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.
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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:
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
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
|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?
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
|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.
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 ofPopulation 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.
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.
Consider this scenario:
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.
How do your answers compare?
- Emergency care that was given
- Post-ER care needs
- Symptoms that would require a return to the ER
Announcement of Position: Clinician Ethicist
The Program in Clinical Ethics within the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM) represents an expansion of existing services designed to promote a culture of patient-centered excellence by developing a comprehensive set of ethics-related activities. The aims of this program are to: liaise with and provide support to the adult and pediatrics ethics committees; streamline clinical ethics consultation; assist with ethics-related policy development on a regular and proactive basis; organize and administer structured educational programs in clinical ethics; and coordinate empiric research with relevance to clinical ethics within CBSSM.
The Program in Clinical Ethics is co-directed by the chairs of the adult and pediatric ethics committees and consultation services, Christian J. Vercler, MD MA and Andrew G. Shuman, MD. A dedicated clinician ethicist will manage the program on a daily basis. A cadre of eight faculty ethicists will rotate on service throughout the year and work closely with the clinician ethicist. Trainees and students will rotate as well. Dedicated administrative support will be organized through CBSSM.
One individual will serve as the program’s clinical ethicist. This individual will serve as the “first responder” and contact person for all ethics consults during business hours, ensure continuity with consults, and work in conjunction with faculty ethicists. The role will include arranging team/family meetings, ensuring follow-ups on all consults, and arranging additional consultations as needed for selected cases. He/she will also regularly review relevant institutional policies and attend all ethics committee meetings. Another major component of this role will be to organize and participate in educational efforts and preventative ethics rounds. This position will provide $50,000 of direct salary support annually, to be distributed and allocated in conjunction with their home department. The initial appointment will last two years and is renewable.
Candidates are expected to be employees or faculty at UMHS with a master’s or equivalent terminal degree in their field; any professional background is acceptable. Direct experience with clinical ethics consultation is required. Familiarity with ethics education and related clinical research would be helpful. Excellent organizational and communication skills across multidisciplinary medical fields are required. Candidates are expected to have qualifications that meet the standards outlined by The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) for accreditation for clinical ethics consultants.
Candidates will be vetted, interviewed and chosen by a nomination committee. Candidates are asked to submit:
- Curriculum vitae or resume
- One page maximum summary of (1) education/training related to ethics consultation; (2) clinical ethics consultation experience; and (3) motivation/interest in the position
- Letter of support from Department Chair/Division Head/Center Director or equivalent
- Submit formal application via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Application is due December 11, 2015 with interviews shortly thereafter
- Appointment will take effect January 1, 2016
- Co-Directors of the Program in Clinical Ethics: Christian J. Vercler, MD MA & Andrew G. Shuman, MD
- Administrative contact: Valerie Kahn – email@example.com 734 615 5371