co-I(s): Lawrence An, Mousumi Banerjee, Angela Fagerlin, Sarah Hawley, Edward Norton, Lisa Prosser

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