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MD vs. WebMD: The Internet in Medical Decisions (Dec-10)

With just a simple search term and a click of the mouse, a person can find a large amount of health information on the Internet. What role does the Internet play in how patients make medical decisions? Does using the Internet as a source for information to help patients make informed decisions vary by health condition? Does the Internet substitute for detailed discussions with a health care provider?

Consider the following:

Imagine that you recently visited your health care provider for an annual physical examination. During the exam your doctor told you that you are at the age where you should start thinking about getting a screening test for colon cancer. In this conversation your health care provider explained some of the reasons why you should get screened. At the end of the visit, you had more information about screening tests for colon cancer but had not yet decided whether or not you wanted to get tested.

As you think about how you would make a decision about whether or not to get screened for colon cancer:
 
How important is your health care provider as a source of information about screening tests for colon cancer?
Not at all important (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) Extremely important
 
Would you use, or have someone else use for you, the Internet to find information on screening tests for colon cancer?
 
  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know
How important is the Internet as a source of information screening tests for colon cancer?
Not at all important (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) Extremely important
 
 
 

How do your answers compare?

In a recent study published in the journal Medical Decision Making, CBSSM investigators Brian Zikmund-FisherMick Couper, and Angela Fagerlin examined Internet use and perceived importance of different sources of information by patients making specific medical decisions.

In this study, US adults aged 40 years and older were asked about how they got information about 9 common medical decisions, including decisions about common prescription medication (for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression), cancer-screening tests (for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer), and elective surgeries (for lower back pain, cataracts, and knee/hip replacement). In addition, they study compared participants' ratings of the Internet as a source of information with their ratings of other sources, such as their health care provider.

So, how did your responses compare to the average adult in this study's population?

Results from this study showed that most patients did not use the Internet to make specific medical decisions like the ones you considered. On average, about 26% of participants made use of the Internet for information to make decisions about colon cancer screening tests and about 47% used it to inform a decision about lower back pain surgery.

Among participants who chose to use the Internet for finding information about specific medical decisions, data show that Internet use varies significantly across different types of medical decisions. Internet users were more likely to use the Internet for information related to elective surgery (36%), such as lower back pain surgery, and prescription medication (32%) than for cancer-screening decisions (22%), such as colon cancer screening.

Another element of this study looked at participants' ratings of different information sources. You are unlike other participants in this study in that you did not consistently rate health care providers as the most important source for information about colon cancer screening and lower back pain surgery. The CBSSM study found that, for both Internet users and nonusers, health care providers were rated highest as a source for information for all 9 decisions studied. Among Internet users, however, the Internet was rated as their 2nd-most important source of information.

The researchers found that Internet use to inform specific medical decisions varied by age ranging from 38% for those aged 40 to 49 years to 14% for those aged 70 years or older. Approximately 33% of 50 to 59 year olds used the Internet to make these medical decisions and 24% for those in the 60 to 69 year age category. This result is consistent with previous research on the demographics of Internet use.

The study authors concluded that the Internet has an impact on people's access to health care information; however, "the data suggest that access is not the same as use, and use for one medical decision does not imply use for all health decisions." In other words, people use the Internet differently depending on the context. The authors end by stating, "Clinicians, health educators, and health policy makers need to be aware that we remain a long way away from having Internet-based information sources universally used by patients to improve and support the process of medical decision making."

For the full text of this article:

Couper M, Singer E, Levin CA, Fowler F, Fagerlin A, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Use of the internet and ratings of information sources for medical decisions: Results from the DECISIONS survey. Medical Decision Making 2010;30:106S-114S.

 

Funded by National Institutes of Health

Funding Years: 2015-2020

Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users are nearly seven times more likely to have inadequate health literacy when compared with their hearing peers. This population is the non-English speaking minority group at greatest risk for miscommunication in health care settings. Health literacy mechanisms for deaf individuals remain poorly understood, thereby limiting interventions to address health literacy disparities and their impact on health care. It is unclear how differences in attitudes, knowledge, and skills related to health information affect health literacy in deaf populations and how they may contribute to ongoing health inequities. The two primary objectives of this proposal are: 1) to elucidate the role of information marginalization on health literacy in Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users and 2) to better understand the mechanisms of health literacy in this population so as to identify viable targets for future health literacy intervention development. This proposal is responsive to PAR-10-133's request for studies that assess mechanisms underlying health literacy, including roles of cognition, culture, language fluency, and information-seeking and interpretation ability in the deaf population and, how these may differ from the hearing population. To meet the study objectives, we will employ an explanatory sequential mixed methods design using extensive quantitative data collection procedures, namely, cross-sectional surveys and measures that will identify predictors and moderators of health literacy with 450 deaf and 450 hearing subjects across three geographically diverse sites. These results will inform the subsequent qualitative assessment that will help explain the quantitative results, and elucidate how and why deaf individuals access and understand health information. We will incorporate cutting edge technology to assess health information-seeking and interpretation patterns in this population, in addition to using a variety of validated and ASL-accessible instruments to assess health literacy and other constructs related to health literacy. The diverse team, consisting of both leading deaf and hearing researchers, provides a unique insight into how health information is distributed and disseminated visually. This approach has the potential to generate rich data on how to formulate health information and health literacy interventions for individuals with hearing loss.

PI(s): Michael McKee

Co-I(s): Lorraine Buis, Michael Fetters, Ananda Sen

I Saw It on a Billboard (Feb-10)

What is the impact of medical advertising that is directly targeted at patients? What information do consumers of medical products and therapies need in order to make informed decisions about their health?

Consider the following:

Ms. J, a healthy 50-year old woman, drives by a billboard that advertises low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) scanning to screen for lung cancer. Although she has no family history of cancer and has never smoked, several of Ms. J’s friends have been diagnosed with cancer recently. She worries that she herself may have an undetected malignancy.

Responding to this advertising, Ms. J decides to pay out-of-pocket for a CT scan at the imaging center advertised on the billboard. The radiologist at this imaging center profits from the number of scans interpreted. As a result of the CT scan, an abnormality is found, and Ms. J undergoes a biopsy of her lung. A complication occurs from this procedure, but Ms. J recovers, and the biopsy comes back negative. She is relieved to learn that she does not have lung cancer.

After reading this scenario and thinking about direct-to consumer medical advertising, which of the following statements best represents your views?

  • STATEMENT A: Direct-to-consumer advertising improves patient education and patient-physician communication. Such advertising informs and empowers patients, so that their health care better reflects their needs and values. In particular, certain health services require complex medical equipment with high capital costs. Physicians who invest in such equipment do so because they believe in its promise, and they deserve payment to recoup their investment.
  • STATEMENT B: Direct-to-consumer advertising often results in misunderstanding, increased costs, and disruption of the patient-physician relationship. Such advertising can skew information to portray products in a positive light and can prey upon patients’ fears. Physicians closely allied with a treatment cannot offer objective assessment to patients about the efficacy or risks of the treatment. Further, most patients are ignorant of the financial incentives to physicians for various procedures.
  • STATEMENT C: I have not formed a viewpoint on direct-to-consumer medical advertising.

 

How do your answers compare? 

CBDSM's Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, has written a powerful challenge to the medical profession and medical industries in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Jagsi argues that the increasing proliferation of direct-to-patient advertising has raised questions of how physicians can function as unbiased intermediaries between patients and industry.

In the article, she presents six case studies, one of which has been excerpted and adapted for this Decision of the Month. Dr. Jagsi uses these case studies to address serious issues related to both advertising and conflict of interest. Some examples:

  • What implications does the frequently used advertising directive "Ask your doctor about X" have for the doctor-patient relationship?
  • How ethical is it to disguise medical advertising—for instance, to hire celebrities to discuss treatments during interviews?
  • Should a physician who prescribes a particular medical device be allowed to receive payment from the speakers' bureau of a company that produces that medical device?
  • Should a physician who holds an ownership interest in an expensive treatment machine be required to explain alternate treatments to patients?
  • When does a website about a medical treatment cross over from being informational to being promotional?

Dr. Jagsi argues that physicians have a strong ethical responsibility to their patients to call attention to potential conflicts of interest and to help interpret medical information in the best interests of their patients.

For more details about this study:

Jagsi R. Conflicts of interest and the physician-patient relationship in the era of direct-to-patient advertising. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2007;25:902-905.

 

CBSSM Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Kayte Spector-Bagdady presented the keynote address  at the 2015 International Association of Clinical Research Nurses (IACRN) 7th Annual Conference. Her talk was entitled, “Why We've Always Needed Ethics: Grants, Research, and the Law."

Researchpalooza

Wed, August 27, 2014, 11:00am to 2:00pm
Location: 
Circle Drive in front of Med Sci I

 

This will be the first year that CBSSM will be participating in Researchpalooza. Please come and enjoy the fun!

 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Circle Drive in front of Med Sci I

 

All UMHS employees from the Hospitals and Health Centers and Medical School are invited to celebrate this annual event.

Stop by the University Hospital Courtyard and Medical School Circle Drive for:

  • Ice Cream sundaes and sugar-free alternatives
  • Karaoke and musical entertainment
  • Festival Games
  • Department and vendor tables with information and giveaways

 

For more info: http://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/research/office-research/research-news-events/researchpalooza

Michael Poulin,PhD, has joined the faculty at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York (SUNY) as an AssistantProfessor of Psychology. Dr. Poulin was a post-doctoral fellow at CBSSM for twoyears, under the mentorship of StephanieBrown, PhD.  During this time he was anactive member of the CBSSM research community and a delightful colleague. Dr. Poulin's research focuses on the effects of stress on health and well-being, especiallythe ways people cope with stressful events. He examines how people's beliefsabout the world, including religious beliefs and beliefs about thetrustworthiness of others, influence adjustment to stress.  

Bioethics Grand Rounds: Musical Event "When Death Comes Callin"

Wed, October 26, 2016, 12:00pm
Location: 
UH Ford Amphitheater & Lobby

When Death Comes Callin': Songs and Reflections About Death

Charlotte DeVries, Jeanne Mackey, Merilynne Rush, and friends offer a program of songs and brief readings reflecting various perspectives on death - humorous, sad, thoughtful, and quirky.

Lunch is provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

Funded by the NIH

The overarching goal of our research is to improve opioid analgesic safety and efficacy by optimizing opioid risk recognition, informed analgesic decision-making, and drug storage/disposal behaviors among parents of youth who are prescribed these agents for home use. With this proposal, we aim to demonstrate that our Scenario-Tailored Opioid Messaging Program (STOMP?) will: 1) Improve parents' opioid risk understanding and their analgesic decision-making; 2) Enhance parents' analgesic self-efficacy, analgesic use, storage behaviors and their children's pain outcomes, and 3) To demonstrate that the STOMP? plus provision of a method to get rid of left-over medications will effectively nudge parents to safely dispose of left-over opioid analgesics. For more info: http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R01-DA044245-01A1

PI: Terri Lewis-Voepel

CBSSM Co-Is: Brian Zikmund-Fisher & Alan Tait

Wed, February 03, 2016

Beth Tarini, MD, MS and colleagues are back in the news regarding their 2013 article in Pediatrics entitled, “Blindness in Walnut Grove: How Did Mary Ingalls Lose Her Sight?” Their article was cited in CNNCBS NewsNew York TimesAnnarbor.com and many others. 

Citation: Allexan SS,  Byington CL, Finkelstein JI, Tarini  BA (2013 ). "Blindness in Walnut Grove: How Did Mary Ingalls Lose Her Sight?" Pediatrics; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-1438 [Epub ahead of print]

Research Topics: 

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