Dr. Andrew R. Barnosky is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the former Chair of the Adult Ethics Committee for the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers. In the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, he is the director of the Health Sciences Scholars Program for undergraduate students. He is a graduate of the A. T. Still University of Health Sciences - College of Osteopathic Medicine (Missouri), and holds a master's degree (MPH) in public health and health policy from the Harvard School of Public Health.
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Submit Your Paper for Consideration in the ASBH Student Paper Competition
If you are a student who would like to be considered for the Student Paper Award, please send your paper to the ASBH office in an electronic format (Word or PDF) to email@example.com, with “ASBH Student Paper Competition” in the subject line. All papers need to be received at the ASBH office by July 15, 2013 to be considered. The Awards Committee will review and rank all submissions. The top three papers will be placed in a special session at the Annual Meeting, and one winner will be chosen at the meeting by the Awards Committee. The award will be presented during the Members’ meeting.
All papers will be assessed anonymously. Do not include identifying information in your paper submissions, such as title pages with your name. Previous winners are not eligible for consideration. Eligible papers should be no more than 3500 words in length. A student is defined as one who is actively pursuing an advanced degree and has not received a doctoral-level degree (e.g., MD, PhD, JD or equivalent degree). Authors who are not students according to the definition above are not eligible for the Student Paper Award. Coauthored papers are eligible only if all authors are students.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the ASBH office at: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Society for Bioethics + Humanities (ASBH)
With just a simple search term and a click of the mouse, a person can find a large amount of health information on the Internet. What role does the Internet play in how patients make medical decisions? Does using the Internet as a source for information to help patients make informed decisions vary by health condition? Does the Internet substitute for detailed discussions with a health care provider?
Consider the following:
Imagine that you recently visited your health care provider for an annual physical examination. During the exam your doctor told you that you are at the age where you should start thinking about getting a screening test for colon cancer. In this conversation your health care provider explained some of the reasons why you should get screened. At the end of the visit, you had more information about screening tests for colon cancer but had not yet decided whether or not you wanted to get tested.
- Don't know
How do your answers compare?
In a recent study published in the journal Medical Decision Making, CBSSM investigators Brian Zikmund-Fisher, Mick Couper, and Angela Fagerlin examined Internet use and perceived importance of different sources of information by patients making specific medical decisions.
In this study, US adults aged 40 years and older were asked about how they got information about 9 common medical decisions, including decisions about common prescription medication (for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression), cancer-screening tests (for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer), and elective surgeries (for lower back pain, cataracts, and knee/hip replacement). In addition, they study compared participants' ratings of the Internet as a source of information with their ratings of other sources, such as their health care provider.
So, how did your responses compare to the average adult in this study's population?
Results from this study showed that most patients did not use the Internet to make specific medical decisions like the ones you considered. On average, about 26% of participants made use of the Internet for information to make decisions about colon cancer screening tests and about 47% used it to inform a decision about lower back pain surgery.
Among participants who chose to use the Internet for finding information about specific medical decisions, data show that Internet use varies significantly across different types of medical decisions. Internet users were more likely to use the Internet for information related to elective surgery (36%), such as lower back pain surgery, and prescription medication (32%) than for cancer-screening decisions (22%), such as colon cancer screening.
Another element of this study looked at participants' ratings of different information sources. You are unlike other participants in this study in that you did not consistently rate health care providers as the most important source for information about colon cancer screening and lower back pain surgery. The CBSSM study found that, for both Internet users and nonusers, health care providers were rated highest as a source for information for all 9 decisions studied. Among Internet users, however, the Internet was rated as their 2nd-most important source of information.
The researchers found that Internet use to inform specific medical decisions varied by age ranging from 38% for those aged 40 to 49 years to 14% for those aged 70 years or older. Approximately 33% of 50 to 59 year olds used the Internet to make these medical decisions and 24% for those in the 60 to 69 year age category. This result is consistent with previous research on the demographics of Internet use.
The study authors concluded that the Internet has an impact on people's access to health care information; however, "the data suggest that access is not the same as use, and use for one medical decision does not imply use for all health decisions." In other words, people use the Internet differently depending on the context. The authors end by stating, "Clinicians, health educators, and health policy makers need to be aware that we remain a long way away from having Internet-based information sources universally used by patients to improve and support the process of medical decision making."
For the full text of this article:
Couper M, Singer E, Levin CA, Fowler F, Fagerlin A, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Use of the internet and ratings of information sources for medical decisions: Results from the DECISIONS survey. Medical Decision Making 2010;30:106S-114S.
From 1978 to 2009, Ed was head of the U-M Health System Legal Office. In 2009 he moved into the Medical School Department of ObGyn as an Associate Professor to work full-time on issues of sexual rights and reproductive justice. He has teaching appointments in the Medical School, the School of Public Health, the Law School, and LSA Women's Studies. He teaches courses on the legal and ethical aspects of medicine at the Medical School, the rules of human subjects research at the School of Public Health and reproductive justice in LSA and the Law School.. In 2011, Ed went to Ghana and helpe
Do you think that your life is worth more than the amount that the government usually uses as the maximum to spend to provide one year of life?
Imagine that you are a member of a government panel that is trying to decide how cost-effective a medical treatment must be in order for the government to cover the costs of the treatment. Suppose that a certain treatment could provide one additional year of life to an otherwise healthy person. What is the highest amount the government should be willing to pay per person for this treatment?
How do your answers compare?
For the past twenty years, the figure most often used as the maximum amount to spend to provide one year of life has been $50,000. This figure was originally proposed since it was the cost of a year of kidney dialysis, a lifesaving treatment that the U.S. government funds in Medicare.
Should the number be higher or lower than the current standard?
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the number be higher to take into account the inflation that has occurred in the years since the standard was developed. Current practices such as annual Pap smear screening for women with low risk for cervical cancer, which has a cost of $700,000 per year of life gained, also suggest that society is willing to pay more than the current standard for a year of life. The authors of the cited article recommend, based on current treatment practices and surveys of the general public, that the cost-effectiveness threshold should be revised to be around $200,000.
Should the number increase, decrease, or stay the same over time?
Again, it seems that the threshold amount should increase over time due to inflation. However, other factors come in to play that affect the value.
Since new technologies are emerging all the time, some of which will be deemed cost-effective, there will be more and more treatments to be offered in the future. Also, the rate of use of treatments is an important consideration, because even if a new treatment is more cost-effective than an old one, if it is used more often it will end up costing more to society overall. With more treatments becoming available and more people being given treatments, the threshold cost will probably have to decrease so that insurance companies and the government can keep up with the increasing availability and demand.
Why is this important?
Insurance companies and government health care entities face a continuing struggle when trying to determine which medical treatments to cover. Health care costs are increasing rapidly, so these groups will be facing even tougher decisions in the future. Establishing cost-effectiveness guidelines would be extremely helpful as an aid to making the decisions about treatment coverage. Evidence shows that the current threshold is probably not an accurate reflection of the desires of society or actual prescribing practices. It needs to be adjusted to become useful once again, and must be reevaluated periodically to make sure the value keeps up with trends in the health care market, rather than being left alone without question for two decades as is the current situation.
For more information see:
Ubel PA, Hirth RA, Chernew ME, Fendrick AM. What is the price of life and why doesn't it increase at the rate of inflation? Archives of Internal Medicine. 163:1637-1641, 2003.
The University of Michigan's Center of Excellence in Cancer Communications Research has been renewed for another five years, through August 2013, by the National Institutes of Health. The purpose of the $8.8 million award is to develop an efficient, theory-driven model for generating health behavior interventions that is generalizable across health behaviors and sociodemographic populations. The UM Center for Health Communicaitons Research, under principal investigator Victor Strecher, MPH, PhD, coordinates the core of this Center of Excellence. Former CBSSM Director Peter A. Ubel, MD, and current CBSSM Co-director Angela Fagerlin, PhD, are leading Project 3, in which they will conduct Internet studies to test several movel ways of tailoring a prostate cancer decision aid, with the goal of identifying interventions that increase the perceived salience of patient preferences. After they have determined the best interventions, they will modify the current prostate cancer decision aid and then test it in men with newly diagnosed localized prostate cancer. Co-investigators on Project 3 are John T. Wei, MD, and Brian Zikmund-Fisher, PhD, at the University of Michigan and James Tulsky, MD, and Stewart Alexander, PhD, at Duke University.
Dr. Jeff Kullgren and Dr. John Ayanian testified before the Michigan Health Care Cost and Quality Advisory Committee regarding the feasibility of and policy options for creating an All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) in Michigan.
Established by the Healthy Michigan Legislation (PA 107 of 2013), the Committee is composed of cabinet-level leadership from the state's Departments of Community Health and Insurance and Financial Services, as well as leadership from the Michigan House and Senate Health Policy Committees. The Committee is tasked with reviewing existing efforts across the United State to make health care cost and quality more transparent. Dr. Ayanian and Dr. Kullgren shared their research and practical expertise with the Committee by discussing a broad range of issues related to the feasibility of an APCD in Michigan, including governance structure; funding sources; data collection, storage, and security issues; and opportunities for research and innovation.
[ From IHPI Policy Corner]
[ From IHPI Policy Corner]