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Funded by VA Health Services Research and Development Career Development Award

Funding Years: 2015-2019

Heart attack and stroke, which together are called cardiovascular disease, cause over 1/3 of all deaths in VA patients. The current guidelines for the prevention of these conditions focus on lowering patients'blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A new treatment strategy, which I call benefit-based tailored treatment, that instead guides treatment decisions based on the likelihood that a medication would prevent a heart attack or stroke could prevent more cardiovascular disease, with lower medication use, and be more patient centered. The purpose of this Career Development Award is to develop and assess tools and approaches that could enable the implementation of benefit-based tailored treatment of cardiovascular disease, in particular a decision support tool and educational program for clinicians and a performance profiling system. The decision support tool will enable better care by showing clinicians patient-specific estimates of the likelihood that their medication decisions will prevent a cardiovascular disease event. The performance profiling system will encourage better care by assessing the quality of care provided at VA sites and in PACT teams based on how well the medical care provided follows this treatment strategy. The project will have three aims:
Aim 1 : In the first aim, I will seek to understand clinicians' and patients' perceptions of and receptivity to the use of benefit-based tailored treatment for cardiovascular disease. Information gained from qualitative research with clinicians will help assess and improve the usability and effectiveness of the decision support tool and educational program for clinicians, along with the acceptability of the treatment strategies in general. Information gained from focus groups with patients will help learn their priorities in cardiovascular disease prevention, to help identify ways to make the interventions and their assessments more patient-centered.
Aim 2 : In the second aim, the decision support tool and educational program will be assessed in a real-world randomized pilot study involving thirty clinicians. Half of the clinicians will be provided the decision support tool and education intervention for ten patients each, the other half will receive a traditional quality improvement program and treatment reminders. The study will have formative goals of ensuring that clinicians and patients believe the tool is valuable and does not disrupt care processes or workflow for anyone in the PACT team. This will be studied with qualitative and survey assessments. The primary summative outcome will be the influence of the intervention on clinicians'treatment decisions. Secondary outcomes will assess patients'satisfaction with their visits and their clinicians.
Aim 3 : The third aim will develop and evaluate a novel performance measurement system based on benefit- based tailored treatment. First, the performance profiling system will be developed. Then the profiling system's ability to reliably differentiate high quality from low-quality care will be evaluated.

PI: Jeremy Sussman

Do You Know Enough to Take That Medication? (Feb-11)

People in the U.S. make decisions about their health on a regular basis. For example,they are often asked to consider taking medication to treat common health problems, such as hypertension. But do patients have sufficient information to make these decisions? And what factors might influence the knowledge patients have, and their treatment decisions?

Consider this scenario:

Bob is a 52-year-old man who went to see his physician for a routine check-up. Bob’s doctor told him his cholesterol levels were slightly elevated and suggested cholesterol medication. Bob wondered how long he would have to take the medication, and whether there would be any side effects. Please answer the following two questions about cholesterol medications.

When people start taking cholesterol medications, how long is it usually recommended that they take them?

  • less than 6 months
  • 6-12 months
  • 1-3 years
  • for the rest of their lives

How do your answers compare?

Making an informed medical decision about whether to take cholesterol medications depends, at least in part, on understanding how long a medication should be taken and whether there are side effects. CBSSM investigators Angela Fagerlin, Mick Couper, and Brian Zikmund-Fisher recently published an article on patient knowledge from the DECISIONS study, a large survey of U.S. adults about common medical decisions. One main objective of the study was to determine adults’ knowledge about information relevant to common types of medication, screening, or surgery decisions they recently made. Data were collected from 2575 English-speaking adults aged 40 years and older who reported having discussed common medical decisions with a health care provider within the previous two years. Participants answered knowledge questions and rated the importance of their health care provider, family/friends, and the media as sources of information about common medical issues.

People taking cholesterol medications usually should take them for about 3 or more years, and perhaps even for the rest of their lives. A little more than 60% of the study respondents accurately identified the time to take cholesterol medications.

Many people have trouble with this question and do not know that muscle pain is the most commonly reported side effect of cholesterol medications. Only 17% of DECISIONS study respondents were able to answer this question correctly. About 1 in 5 respondents incorrectly identified liver problems as the most common side effect of cholesterol medications.

Overall, the investigators found that patient knowledge of key facts relevant to recently made medical decisions was often poor. In addition, knowledge varied widely across questions and decision contexts. For example, 78% of patients considering cataract surgery correctly estimated typical recovery time, compared to 29% of patients considering surgery for lower back pain or 39% of patients considering a knee or hip replacement. Similarly, in thinking about cancer screening tests, participants were more knowledgeable of facts about colorectal cancer screening than those who were asked about breast or prostate cancer. Respondents were consistently more knowledgeable on questions about blood pressure medication than cholesterol medication or antidepressants.

The impact of demographic characteristics and sources of information also varied substantially. For example, black respondents had lower knowledge than white respondents about cancer screening decisions and medication, even after controlling for other demographic factors. Researchers found no race differences for surgical decisions, however.

The authors concluded by noting that improving patient knowledge about risks, benefits, and characteristics of medical procedures is essential to support informed decision making.

For more information: 

Fagerlin A, Sepucha KR, Couper M, Levin CA, Singer E, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Patients' knowledge about 9 common health conditions: The DECISIONS survey. Medical Decision Making 2010;30:35S-52S.

 

David Sandberg, PhD

Faculty

Dr. Sandberg is a pediatric psychologist and clinical researcher.  As a pediatric psychologist, he delivers psychoeducational and behavioral health services to persons with endocrine disorders and their families, in particular, conditions affecting linear growth or disorders of sex development (DSD), i.e., congenital conditions in which development of sex chromosomes, gonads or sex anatomy is atypical.

Last Name: 
Sandberg

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.

 

Bioethics Grand Rounds

Wed, September 28, 2016, 12:00pm
Location: 
UH Ford Amphitheater & Lobby

Carl Schneider, JD -- “Can Informed-Consent Laws Work? Evaluating Compelled Disclosure as a Method of Regulation”

Abstract: The law of informed consent is an example of a form of legal regulation called mandated disclosure.  In such regulation, one party to a transaction is required to give the other party to the transaction information to use in making decisions about the parties’ relationship.  There are hundreds of examples of such legal rules besides medical informed consent. This talk asks how well these rules have worked outside medicine. It concludes that there is little evidence that those rules ever work, explores some of the reasons for this surprising failure, and asks what the failure of mandated disclosure outside medicine tells us about the success of informed-consent laws in medicine.

Bioethics Grand Rounds: Paul Lichter, MD

Wed, November 30, 2016, 12:00pm
Location: 
UH Ford Amphitheater & Lobby

Paul Lichter, MD

The Medical-Industrial Complex is alive and well and has been that way for decades.  The Complex depends on strong cooperation from physicians.  Not only do physicians help industry to develop drugs and devices, they then take part in selling them to their fellow physicians.  The physician-as-drug-rep is driven by money and by the culture of reciprocity in our society.  This talk will review the foundations of the Medical-Industrial Complex and the reasons why it is able to control a great deal of medical practice in our country.  Physicians rarely if ever believe they are biased and Industry works hard to enforce that belief.  Money provided by Industry to physicians in essence creates a contract, however subtle, whereby physicians will sell drugs and devices for Industry.  We will discuss the ethical issues surrounding physician-industry relationships as part of the Medical-Industrial Complex.

Supporting information for: 2015 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (Lawrence O. Gostin, J.D., LL.D Hon.)

Natalie Bartnik, MPH, Research Associate, HBHE Genetics Research Group, UM School of Public Health: "Why, how and when oncologists disclose genome sequencing results in clinical practice"

Abstract: Integrating an individual’s clinical history with genome sequencing data can inform diagnostic and treatment strategies tailored to the patient’s mutational landscape. In oncology, precision medicine offers the additional opportunity to characterize novel gene targets for patients with cancer who lack known or viable targets. It is not known whether oncologists communicate sequencing results to patients, or how and why oncologists integrate sequencing profiles into clinical practice. In a survey of 43 oncologists who referred 111 patients to the MIONCOSEQ Study, we found that nearly a quarter of oncologists planned to make changes to their patient’s treatment based on genomic findings. Prominent barriers to the integration of sequencing results into clinical practice were a lack of findings with perceived clinical significance, as well as limitations in locally available clinical trials. The majority of physicians planned to communicate sequencing results to their patients, mostly via in-person clinic visits.


Michele Gornick, PhD, MICHR PTSP Postdoctoral Fellow, VA HSRD Fellow & CBSSM Research Investigator: "Information and deliberation make a difference: The public’s preferences for the return of secondary genomic findings"

Abstract: As genome sequencing becomes a part of clinical practice, how best to disclose sequencing results –including secondary findings-- raises significant issues. Expert consensus panels have been convened to provide recommendations, but what do members of the public want? In order to address this gap, we organized a deliberative democracy (DD) session to educate members of the public on genome sequencing, to engage them in dialogue about the benefits and risks of the clinical implementation of this technology, and to elicit their informed perspectives about policies governing the return of secondary findings. A significant shift in participants’ perspectives on the disclosure of adult onset conditions from the baseline survey, that remained stable after a month follow-up (response rate = 87%; Χ2(1, N=60) = 4.26, p =0.039), suggests the value of education and deliberation for the appreciation of the scientific and ethical complexities of genome sequencing.


Aaron Scherer, PhD, CBSSM Postdoctoral Fellow: "Elephants, Donkeys, and Medicine: Political Differences in Health Risk Perceptions and Adherence to Medical Recommendations"

The relationship between political ideology and health is often relegated to discussions of health care policy. But what if political ideology affects much more than health care policy preferences? I will discuss two studies that provide some initial evidence that political ideology influences our perceptions of health risks and adherence to medical recommendations. In one study examining risk communication strategies, political ideology was related to differences in perceptions of Ebola and influenza risk, as well as willingness to vaccinate against these two infectious diseases. In a second study examining beliefs in medical conspiracies, political ideology was related to differences in self-reported adherence to doctor’s recommendations and prescription use. The psychological differences between conservatives and liberals that may help illuminate why these differences exist will be discussed.

Stephanie Kukora, MD and Nathan Gollehon, MD, Fellows, Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, UM Mott Children’s Hospital: "Epidemiology of outpatient prenatal consultation: implications for decision-making and perinatal outcomes"

Abstract: Neonatologists provide anticipatory guidance and support decision-making for complicated pregnancies, in which poor/ambiguous prognostication can lead to over-/under-treatment.  Referral to antenatal palliative care consultation (PCC) is not standard; little is known about the basis for referral, and their role in perinatal decision-making.

117 women had outpatient neonatology consultation, with decision-making for 146 fetuses with multiple anomalies/genetic, single major anomaly, or obstetric complications. 18(12%) were given a prognosis of uniform non-survival and 41(28%) had anticipated survival with intervention. Remaining fetuses were given unknown prognoses 87(60%), some qualified “likely survivable” 17(12%) or “likely poor” 33(23%). Most prognoses aligned with outcomes, though outcomes were better than predicted in 3(2%) infants and worse in 10(7%).  Mismatches between prognosis and decision occurred in 10(7%) infants who were provided resuscitation despite “non-survival” or “likely poor” prognoses.

23 (19.7%) of the 117 mother/fetus pairs received antenatal PCC.  Prognoses included: 11(48%) non-survivable, 11(48%) unknown but likely poor, 1(4%) survivable with surgical intervention. Fetal/neonatal outcome included: fetal demise 5(22%), in-hospital death 16(70%), survival to discharge 2(9%). 22 maternal/fetal pairs with 3(13%) non-survivable and 19(86%) likely poor prognoses were not referred, but had similar outcomes: fetal demise 4(18%), in-hospital death 15(68%), survival to discharge 3(14%). Those with PCC were more likely to choose comfort-care than those without (61% vs. 18%, p < 0.01). Of non-survivors, 94% with PCC died within 4 days while 27% without PCC received >14 days of intensive care.

We identified relatively few cases of mismatch between prognosis and outcome; however, rare cases of prognostic failure warrant caution. Although allowing parents to pursue aggressive neonatal care respects autonomy, it may delay rather than prevent death. Long-term outcomes with and without PCC were similar for infants with poor prognoses, though non-survivors with PCC were more likely to have a comfort care plan and shorter time to in-hospital death.


Minnie Bluhm, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, School of Health Sciences, Eastern Michigan University: "Oncologists' decisions about administering late chemotherapy: What makes it so difficult?"

Abstract: Background. An estimated 20-50% of incurable cancer patients receive chemotherapy in the last 30 days of life, although little data support this practice.  Continued use of chemotherapy typically precludes hospice enrollment.  It may also result in more symptoms, increased use of aggressive treatments, and worsening quality of life.  Despite this, few studies have explored oncologists' rationales for administering chemotherapy during the last weeks of life.  The purpose of this study is to examine factors that oncologists report influence their decisions about late chemotherapy.

Methods. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with 17 oncologists using a semi-structured interview guide.  Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.  Transcripts were coded and content analyzed for themes and patterns.

Results.  Three key findings emerged.  1) Clinical factors drive oncologists’ late chemotherapy decisions when they point to clear treatment choices, along with patient preferences.  When clinical factors are ambiguous, non-clinical factors become more salient.  2) Late chemotherapy is patient-driven.  It is used to palliate physical and emotional symptoms and maintain patient hope, even when physical benefit is not expected.  3) Caring for dying patients is difficult and impacts oncologists and their treatment decisions.  Difficulties also cited as influences favoring treatment include: emotional exhaustion, difficulty communicating about stopping or not starting chemotherapy, overwhelming sense of responsibility for life and death, feeling badly about the limits of oncology to heal, and prognostic uncertainty.

Conclusions.  Findings reveal a nuanced understanding of why it can be so difficult for oncologists to refuse chemotherapy to patients near death.  Doing so adds to the existing burden of caring for dying patients.  Therefore, at times, oncologists prescribe chemotherapy to simply help everyone feel better, regardless of expected clinical benefits or costs.  Future work is needed on the impact of caring for dying patients on oncologists and on supportive interventions that promote optimal treatment decisions.

Danielle Czarnecki, PhD Candidate, UM Department of Sociology: "Moral Women, Immoral Technologies: How Devout Women Negotiate Maternal Desires, Religion, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies"

Abstract: Catholicism is the most restrictive world religion in its position on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). The opposition of the Church, combined with the widespread acceptability of ARTs in the U.S., creates a potentially profound moral dilemma for those who adhere to Church doctrine. Drawing on interviews from 33 Catholic women, this study shows that devout women have different understandings of these technologies than non or less religious women. These differences are rooted in devout women’s position of navigating two contradictory cultural schemas (Sewell 1992) —“religious” and “secular”—regarding the meaning of reproductive technologies in the contemporary U.S. Religious schemas provide devout women with different cultural resources that allow them to develop strategies to avoid the use of ARTs. Yet they must still reckon with the ideal of biological parenthood. I show how devout women draw on religious doctrine to find value and meaning in their suffering , to move beyond biological motherhood,  and to ultimately achieve a moral femininity. While religion increases the burden of reproduction for devout women, it also provides the cultural resources to resist the financial, emotional, and physical difficulties experienced by women who use ARTs.


Uchenna Ezeibe, MD, Resident Physician, UMHS Department of Pediatrics & Communicable Diseases: "Pediatric Ethics Consultation Service at a Tertiary Hospital: A Retrospective Review"

Abstract: Background: Published data about hospital ethics consultation services focus primarily on adult patients. There is little information on pediatric ethics consultations – specifically whether patient demographics were related to type and prevalence of consults.

Objective: To review recent ethics consults at a large children’s hospital and explore associations with patient demographics.

Design/Methods: We reviewed ethics consults between 7/1/2009 – 12/31/2013 at a Midwest children’s hospital. We used Armstrong Clinical Ethics Coding System 2013©, modified for pediatrics, to code consults. We collected data on patient race, age, and insurance status (private vs. public) as a proxy for socioeconomic status. We used Microsoft Excel 2013© to generate descriptive statistics.

Results:, approximately 321,713 inpatient visits, and 29 ethics consults were reviewed. Most consults (72.5%) concerned inpatients. Of these, 82% originated from 1 of 3 ICUs (neonatal, pediatric, and pediatric-cardiothoracic). The most common reasons for consultation were: 1) treatment-based decision-making (31%),); 2) end-of-life decisions (28%); & 3) substitute decision-making (24%).  The mean patient age for treatment-based and substitute decision-making consults were similar at 6.8 and 7.9 years, respectively.  Younger patients (mean age: 2.4 years) were involved in end-of-life dilemmas. Patients receiving consults differed from the general patient population in that fewer patients with consults were White (52% vs. 71%) and more were  African-American (34.5% vs 9%).  Approximately 76% of patients with ethics consults had public insurance compared to approximately 29% amongst all inpatient admissions.

Conclusion:  In this single-center retrospective review, we found that African-Americans and patients with public insurance were over-represented in receipt of ethics consultations compared to the general patient population. We also found that dilemmas about end-of-life decisions were more common for younger children. Given our small numbers, strong conclusions cannot be drawn from this data. Nevertheless, our findings do point to areas where communication between family and medical team can be improved.
 

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.

It is with both sadness and joy that we announce that CBSSM Co-Director Dr. Angela Fagerlin will be assuming a new position as the inaugural Chair of

Population Health Sciences at the University of Utah. While we are very sad to see Angie leave, we congratulate her on this well-deserved opportunity and are thrilled to see her enter this new stage in her career.

Dr. Fagerlin has been with the University of Michigan for 15 years and Co-Director of CBSSM for the last 5 years. She has been an integral member of CBSSM and all its precursors—the Program for Improving Health Care Decisions and The Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine. Dr. Fagerlin will be greatly missed for her friendship, collegiality, mentorship, and the great science she has produced over the years.

As of January 2016, current Co-Director of CBSSM Dr. Raymond De Vries will be joined by Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher, who will serve as an Interim Co-Director. Dr. Zikmund-Fisher is an Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the School of Public Health, as well as a Research Associate Professor of Internal Medicine. He has been actively involved with CBSSM and its precursors for over 13 years and has many research collaborations and mentoring relationships with CBSSM faculty, fellows, and affiliates. Dr. Zikmund-Fisher looks forward to helping to grow CBSSM's many research and educational initiatives in the future.

CBSSM Seminar: Jeff Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH

Wed, October 19, 2016, 3:00pm to 4:00pm
Location: 
NCRC Building 16, Conference Rm 266C

Jeff Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH
Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine

Consumer Behaviors among Americans in High-Deductible Health Plans 
More than 1 in 3 Americans with private health insurance now face high out-of-pocket expenditures for their care because they are enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), which have annual deductibles of at least $1,300 for an individual or $2,600 for a family before most services are covered.  Though it is well known that HDHPs lead patients to use fewer health services, what is less known is the extent to which Americans who are enrolled in HDHPs are currently using strategies to optimize the value of their out-of-pocket health care spending such as (1) budgeting for necessary care, (2) accessing tools to select providers and facilities based on their prices and quality, (3) engaging clinicians in shared decision making which considers cost of care, and (4) negotiating prices for services.  Such strategies could be particularly helpful for people living with chronic conditions, who are even more likely to delay or forego necessary care when enrolled in an HDHP.  In this seminar we will examine these issues and review preliminary results from a recent national survey of US adults enrolled in HDHPs that aimed to determine how often these strategies are being utilized and how helpful patients have found them to be, which patients choose to use or not use these strategies and why, and identify opportunities for policymakers, health plans, and employers to better support the growing number of Americans enrolled in HDHPs.

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