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.