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Too Much Information? Risk-benefit data does not always lead to informed decision-making
Date:4/14/2011

(Garrison, NY) Giving patients data about the risks and benefits of a medical intervention is not always helpful and may even lead them to irrational decisions, according to an article in the Hastings Center Report. That finding calls into question whether it is essential to disclose quantitative data to patients to help them make informed decisions. An accompanying commentary calls for experimental evidence to determine the best way to provide information to patients.

The analyses come at a time when many patient advocates and others are embracing the "quantitative imperative" the obligation to disclose risk-related data to patients to ensure informed consent and promote shared decision-making. Because patients often do not get information about all of their options by talking to their health care providers, decision aids pamphlets, videos, and computer programs increasingly are being used to convey such data more comprehensively. There are more than 500 decision aids and more than 55 randomized controlled trials studying their impact. A recent review concluded that decision aids increase patient knowledge and the feeling of being informed while decreasing indecision and passivity.

However, disclosure of quantitative data can backfire. "There are important problems with it stemming from the way people understand and respond to numerical and graphical information," writes Peter H. Schwartz, a faculty investigator at the Indiana University Center for Bioethics. An accompanying commentary by Peter Ubel, professor of marketing and public policy at Duke University, agrees with Schwartz's analysis of the numeracy problem, and argues that there ways to present risk that overcome some of the problems.

One problem is that more than half of adults have significant difficulty understanding or a
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Contact: Michael Turton
turtonm@thehastingscenter.org
845-424-4040 x242
The Hastings Center
Source:Eurekalert

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