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It's your call: your intuition against the experts' advice (Jan-05)

A respected national organization has released new guidelines. As a physician, would you change your patient's treatment based on these recommendations? Imagine you are a primary care physician taking care of a male patient, Sam, with mildly elevated cholesterol. He doesn't like taking pills and, fortunately, his cholesterol has been good enough that he doesn't need any pills. But now, a respected National Organization has just revised its recommendations, and are urging doctors to treat cholesterol more aggressively, even in people like this patient, who has no history of heart disease or diabetes.

What role should these new guidelines play in your decision?

The guidelines should not be a strong consideration 1       2       3       4        5  The guidelines should be a strong consideration
 
What would you recommend to your patient, Sam?
 
I would... 
 
  • ask him to take a pill.
  • urge him to take a pill.
  • give him information about cholesterol and let him decide.
  • urge him not to take a pill.
  • ask him not to take a pill.

How do your answers compare?

What were some of the things you were weighing when you made your decision? Perhaps you were wondering why the National Organization would recommend taking a pill even when a patient's cholesterol is good enough that they wouldn't necessarily need the more aggressive treatment. You might have found yourself wondering whose interests were reflected in these guidelines. Did the National Organization have some kind of investment in the pill or the pharmaceutical company that produces it? You might have had some doubts about just how much you could trust the guidelines.

Resistance to practicing "cost-effective" medicine

In the past, physicians did what was best for each individual patient in their care, without having to consider cost or having to figure out whether an HMO or accreditation board was looking over their shoulders. But now physicians are put in the awkward position of having to judge whether a particular patient will benefit enough from a specific therapy for that therapy to be cost-effective. It is not surprising that physicians disparage cost-effectiveness in health care, given that traditional medical education teaches that they should not consider the cost of medical interventions when treating individual patients.

Resistance to practicing according to Clinical Practice Guidelines

Clinical practice guidelines, like the one you read about on the previous page, offer a potentially palatable way for physicians to consider the cost-effectiveness of medical interventions. High quality guidelines are based on thorough and systematic reviews of clinical and cost-effectiveness evidence. Still, physicians are often concerned that guidelines are tainted by financial conflicts of interest. The experts who are involved in writing the guidelines are often the same individuals who interact with the pharmaceutical industry.

Why cost-effectiveness and Clinical Practice Guidelines belong together

Investigator Ellen Hummel and CBDSM investigator Peter Ubel were asked by the editors of Virtual Mentor, the online ethics forum of the American Medical Association, to comment on whether clinical practice guidelines ought to incorporate cost-effectiveness information. These investigators begin by acknowledging the resistance to practicing cost-effective medicine. At the same time, however, they argue that including cost-effectiveness information in clinical practice guidelines is an essential way to address physicians' concerns about the kinds of conflicts of interest mentioned above. If cost-effectiveness evidence is presented up-front, physicians wouldn't have as many concerns that the guielines were intended to benefit the industry while sticking the patient with a higher cost. Imagine if on the previous page the guideline had presented evidence that the new, more aggressive cholesterol treatment was still well within accepted cost-effectiveness ratios despite potential conflicts of interest. You might have then better trusted the guideline's recommendation when assessing what to tell Sam.

Including cost-effectiveness information in clinical practice guidelines will enhance the credibility of their recommendations. At the same time, evidence-based guidelines help clinicians recognize the importance of practicing cost-effective medicine with their individual patients. With the help of high quality guidelines, physicians may be encouraged by groups of peers and respected authorities to restrain themselves from pursuing rare benefits for their patients, which is especially important in a time when our current health care system increasingly demands that we become involved with the costs of medical care.

Read the article:

Cost and clinical practice guidelines: Can two wrongs make it right?
Ubel PA, Hummel EK. Virtual Mentor 2004;6:np.

Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil

Director

Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., is Professor and Deputy Chair in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Michigan Medicine and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine. In addition to her medical training at Harvard Medical School, she 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. Dr. Jagsi is board-certified in Radiation Oncology by the American Board of Radiology.

Last Name: 
Jagsi
Press Coverage: 

Funded by the Socirty of Family Planning

Funding Years: 2015

Women who seek abortions and the caregivers who provide them are stigmatized. Since 2007, this research team has investigated the experiences of abortion providers in the US, Latin America, and East Africa. Their narratives have informed a very successful abortion human resource intervention, the Providers Share Workshop. The goal now is to consider how these narratives might be used in service of building a new strategic communications initiative to contribute to the broader goals of reducing abortion stigma in the US and abroad. The research team will assemble an interdisciplinary group of scholars and practitioners with expertise in public communication about abortion, to identify promising communication strategies, and to craft an extramural grant proposal to test these strategies.

PI(s): Jane Hassinger, Lisa Harris, Lisa Martin

ELSI-LHS Symposium

Wed, November 15, 2017, 8:00am to 4:00pm
Location: 
Palmer Commons, 100 Washtenaw Ave

Join us for our 2nd annual symposium and workshop on the ethical, legal and social implications of learning health systems (ELSI-LHS).


This year's focus will be on data and knowledge sharing.


NOV 15 - 8:00 am - 4:00 pm: The symposium will lay out the ELSI of data sharing and translation in learning health systems that strive to be both FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) and fair. The day will interactively address critical issues on data and knowledge sharing.


Speakers include John Wilbanks, Elizabeth Pike, Kenneth Goodman, Debra Mathews, Peter Embi, Peter Singleton, Warren Kibbe, Joon-Ho Yu and more to come!


Proceeds will be synthesized into draft recommendations for data and translation to practice & streamline future ELSI-LHS research.


We have issued a Call for Poster Abstracts to be included in the 2nd annual symposium. Poster displays should relate to the conference theme, "Data and Knowledge Sharing," and may relate to either ELSI or technical aspects of learning health systems. Abstracts and posters should be developed for an interdisciplinary audience including social scientists, informaticians, health care providers, and community members.


To submit an abstract, please go to: 2017 ELSI Abstract Submission
#elsilhs

CBSSM is a co-sponsor of this event.

PIHCD Working Group

Thu, January 08, 2015, 3:00pm to 4:00pm
Location: 
TBD

Jake Seagull will be speaking about prostate cancer shared decision making.

PIHCD: Tanner Caverly

Thu, February 12, 2015, 4:00pm
Location: 
B004E NCRC Building 16

Tanner Caverly will be presenting on a decision tool about screening for lung cancer.

PIHCD: Geoff Barnes

Thu, September 24, 2015, 2:00pm
Location: 
B003E NCRC Building 16

Geoff Barnes will present on analysis from a project about bridging anticoagulation decision making.

PIHCD: Michelle Moniz

Thu, October 22, 2015, 3:00pm
Location: 
B004E NCRC Building 16

Michelle Moniz will be presenting a Specific Aims page for an NICHD K23 application about postpartum contraceptive decision-making.

Get it out of me! (Dec-05)

A 5% chance of death or a 10% chance of death:  which would you choose?

Imagine that you have been diagnosed with a slow growing cancer. Right now, the cancer is not causing you to feel sick. For most people, the cancer will grow so slowly it will never cause them any trouble. For others, the cancer will grow to the point that it makes them sick. Untreated, five percent (5 out of 100) will die of the cancer. Your doctor tells you that you have two treatment options: watchful waiting or surgery. Watchful waiting means you will not do any treatment right away, but your doctor will follow your cancer closely and treat any symptoms that you have if it begins to spread. Although it would be too late to be cured, you would be comfortable and free of pain. There are no side effects to watchful waiting, but five percent (5 out of 100) of the people who choose this treatment will develop symptoms and die from their cancer within five years. On the other hand, the surgery would cure your cancer permanently. Following surgery you will feel more tired than usual and will experience stomach upset occasionally for the three months following your surgery. However, surgery has a ten percent (10 out of 100) risk of death during the surgery.

Imagine that both of these treatments are completely covered by your health insurance. Which would you choose?

  •  I would not take the surgery and accept the 5% chance of dying from this cancer.
  •  I would take the surgery and accept the 10% chance of dying from the surgery.

How do your answers compare?

In the real world, cancer patients sometimes choose treatments that may have devastating side effects over less invasive, yet equally or more effective, approaches. One explanation for this is that people may feel a strong need to "get the cancer out" of their bodies. Surgical removal of all potentially cancerous tissues may satisfy this desire so thoroughly that people end up ignoring important statistical information about adverse outcomes.

Making a choice not in their best interest

CBDSM investigators Angela Fagerlin, Brian Zikmund-Fisher, and Peter Ubel hypothesized that people perceive cancer diagnoses as a call to action, and more specifically, a call to get rid of the cancer through surgery, regardless of what statistical information might say to the contrary. Consequently, they predicted that when presented with hypothetical cancer diagnoses, many people would say they would pursue surgery even if such an action would decrease their chance of survival.

To explore the relative frequency of people's willingness to choose surgery when it wasn't in their best interest, the investigators designed a cancer scenario similar to the one you read on the previous page. Participants were presented either a surgery or a medication treatment that would either increase or decrease their chance of survival.

The investigators found that participants who were presented with the opportunity to rid themselves of their cancer through surgery were significantly more inclined to take action than those who were presented with the medication treatment. For example, when the treatment reduced their overall chance of survival, 65% chose the surgery, whereas only 38% chose the medication treatment. This suggests that people's treatment decisions may be based not on the effectiveness of the treatments, but rather on their beliefs about how cancer should be treated. Specifically, cancer diagnoses seem to conjure up a strong desire for active treatment. And people seem to have an intuitive belief that action should not just involve treatment, but surgical removal of the cancer.

Why these findings are important

The results of this study may resonate with many clinicians who have encountered cancer patients who seem to desire treatment for treatment's sake, or who have a preference for surgical intervention even before they learn about the pros and cons of their treatment alternatives. This study should serve to remind clinicians that patients' preference for action can be strong enough, at times, to be a bias. At a minimum, it is important for health care professionals to be aware of the potential for such biases, so they can decide whether to accept patients' preferences at face value, or try to convince patients that aggressively treating a tumor may not be in their best interests.

Read the article:

Cure me even if it kills me: Preferences for invasive cancer treatment.
Fagerlin A, Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Ubel PA. Medical Decision Making 2005;25(6):614-619.

Geoff Barnes wrote a recent perspective piece and was featured in a UM Health Lab blog about anticoagulation clinic and assisting patients and providers with decision making.

Research Topics: 

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