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Fri, October 04, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

 

Research Topics: 

Funded by Society of Family Planning.

Funding Years: 2013-2015.

Reproductive autonomy (RA) means having control over one’s own fertility desires. Identification in a religious community may affect women’s decision-making abilities surrounding family planning. Upadhyay et al. developed a scale consisting of three domains that measure RA as it applies to a woman and her partner: freedom from coercion, communication and decision making. However, little is known about how religious norms influence RA. We aimed to expand the current RA scale to capture religious influences and assess the relationship between RA and unprotected sex among religious women.

 

The Importance of First Impressions (Jun-05)

How do your risk estimate and your actual level of risk impact your anxiety? Please answer the following question to the best of your ability:

What is the chance that the average woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime?

The average lifetime chance of developing breast cancer is actually 13%.

How does this risk of breast cancer (13% or 13 out of 100 women) strike you?
 
As an extremely low risk 1       2       3       4       5        6        7        8       9       10 As an extremely high risk
 

How do your answers compare?

Making a risk estimate can change the feel of the actual risk

CBDSM investigators Angela Fagerlin, Brian Zikmund-Fisher, and Peter Ubel designed a study to test whether people react differently to risk information after they have been asked to estimate the risks. In this study, half the sample first estimated the average woman's risk of breast cancer (just as you did previously), while the other half made no such estimate. All subjects were then shown the actual risk information and indicated how the risk made them feel and gave their impression of the size of the risk. The graph below shows what they found:

 

As shown in the graph above, subjects who first made an estimated risk reported significantly more relief than those in the no estimate group. In contrast, subjects in the no estimate group showed significantly greater anxiety. Also, women in the estimate group tended to view the risk as low, whereas those in the no estimate group tended to view the risk as high.

So what's responsible for these findings? On average, those in the estimate group guessed that 46% of women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, which is a fairly large overestimate of the actual risk. It appears, then, that this overestimate makes the 13% figure feel relatively low, leading to a sense of relief when subjects find the risk isn't as bad as they had previously thought.

Why this finding is important

Clinical practice implications - The current research suggests that clinicians need to be very deliberate but very cautious in how they communicate risk information to their patients. These results argue that a physician should consider whether a person is likely to over-estimate their risk and whether they have an unreasonably high fear of cancer before having them make a risk estimation. For the average patient who would overestimate their risk, making a risk estimation may be harmful, leading them to be too relieved by the actual risk figure to take appropriate actions. On the other hand, if a patient has an unreasonably high fear of cancer, having them make such an estimate may actually be instrumental in decreasing their anxiety. Physicians may want to subtly inquire whether their patient is worried about her cancer risk or if she has any family history of cancer to address the latter type of patient.

Research implications - Many studies in cancer risk communication literature have asked participants at baseline about their perceived risk of developing specific cancers. Researchers then implement an intervention to "correct" baseline risk estimates. The current results suggest that measuring risk perceptions pre-intervention will influence people's subsequent reactions, making it difficult to discern whether it was the intervention that changed their attitudes or the pre-intervention risk estimate. Researchers testing out such interventions need to proceed with caution, and may need to add research arms of people who do not receive such pre-tests.

For more details: Fagerlin A, Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Ubel PA. How making a risk estimate can change the feel of that risk: shifting attitudes toward breast cancer risk in a general public survey. Patient Educ Couns. 2005 Jun;57(3):294-9.

 

 

Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil

Director

Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, is Professor, Deputy Chair, and Residency Program Director in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan.

She graduated first in her class from Harvard College and then pursued her medical training at Harvard Medical School. She also served as a fellow in the Center for Ethics at Harvard University and completed her doctorate in Social Policy at Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar.

Last Name: 
Jagsi
Press Coverage: 

Funded by NIH Department of Health and Human Services

Funding Years: 2015-2020

Colorectal rectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in the US with over 50,000 individuals dying annually from the disease. Despite multiple effective screening tests, CRC screening remains underutilized relative to other cancer screening. A driving factor behind this underutilization among insured populations is the gap that exists between a physician recommendation for care and the patient's receipt of screening. How best to support patients in CRC screening once they have a physician recommendation for care remains unknown. The proposed project will test the effectiveness and impact of a post-visit, patient portal tool, e-Assist, for engaging and supporting primary care patients in their decision making regarding, and ultimately in their obtaining, CRC screening. The tool purposely leverages the cue to action provided by a physician recommendation for care as well as the secure patient portal platform now commonly found within primary care practices. It seamlessly combines important patient-physician decision making content with assistance in removing personal and structural barriers to screening. Our research will answer four overarching questions: (1) Can a post-visit, patient portal tool, e-Assist, increase adherence to physician-recommended CRC screening? (2) How does e-Assist engage primary care patients in the CRC screening decision making process? (3) Are there subgroups of the primary care population for whom e-Assist is more engaging and effective? and (4) What adaptations are needed to e-Assist to improve its reach, and ensure its adoption, implementation, and ultimately its impact on evidence-based CRC screening use among diverse primary care patients and clinics? These questions will be addressed using a two-arm, practical randomized trial supplemented with findings from focus groups and in-depth interviews with patients, clinicians and other clinic staff to ensure a comprehensive understanding of not only program effectiveness and implementation, but the factors driving overall program impact. Results will illustrate how e-tools can be used following an office visit to support both patient decision making, and the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based cancer screening services in primary care.

PI(s): Jennifer Lafata

Co-I(s): Sarah Hawley, Kenneth Resnicow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funded by Veterans Affairs Health Services Research & Development CDA-2

Funding Years: 2014-2015


Despite the availability of evidence-based strategies to prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), engagement in these strategies is low among at-risk Veterans. A key opportunity to engage at-risk Veterans in interventions to prevent T2DM is when they are informed they have prediabetes. It remains unclear how VHA communications to patients diagnosed with prediabetes could be optimized to improve their engagement in evidence-based preventive strategies.

  • Aim 1: To describe at-risk Veterans' current engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM and the mediators of this engagement.
  • Aim 2: To examine the effects of receipt of a prediabetes diagnosis on at-risk Veterans' weight and engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM.
  • Aim 3: To identify the effects of 4 strategies from behavioral economics and health psychology on weight, HbA1c, and engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM among Veterans with prediabetes.

To accomplish Aim 1, we will survey 189 non-diabetic Veterans with risk factors for T2DM about their engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM and mediators of this engagement such as risk perception, motivation, and awareness of and preferences for preventive strategies. To accomplish Aim 2, we will conduct a pilot randomized trial among the same 189 non-diabetic Veterans from Project 1 in which we will randomly assign 126 of these Veterans to undergo screening for T2DM using a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test. The 63 Veterans who we project will have HbA1c values in the prediabetes range will receive that diagnosis and preventive recommendations from their PACT provider via brief standardized counseling. All 189 Veterans will have their weight tracked over the next year and will be surveyed immediately after the screening and brief counseling process, at 3 months, and at 1 year. Then we will compare changes in weight, engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM, and mediators of this engagement between the 63 Veterans who we project will have prediabetes and the 63 Veterans who were not screened. Among the 63 Veterans with prediabetes, we will conduct 20 semi-structured interviews to gain insights into the effects of this diagnosis and brief counseling. To accomplish Aim 3, we will conduct a fractional factorial design experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of 4 innovative strategies from behavioral economics and health psychology in promoting weight loss, decreasing HbA1c, and increasing engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM among 144 Veterans who are identified as having prediabetes through an HbA1c test. We will conduct qualitative evaluations of the acceptability of these strategies to patients.

PI(s): Jeffrey Kullgren

Medical Students

Systematizing the Teaching of Medical Ethics in the Undergraduate Medical Years

Medical students at the University of Michigan encounter ethical issues throughout their four years of training.  Some are obvious – decisions at the end of life, the allocation of scarce of medical resources, challenges to patient autonomy – others are less obvious – relationships between medical residents and medical students, problems with the “hidden curriculum,” and systemic discrimination in the provision of care.  Our goal is to make students aware of the variety of ethical problems in medical care and to equip them to respond to these problems in a wise and responsible manner.

To that end, our curriculum efforts focus on extending the existing curriculum and on making the medical ethics curriculum for undergraduate medical students at UM more systematic and explicit. Because we want students to become well-versed in thinking through ethical dilemmas before they encounter them in their clinical work we weave ethics into the curriculum throughout the 4 years of their undergraduate training. We use the expertise of our CBSSM faculty to create novel curricular components that incorporate our empirical work in bioethics with our particular expertise in decision science.

Increasing Opportunities for Ethics Teaching in the Clerkship Years

Discussions During Required Clinical Rotations

We facilitate regular ethics discussions for medical students at the end of their required clinical rotations in Obstetrics and Gynecology (in the third year) and Emergency Medicine (in the fourth year). To facilitate these discussions, students prepare short essays on ethical dilemmas encountered in these clerkships.  Students are given a summary of all the issues that came up that rotation, which is used as a starting point for a discussion facilitated by a clinical faculty member trained in ethics. In addition, the Internal Medicine subinternship (an option for fourth year students) includes an ethics discussion at the end of the rotation.

These discussions allow medical students to bring up concerns with ethical dilemmas in a safe environment, teach the students about approaches to ethics, and embed training in ethical decision-making in clinical practice. This is often the first time students learn about the role of the hospital ethics committee and how they can contact them if desired.

     “That was unexpectedly awesome!"  

-- Medical student after Ob/Gyn ethics discussion

 

Advanced Medical Therapeutics Ethics Module

All fourth year medical students are required to take an online Advanced Medical Therapeutics course. As part of the course, we created an ethics module that includes multiple cases that present ethical dilemmas.  Each case includes pre-recorded videos of faculty discussing the ethical aspects of the case and interactive components requiring students to choose possible solutions to the problem, after which they receive explanations of the pros and cons of their choice.

Medical Ethics Path of Excellence

CBSSM faculty work closely with the medical school to strengthen the medical ethics curriculum for Michigan medical students.  Our goal is to make students aware of the broad range of  ethical challenges facing 21st century medicine – challenges in clinical care, medical research and the design of health care delivery. Most recently, a team of CBSSM faculty developed the Medical Ethics Pathway of Excellence, an opportunity for students to receive mentored training in ethics throughout their four years of medical school.

Overview of Medical Ethics Pathway to Excellence:

  • Introduced in September 2013, the first 10 students were accepted in 2014. Twelve students joined in 2015.
  • Students apply to the Ethics Path of Excellence at the end of February during their M1 year, and continue their studies through their M4 year. Students in the POE learn to:
    • Identify ethical issues in the organization and delivery of health care
    • Implement tools and strategies to address ethical issues
    • Continue their professional education and development of the skills required for leadership
  • Highlights:
    • Before applying to the Ethics Path of Excellence, students have the opportunity to attend fourteen interactive lunchtime lectures that review various aspects of ethics in a healthcare setting. Applicants must attend a minimum of five of these lectures.
    • Students who want to serve on ethics committees and/or include ethics as part of an academic career are provided with specialized training.
    • All students participate in an individualized, independent study, culminating in a capstone project in the M4 year. Often this work includes field work at CBSSM.

Beginning in 2015, the Path of Excellence has been responsible for administering the core ethics curriculum for all of the M1 students. The Ethics Path of Excellence will continue to be a co-curricular activity until 2017 when all students will be required to choose one of the paths offered in the medical school.

“We really want to educate people to be the ethics committee consultants of the future. I think it's pretty unique to have the option of pursuing this extracurricular program because essentially it teaches you leadership skills and how to be a self-directed learner. These are skills you'll really need when you become faculty. Students can take their interest in ethics and pursue it further.”             
Lauren Smith, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology

Lauren Smith is the Director of the Path of Excellence. Andrew Barnosky, Christian Vercler, Ed Goldman, Kathryn Moseley, Janice Firn, Sacha Montas, and Raymond De Vries are core faculty members.

Start Seeing Ethics Lunch Discussions

As part of the Medical Ethics Path of Excellence, we offer lunch time discussions of cutting-edge topics in ethics. The content of these discussions includes topics such as conscientious objection, mandatory vs. optional vaccinations, patient centered care and shared decision making.  We have also used these discussions to hold mock ethics committee meetings with discussion of a specific case. Facilitators provide a relaxed atmosphere in which students can feel comfortable asking questions and voicing opinions.

 

"It is exciting to see medical students engage with the ethical issues that arise in the clinic and the classroom.  With encouragement from us they are beginning to see that there is more to medical ethics than just the well-known issues at the beginning and end of life.  While these ethical issues are important, there are also moral consequences associated with the mundane aspects of being a student and working with patients." Raymond De Vries, PhD, Director, Ethics Education Initiative

 

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