Error message

The page you requested does not exist. For your convenience, a search was performed using the query news events press coverage 2014 02 21.

Page not found

You are here

Pediatric Ethics Committee

The Michigan Medicine Committee advisory groups are appointed by the Hospital's Office of Clinical Affairs. They review ethical or moral questions that may come up during a pediatrics patient's care. The consultants facilitate communication among patients, their families and the treatment team to assist everyone in making appropriate choices when difficult decisions need to be made. The Committee's goal is to help everyone decide the right thing to do. The Michigan Medicine Ethics Committee is a sub-committee of the Executive Committee on Clinical Affairs as determined by the Medical Staff Bylaws. 

About Us


The committee is available for consultation to family members, patients, staff, and health care providers. The committee may help you and your child’s medical team clarify facts, examine ethical issues, and assist in the resolution of disagreements about your child’s care. The committee includes people with additional training in medical ethics, doctors, nurses, social workers, a lawyer, a chaplain, an administrator, and members of the community
The University of Michigan has a Pediatric Ethics Committee because the best medical care requires not only medical skill but good moral judgment. The Committee’s main purpose is to offer help and guidance on moral and ethical questions, such as:

  • Should treatment be started or stopped?
  • How much should a child be told about his or her disease?
  • Is the promise of treatment worth the suffering it may cause?
  • What is the best thing to do when we must face the end of life?
  • What happens when a meeting with the Ethics Committee is requested?

The consultants on call review the patient's medical situation and treatment options. In addition, concerns and feelings of the patient, family members, and the health care team are discussed. Members of the committee may visit with patients, families and medical personnel to discuss these concerns.

Ethics Committee members discuss the information which has been gathered. The Ethics Committee makes suggestions about the best course of action. Often there are a number of options available in the course of a patient's care. Final decisions are made by the patient, family and the health care team.

The Pediatric Ethics Committee meets on the first Tuesday of the month from 12-1:30pm at University Hospital in dining rooms C&D. If you would like to attend as a guest, please contact Amy Lynn @ lynnam@med.umich.edu

Request a Consult

Monday-Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Call 734-615-1379
After normal business hours, please call 936-6267 and ask for the clinical ethicist on call to be paged.

Resources

Financial Assistance

Withdrawal and Withholding of Medical Treatment

Committee Bylaws

 

For upcoming Bioethics Grand Rounds see Events

 

Adult Ethics Committee

The Michigan Medicine Committee advisory groups are appointed by the Hospital's Office of Clinical Affairs. They review ethical or moral questions that may come up during an adult patient's care. The consultants facilitate communication among adult patients, their families and the treatment team to assist everyone in making appropriate choices when difficult decisions need to be made. The Committee's goal is to help everyone decide the right thing to do. The Michigan Medicine Adult Ethics Committee is a sub-committee of the Executive Committee on Clinical Affairs as determined by the Medical Staff Bylaws.

About Us

Sometimes patients, families and staff have very difficult choices and ethical questions they need to talk about. Discussions with the Ethics Committee can be helpful and reassuring when a difficult choice must be made (for example, questions on end-of-life care, or issues of confidentiality). The goal of the Committee is to facilitate communication among adult patients, their families and the treatment team to assist everyone in making appropriate choices, as well as to assist Michigan Medicine in complying with ethical regulatory standards, when difficult decisions need to be made. The Committee provides consultation to the treatment team, patients and families on ethical, moral or philosophical problems and issues encountered in the course of managing inpatient and outpatient care.

Committee members include physicians, residents, nurses and social workers, as well as medical students, an attorney/compliance officer, a chaplain, a medical ethics professor and members from the community.

The Adult Ethics Committee meets on the third Tuesday of the month, form 12-1:30pm, at University Hospital in dining room D, if you would like to attend as a guest, please contact Amy Lynn @ lynnam@med.umich.edu

What happens when a meeting with the Ethics Committee is requested?

The consultants on call review the patient's medical situation and treatment options. In addition, concerns and feelings of the patient, family members, and the health care team are discussed. Members of the committee may visit with patients, families and medical personnel to discuss these concerns.

Ethics Committee members discuss the information which has been gathered. The Ethics Committee makes suggestions about the best course of action. Often there are a number of options available in the course of a patient's care. Final decisions are made by the patient, family and the health care team.

Request a Consult

Monday-Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Call 734-615-1379
After normal business hours, please call 936-6267 and ask for the clinical ethicist on call to be paged.

Resources

Financial Assistance

Withdrawal and Withholding of Medical Treatments

Advance Directives

Committee Bylaws

 

For upcoming Bioethics Grand Rounds see Events

Brian Zikmund-Fisher,  Angela Fagerlin, Nicole Exe, and Knoll Larkin have been involved in the Visualizing Health Project, which has recently launched an online style guide  for communicating health data. You can check it out at: www.vizhealth.org

The Visualizing Health project was a short and highly intense project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed to push the envelope both in considering visual designs for communicating health risk data and in developing iterative research approaches for testing them. The project involved a large team combining researchers and staff from both the University of Michigan's Center for Health Communications Research and the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine. The UM team then worked closely on a week by week basis with Thomas Goetz (former editor of Wired magazine) who envisioned the project, Tim Leong (graphic designer, author of Super Graphic), Andrea Ducas from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and teams of graphic designers that Tim recruited.

They created 16 distinct visual data display tasks related to health risks, had teams of graphic designers develop display concepts, and iteratively tested these displays using multiple online survey methodologies. The resulting designs and data were then assembled in a project website that included all the images, plus commentary and additional features such as a design "wizard" to help guide users to visual displays that best fit their personal needs.

Also, see the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of health blog.

Supporting information for: 2018 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (Barbara Koenig, PhD)

Parent Perceptions of Antenatal Consultation for Extreme Prematurity
Presenter: Stephanie Kukora, MD
 

Co-authors: Naomi Laventhal, MD, MA; Haresh Kirpilani, MD; Ursula Guillen, MD
 

Antenatal consultation (AC) for extreme prematurity is routine in neonatology practice, but questions remain about how best to meet the needs of expectant parents. Decision-aids have demonstrated improvement in communication of statistical outcomes, but whether they are uniformly helpful in AC, and whether provision of outcome data is essential to shared decision-making in the AC encounter remains uncertain.

To characterize the experience of parents threatened with extreme prematurity between 22 and 25 weeks gestation who received AC, identify aspects that parents perceived as favorable or unfavorable, and identify areas for improvement.

We analyzed free text responses of expectant parents enrolled in a multi-center randomized trial evaluating the use of a validated decision-aid (DA) compared to standard counseling. Qualitative thematic analysis of responses identified items valued for decision-making about delivery room resuscitation.

 201 parents were enrolled; 126 provided substantive free-text comments. 45 (36%) parents described their counseling experience positively.  31 (25%) reported a negative experience, and 23 (18%) offered suggestions for improvement.  Desire for a tailored approach was a major theme reported by many parents, with subthemes of too much or too little information, facts vs values-based counseling, and diverse learning styles.  Another major theme was shared decision-making. Subthemes included:  good or poor understanding of the decision/options; trust; parent engagement, feeling supported in decision-making.  Need for clinician sensitivity also emerged as a major theme, with subthemes of hope, thoughtful timing of AC, and identification and support of parents’ stress and emotions. 31 parents receiving AC with the DA (n=102) commented that visual depiction of the statistical information helpful.

Many parents expressed that factual information about outcomes was influential to their decisions, but some parents dislike this approach.  In addition to tailoring how and what information is communicated during AC, clinicians should be sensitive to parents’ individual needs in this context.

 

Hospice Care Quality in U.S. Nursing Homes Reported by Patients and Caregivers in Yelp Reviews

Presenter: Chithra Perumalswami, MD, MSc
 

Co-authors: Jayme Laurencelle, MD; Shawna O’Reilly, MD; Jennifer Griggs, MD, MPH; Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP
 

Background: The need to assess the quality of hospice care provided in nursing homes is a national priority. Patients and caregivers often utilize online forums such as Yelp to informally report on the experience of their healthcare episodes. These narratives are a unique data source and may provide valuable insights into the quality of care provided in U.S. nursing homes at the end of life.

Objective: To explore the content of Yelp reviews of nursing homes providing care at the end of life, specifically utilizing quality measures for palliative and hospice care determined by the National Quality Forum (NQF).

Methods: We performed a qualitative content analysis of 3421 Yelp reviews.  The reviews were double coded and the final coding scheme incorporated concepts from all of the NQF domains. Larger themes were determined by consensus.

Results: Four themes were identified: 1) staff interpersonal expertise (empathic characteristics and effective communication), 2) staff technical competence (expertise in skills, staff attention, and efficiency of response), 3) systems issues (physical facility characteristics and cleanliness), and 4) patient wellbeing (physical and emotional wellbeing, family trust and confidence in care).

Conclusion: Yelp reviews of nursing homes providing hospice identify concepts that are mostly congruent with the current NQF domains. Medicare uses the NQF domains and preferred practices in the Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP) to measure and report on quality. Utilizing Yelp reviews may help to identify additional quality measures, including a more nuanced view of aspects of quality of care in nursing homes at the end of life. Future research should focus on how to make such unprompted narratives more accessible and on how to incorporate additionally identified concepts regarding quality into the HQRP.


Impact of MCI on Patient and Care Partner Preferences and Physician Decision Making for Cardiovascular Treatment

Presenters: Bailey Reale, MPH; Emilie Blair
 

Co-authors: Darin Zahuranec, MD, MS; Kenneth Langa, PhD;  Jane Forman, ScD, MHS; Bruno Giordani, PhD; Brenda Plassman, PhD; Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, PhD; Colleen Kollman, MBA; Deborah Levine, MD, MPH
 

Background: The leading cause of death for the 5.4 million older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in the US is cardiovascular disease (CVD). Despite this, patients with pre-existing MCI may receive fewer treatments for CVD events such compared to cognitively normal patients. We conducted interviews of patients, care partners, and physicians to understand how MCI influences decision making for CVD treatments.

Methods: Qualitative study based on in-depth, semi-structured, in-person interviews with patient-care partner dyads (n=23) and physicians (n=18) using a standard guide. We used qualitative content analysis to identify unifying and recurrent themes. We gathered reflections on data suggesting neurologists recommend fewer treatments for stroke to older adults with MCI and elicited how MCI influences patient-care partner preferences for 5 common CVD treatments. We also sought to understand how a patient’s having MCI influenced physicians’ decisions to recommend these 5 CVD treatments.

Results: Most MCI patients, cognitively normal patients, and their care partners wanted all 5 stroke treatments (Table 1). Participants reported several factors affecting their decision-making for treatment (Table 1). Some participants thought that physicians might recommend fewer stroke treatments to patients with pre-existing MCI because physicians have biases about MCI patients (Table 1).

Most physicians described MCI as influencing their recommendations for CVD treatments in at least one of five ways (Table 2). Physicians reported recommending CVD treatments less to MCI patients due to their assumptions about the MCI patients and MCI itself (Table 2).

Conclusions: MCI patients have similar preferences for treatments for CVD events as do cognitively normal patients, yet physicians often recommend these treatments less often to MCI patients. We need to better understand how physician recommendations contribute to potential underuse of effective CVD treatments in MCI patients in order to improve the quality of CVD care for this large and growing population.


It’s all about Context: A Mixed-Methods Study of Institutional Review Board’s Local Context Assessment
Presenter: Adrianne Haggins, MD


Co-authors: Deneil Harney; Sacha Montas, MD, JD; Joy Black, BSN, MS; Neil Dickert, MD, PhD; Timothy Guetterman, PhD; Michael Fetters, MD; Robert Silbergleit, MD


Background: Local context assessment ostensibly allows review boards to closely consider the potential impact to study populations, the institution, and local laws and regulations.  Given the trend toward utilization of central review boards for multicenter trials, a better understanding of single institution review board assessment processes are needed.

 Objective: To explore how local context assessments in multicenter trials are made by single institution review boards.

Methods: We used a mixed methods approach to explore attitudes and perceptions of key stakeholders.  We elicited stakeholder perspectives by observing, and audiotaping IRB deliberations of trials conducted under exception from informed consent (EFIC). In-depth semi-structured interviews (n=26) and an online survey (n=80, response rate=13%) were conducted of IRB stakeholders (IRB members, central review board members, regulatory officials, etc.). Two authors independently reviewed the observations and interview transcripts to identify meaningful statements, which were grouped into codes and broader themes.  Descriptive statistics were performed on the survey results.

Results: Deliberations related to local context highlighted the importance of taking into consideration: scientific rigor, community consultation and public disclosure process, as well as local laws/regulations, weighing relative benefit vs. risk, medical standards/practices, concerns of local groups, prior experiences with investigators and within the institution.  Themes from interviews underscored the important role investigators, and IRB community members are expected to play in knowing the local population and community. Top reasons for considering local context included: knowing about community concerns, showing respect for local public, and the influence of local laws/ordinances on clinical care.

Conclusion: Local context assessment provides a mechanism to ensure research and investigators are perceptive to the concerns and impact on the broader community. A wide variety of factors are considered. To further inform central review processes, future research is needed to differentiate which factors are essential for a high-quality local context assessment.   


Does Enhancing Individual Choice and Control Promote Freedom? Challenges in Contemporary Bioethics

Bishop Lecture Keynote Presenter: Barbara Koenig, PhD
 

Over the past three decades, the discipline of bioethics has advocated for enhanced patient choice and control over a range of medical decisions, from care near the end of life to participation in clinical research. Using two current policy challenges in California—1) the advent of legally sanctioned medical aid in dying and, 2) efforts to share UC Health “big data” from the electronic health record in research with private sector partners—Professor Koenig will explore how current bioethics practices may unintentionally and ironically impede our shared goals of promoting human freedom.

 

The Privileged Choices (Jan-08)

What's the difference between opting in and opting out of an activity? Who decides if people will be put automatically into one category or another? Click this interactive decision to learn how default options work.

Scenario 1

Imagine that you're a US Senator and that you serve on the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The Infectious Diseases Society of America has come before your committee because they believe that too many health care workers are getting sick with influenza ("flu") each year and infecting others. As a result, your Senate committee is now considering a new bill that would require that all health care workers get annual influenza vaccinations ("flu shots") unless the worker specifically refuses this vaccination in writing.

Do you think you would support this bill for mandatory flu shots for health care workers?

  • Yes
  • No

Scenario 2

Imagine that you're the human resources director at a mid-sized company that's initiating an employee retirement plan. Management is concerned that many employees are not saving enough for retirement. They're considering a policy that would automatically deduct retirement contributions from all employees' wages unless the employee fills out and submits a form requesting exemption from the automatic deductions.

Do you think a policy of automatic retirement deductions is reasonable for your company to follow?

  • Yes 
  • No

Scenario 3

Organ transplants save many lives each year, but there are always too many deserving patients and too few organs available. To try to improve the number of organs available for donation, the state legislature in your state is considering a new policy that all people who die under certain well-defined circumstances will have their organs donated to others. The system would start in three years, after an information campaign. People who do not want to have their organs donated would be given the opportunity to sign a refusal of organ donation when they renewed their drivers' licenses or state ID cards, which expire every three years. Citizens without either of these cards could also sign the refusal at any drivers' license office in the state. This is a policy similar to ones already in place in some European countries.

Does this seem like an appropriate policy to you?

  • Yes 
  • No

How do your answers compare?

For many decisions in life, people encounter default options-that is, events or conditions that will be set in place if they don't actively choose an alternative. Some default options have clear benefits and are relatively straightforward to implement, such as having drug prescriptions default to "generic" unless the physician checks the "brand necessary" box. Others are more controversial, such as the automatic organ donation issue that you made a decision about.

Default options can strongly influence human behavior. For example, employees are much more likely to participate in a retirement plan if they're automatically enrolled (and must ask to be removed, or opt out) than if they must actively opt in to the plan. Researchers have found a number of reasons for this influence of default options, including people's aversion to change.

But default options can seem coercive also. So, an Institute of Medicine committee recently recommended against making organ donation automatic in the US. One reason was the committee's concern that Americans might not fully understand that they could opt out of donation or exactly how they could do so.

The policy scenarios presented to you here have been excerpted from a 2007 article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Harnessing the Power of Default Options to Improve Health Care," by Scott D. Halpern, MD, PhD, Peter A. Ubel, MD, and David A. Asch, MD, MBA. Dr. Ubel is the Director of the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine.

This article provides guidance for policy-makers in setting default options, specifically in health care. Generally, default options in health care are intended to promote the use of interventions that improve care, reduce the use of interventions that put patients at risk, or serve broader societal agendas, such as cost containment.

In this NEJM article, the researchers argue that default options are often unavoidable-otherwise, how would an emergency-room physician decide on care for an uninsured patient? Many default options already exist but are hidden. Without either returning to an era of paternalism in medicine or adopting a laissez-faire approach, the authors present ways to use default options wisely but actively, based on clear findings in the medical literature.

Some examples of default policies that may improve health care quality:

  • routine HIV testing of all patients unless they opt out.
  • removal of urinary catheters in hospital patients after 72 hours unless a nurse or doctor documents why the catheter should be retained.
  • routine ventilation of all newly intubated patients with lung-protective settings unless or until other settings are ordered.

Drs. Halpern, Ubel, and Asch conclude, "Enacting policy changes by manipulating default options carries no more risk than ignoring such options that were previously set passively, and it offers far greater opportunities for benefit."

Read the article:

Harnessing the power of default options to improve health care.
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Asch DA. New England Journal of Medicine 2007;357:1340-1344.

Edward Goldman, JD, BA

Faculty

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

Research Interests: 
Last Name: 
Goldman

Give me colostomy or give me death! (Aug-06)

Click to decide between death and living with a colostomy. Which would you choose? Are you sure?

Given the choice, would you choose immediate death,or living with a colostomy (where part of your bowel is removed and you have bowel movements into a plastic pouch attached to your belly)?

  •  Immediate Death
  •  Colostomy

Think about what it would be like if you were diagnosed with colon cancer. You are given the option of choosing between two surgical treatments.The first is a surgery that could result in serious complications and the second has no chance of complications but has a higher mortality rate.

Possible outcome Surgery 1
(complicated)
Surgery 2 
(uncomplicated)
Cure without complication 80% 80%
Cure with colostomy 1%  
Cure with chronic diarrhea 1%  
Cure with intermittent bowel obstruction 1%  
Cure with wound infection 1%  
No cure (death) 16% 20%

If you had the type of colon cancer described above, which surgery do you think you would choose?

  • Surgery 1
  • Surgery 2

How do your answers compare?

In fact, past research has shown that 51% people choose the surgery with a higher death rate, even though most of them initially preferred each of the four surgical complications, including colostomy, over immediate death.

Are you saying what you really mean?

CBDSM investigators Brian Zikmund-Fisher, Angela Fagerlin, Peter Ubel, teamed up with Jennifer Amsterlaw, to see if they could reduce the number of people choosing the surgery with the higher rate of death and therefore reducing the discrepancy. A large body of past research has shown that people are notoriously averse to uncertainty. The investigators had a hunch that uncertainty could account for some of the discrepancy. Surgery 1 has a greater number of ambiguous outcomes, perhaps causing people to be averse to it. In an effort to minimize this uncertainty, the investigators laid out a series of scenarios outlining different circumstances and presentations of the two surgeries. For example the research presented some of the participants with a reframing of the surgery information, such as:

Possible outcome Surgery 1
(complicated)
Surgery 2 
(uncomplicated)
Cured without complication 80% 80%
Cured, but with one of the following complications: colostomy, chronic diarrhea, intermittent bowl obstruction, or wound infection 4%  
No cure (death) 16% 20%

The investigators believed by grouping all of the complications together that people would be more apt to chose the surgery with the lower mortality rate, because seeing a single group of undesirable outcomes, versus a list, may decrease some of the ambiguity from previous research.

Although none of the manipulations significantly reduced the percentage of participants selecting Surgery 2, the versions that yielded the lowest preference for this surgery all grouped the risk of the four possible complications into a single category, as in the example shown above.

Why these findings are important

Over the past several decades there has been a push to give patients more information so they can make decisions that are consistent with their personal preferences. On the other hand there is a growing psychological literature revealing people's tendency to make choices that are in fact inconsistent with their own preferences; this is a dilemma. Because the present research suggests that the discrepancy between value and surgery choice is extremely resilient, much research still needs to be done in order to understand what underlies the discrepancy, with the goal of eliminating it.

The research reported in this decision of the month is currently in press. Please come back to this page in the near future for a link to the article.

Read the article:

Can avoidance of complications lead to biased healthcare decisions?
Amsterlaw J, Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Fagerlin A, Ubel PA. Judgment and Decision Making 2006;1(1):64-75.

 

 

 

Internet Survey Lab

Overview

The Internet Survey Lab at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM), led by Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher, facilitates the programming of complex experimental designs, using the graphical and interactive capabilities of the Internet. CBSSM has extensive experience in developing, programming and conducting survey research using Internet-based methodologies. 

Why We Use the Internet

A key advantage of Internet surveys is that they can shape and direct a user's experience in response to computer generated randomization and/or respondents' own answers to questions earlier in the survey. Additionally, page and answer order can be truly randomized as appropriate to limit cognitive biases. The unique advantage of Internet surveys, however, is that many different types of stimuli can be randomized or varied; static visual images, movies, or sounds can all be used in addition to text. Furthermore, the nature of the browser interface enables user-directed interactivity, such as user-adjustable risk communication graphics, that provide unique opportunities for both knowledge communication and response assessment.

Using the Internet to conduct survey research is also very efficient: we can develop and test surveys in only a few months' time, and once a survey is ready, large scale data collection (e.g., 1500-3000 completed surveys) can be completed in only 2-3 weeks.  Such surveys can also be cost effective, since while significant effort goes into development, creation, and testing of the survey, almost no personnel effort is required for data collection, entering, coding, or cleaning.  In addition, oftentimes several small surveys can be combined into a single instrument, creating further efficiencies.

Sometimes, our studies use large, demographically diverse samples obtained through commercial survey research firms. This methodology allows us to tailor the population being surveyed on multiple demographic variables (e.g., sampling only women age 40-75 for a study about breast cancer treatments) and provides us with ample statistical power to conduct multi-factorial experimental tests. Other times, we use more inexpensive samples from Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) for quick pilot testing or to enable rapid, iterative testing of designs. Regardless, the use of randomized designs ensures high internal validity for the research despite the use of an Internet-only sample.

CBSSM Surveys

CBSSM has had considerable success using this methodology, publishing multiple manuscripts in highly regarded peer-reviewed journals. Studies that have used this methodology have addressed a variety of topics, including:

  • The use of pictographs to display risk (20082008, 2014) including in comparison to other graphical formats (2008, 2010, 2010). 
    Note: to create your own pictographs, see www.iconarray.com.
  • Misprediction of happiness between younger and older adults (2005)
  • Elicitation of utility and willingness to pay (200720072008)
  • Research ethics, e.g., participation of mentally vs. medically ill in research (2005)
  • Risk communications that emphasize incremental risks instead of absolute risks (2008)
  • Simplifying risk communications about adjuvant therapy options (2008).
  • Effect of risk labels on prenatal screening decisions (2007).
  • Time-insensitivity in people's understanding of survival curves (20052007)
  • Self-other discrepancies in medical decisions (20062008)
  • Sequential vs. all at once presentations of risk information (2011)
  • Testing of animated or interactive risk graphics (2011, 2012, 2014)
  • Optimal levels of precision in risk communications (2011, 2012)
  • Framing of health promotion messages (2012)
  • Exploration of role of narratives in decision making (2010)
  • Values Clarification (2015)
  • Intuition and Deliberation in Decision Making (2015)

Contact Us

For questions about our methods or inquiries about potential Internet survey research collaborations, please contact Brian Zikmund-Fisher at bzikmund@umich.edu.

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.

 

Leaving the Emergency Room in a Fog (Sep-09)

Consider this scenario:

Alfred made a visit to his local Emergency Room. What was his diagnosis? What did the medical team do for his problem? What was he supposed to do to continue care at home? And what symptoms was he supposed to watch for to alert him to return to the ER?

Alfred woke up at 4 am on Sunday morning with pain in his left foot. That place where his new running shoes had rubbed a raw spot earlier in the week was getting worse. By 9 am, the foot was red and swollen, with a large oozing sore, and Alfred decided to go to the Emergency Room at his local hospital.

Late on Sunday afternoon, Alfred returned home from the ER. He crutched his way into the house and collapsed on the sofa. His teenage son quizzed him.

"What did they say was wrong?"
"Oh, an infection," replied Alfred.
"Well, what did they do for it?"
"I think they cut a chunk out of my foot," said Alfred.
"Whoa! Did they give you any medicine?"
"Yeah, a shot," said Alfred.
"And what’s with the crutches?"
"I’m supposed to use them for a while," said Alfred, looking annoyed.
"How long a while?"
"It’s written down," said Alfred, digging a crumpled sheet of paper out of his pocket.
"Says here you should take some prescription and elevate your left leg for two days."
"Two days? I have to go to work tomorrow," groaned Alfred.
"And you’re supposed to go back to the ER if you have a fever or pain in your leg. Where’s the prescription?"
"Here, look through my wallet. Maybe I stuck it in there," said Alfred.
The good news is that Alfred recovered completely, with some assistance and cajoling from his son. But how common is it for people who go to the Emergency Room to be foggy about what happened and what they should do once they leave the ER?
What do you think is the percentage of ER patients who do not understand at least one of the following: their diagnosis, the emergency care they received, their discharge care, or their return instructions?
 
  • 38%
  • 48%
  • 78%
  • 88%

How do your answers compare?

A recent study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that 78% of emergency room patients showed deficient comprehension in at least one of these areas:
 
  • Diagnosis
  • Emergency care that was given
  • Post-ER care needs
  • Symptoms that would require a return to the ER
51% of patients showed deficient comprehension in two or more areas. Only 22% of reports from patients were in complete harmony with what their care teams reported in all four areas. The biggest area of misunderstanding was in patients' post-ER care needs, such as medications, self-care steps, follow-up from their regular doctors, or follow-up with specialists.
 
Even more alarming is that, according to the study, "most patients appear to be unaware of their lack of understanding and report inappropriate confidence in their comprehension and recall." The patients were quite sure of what they knew 80% of the time—even when what they knew was not right.
 
These results suggest that Emergency Room teams need to do a better job of making sure that patients go home with clear information and instructions—and that patients and their loved ones shouldn't leave until they fully comprehend their situation.
 
Lead author Kirsten G. Engel, MD, conducted this study, "Patient Comprehension of Emergency Department Care and Instructions," with Michele Heisler, MD, Dylan M. Smith, PhD , Claire H. Robinson, MPH, Jane H.Forman, ScD, MHS, and Peter A. Ubel, MD, most of whom are affiliated with CBDSM.
 
The researchers carried out detailed interviews with 140 English-speaking patients who visited one of two Emergency Departments in southeast Michigan and were released to go home. These interviews were compared with the patients' medical records, and the comparisons revealed serious mismatches between what the medical teams found or advised and what the patients comprehended.
 
"It is critical that emergency patients understand their diagnosis, their care, and, perhaps most important, their discharge instructions," says Kirsten Engel, a former UM Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar who is now at Northwestern University. "It is disturbing that so many patients do not understand their post-Emergency-Department care, and that they do not even recognize where the gaps in understanding are. Patients who fail to follow discharge instructions may have a greater likelihood of complications after leaving the Emergency Department."
 
Peter A. Ubel, the study's senior author, agrees: "Doctors need to not only ask patients if they have questions, but ask them to explain, in their own words, what they think is wrong with their health and what they can do about it. And patients need to ask their doctors more questions, and even need to explain to their doctors what they think is going on."
 
Read the article:

 

Pages