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NIH-funded Vanderbilt Research Seeks Ways to Avoid Information Overload in Health Care Choices Among Seniors
Date:3/5/2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- People faced with too many choices when making complex decisions not only have difficulty discerning the right choice, they often make poor choices, contrary to classic economic theory, according to research by Vanderbilt economist Mike Shor.

Seniors facing critical decisions about health care are especially vulnerable, and may become overwhelmed by too many options. The resulting bad decisions come at a high cost to society, said Shor, assistant professor of management at the Owen Graduate School of Management.

Shor is the principal investigator of a recently awarded $360,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant that seeks to better understand why people make poor choices when faced with complex decisions and to suggest guidelines that improve people's decision-making performance, particularly older Americans choosing options for Medicare Part D, the prescription benefit.

By the project's end, the team plans to make policy recommendations on structuring complex choices to minimize selection errors.

"Our goal is to help under-performing groups make better choices about health insurance and drug coverage, improving the overall health of seniors and reducing the cost to society of seniors getting into prescription drug plans that don't cover the drugs they use," said Shor, whose co-investigators are Tibor Besedes, assistant professor of economics at Georgia Tech; Cary Deck, economics professor at the University of Arkansas; and Sudipta Sarangi, economics professor at Louisiana State University.

In Georgia, Arkansas and Louisiana, the researchers will conduct on-site research at senior centers and residence facilities. For the Nashville leg of the study, already underway, the researchers are tapping into Vanderbilt's on-line eLab, an academic research center at the Owen Graduate School of Management dedicated to the study of human behavior, which provides access to tens of thousands of subjects willing to participate in experiments.

Preliminary research at Vanderbilt already has shown that people faced with more options and more details about the options make worse decisions as measured by optimal outcome, Shor said. Seniors were especially susceptible, selecting much worse choices than younger participants when faced with many options.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News Service homepage at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/news.


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