Highly Involved Patients Less Willing To Undergo Risky Treatments

When patients actively participate in choosing their medical treatments, they are less likely to opt for risky procedures, a Yale University study has found. The research appears in the December issue of Arthritis Care & Research.

The 216 subjects of the Yale study were told about hypothetical new medications that would either prevent heart disease or treat chronic pain. These hypothetical treatments were said to be very effective, well tolerated and covered by insurance, but participants were also told that they carried an extremely rare risk of a serious side effect related to rheumatic disease.

The test subjects were then divided into two groups. Those in one group were told that the doctor felt that they should take the medication and gave the patient a prescription. Subjects in the second group were told that the decision to take the medication was completely up to them.

Worry about the risk involved was significantly greater, and the willingness to take the medication significantly lower, in those subjects who were told the choice was theirs than in those who were given a prescription.

“This study shows that when patients take responsibility for choosing treatments that involve potential risk, they are more cautious than those who do not,” according to lead author Liana Fraenkel, M.D., M.P.H. of Yale School of Medicine and the V.A. Connecticut Healthcare System. She believes this is a good thing for healthcare, saying, “Having knowledgeable and highly engaged patients making informed decisions is a requirement for ensuring high-quality healthcare and decreasing unwarranted variability in the delivery of healthcare services”.

Fraenkel’s co-author was Ellen Peters, Ph.D. of Decision Research in Eugene, Oregon. This research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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Media Contact

Helen Dodson: helen.dodson@yale.edu, 203-436-3984