Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Doctors need to help patients prepare better for health decisions, experts say

Date:
September 29, 2010
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Twelve years ago, then 28-year-old graduate student Brian Zikmund-Fisher was forced into the toughest choice of his life: Die from a blood disorder within a few years or endure a bone marrow transplant that could cure him or kill him in weeks. Zikmund-Fisher, now an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health specializing in health communication, chose to gamble. After nine months of blood transfusions, a bone marrow match was found in Australia. Zikmund-Fisher spent another month in isolation until his new immune system began working.

Twelve years ago, then 28-year-old graduate student Brian Zikmund-Fisher was forced into the toughest choice of his life: Die from a blood disorder within a few years or endure a bone marrow transplant that could cure him or kill him in weeks.

Related Articles


Zikmund-Fisher, now an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health specializing in health communication, chose to gamble. After nine months of blood transfusions, a bone marrow match was found in Australia. Zikmund-Fisher spent another month in isolation until his new immune system began working.

"That experience taught me how to be a well-informed patient," said Zikmund-Fisher, who studies medical decision making because of his own experience. "Unfortunately, today many patients don't learn what they need to in order to make informed medical decisions."

To document the challenges patients face in deciding their own medical care, Zikmund-Fisher and Mick Couper, a research professor in survey methodology at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), led a national survey of medical decisions featured this month in a themed issue of the journal Medical Decision Making. The study, which was carried out by ISR's Survey Research Center, surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. adults about nine common medical decisions and concluded that the majority of patients don't have sufficient information to make the best decisions.

"I want to raise the awareness of how important medical decision making is in the lives of all Americans and how unprepared most people are to make these decisions," said Zikmund-Fisher, also an assistant professor in Internal Medicine at the U-M Health System. "I see this as a public health issue."

Some of the key findings:

  • Patients don't always learn about why not to have a procedure or medication. For example, only 20 percent of patients considering breast cancer screening and 49 percent of patients considering blood pressure medications reported hearing about the cons of those actions.
  • Healthcare providers don't always ask patients what they want to do. For instance only 50 percent of patients deciding about cholesterol medications reported being asked whether they wanted them.
  • Most patients don't use the Internet to help them make common medical decisions, and healthcare professionals remain the most important information source.
  • 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 could help them make a better decision.
  • African-Americans and Hispanics were less knowledgeable than other patients about medications to treat high cholesterol and more likely to say that their doctor made decisions about cholesterol medications for them.
  • Most patients think they are more likely to get cancer than they are, and tend to think cancer screening tests are more accurate than they are.
  • The study's findings suggest that men and women think about cancer risks differently. Women are more active participants in cancer screening decisions regardless of how at risk they feel, whereas men tended to get involved only if they felt at high risk.

"Informed consent isn't real if patients understand so little about the tests and treatments they are getting," said Dr. Michael Barry, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and president of the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, which funded the study.

In fact, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama earlier this year, has many provisions aimed to ensure patients are partners in medical decision making.

These provisions include making patient decision aids for common health care decisions more widely available and promoting their adoption in U.S. health care. Decision aids help clinicians inform patients about their options and help patients ensure that their preferences are respected.

The decision study focused on describing how Americans make everyday medical decisions and didn't try to determine what patients should do to get more information from doctors or other sources, Zikmund-Fisher said. However, some obvious themes emerged.

"Recognize that you have a right to be involved in your own medical care. If your doctor only tells you why you should do something and doesn't discuss reasons why you might not do it, ask for that information anyway," Zikmund-Fisher said. "Don't think of it as medical care. Think of it as your care."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Doctors need to help patients prepare better for health decisions, experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929083518.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2010, September 29). Doctors need to help patients prepare better for health decisions, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929083518.htm
University of Michigan. "Doctors need to help patients prepare better for health decisions, experts say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929083518.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Malnutrition on the Rise as Violence Flares in C. Africa

Malnutrition on the Rise as Violence Flares in C. Africa

AFP (Jan. 28, 2015) Violence can flare up at any moment in Bambari with only a bridge separating Muslims and Christians. Malnutrition is on the rise and lack of water means simple cooking fires threaten to destroy makeshift camps where people are living. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 28, 2015) Taiwan culls over a million poultry in efforts to halt various strains of avian flu. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Media Criticizing Parents For Not Vaccinating Children

Media Criticizing Parents For Not Vaccinating Children

Newsy (Jan. 28, 2015) As the Disneyland measles outbreak continues to spread, the media says parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are part of the cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) A Texas woman who lost more than five pounds of flesh to a shark in the Bahamas earlier this month could be released from a Florida hospital soon. Experts believe she was bitten by a bull shark while snorkeling. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins