September 7, 2018 – Understanding Choice


Anchor lead: Doctors may not be adequately describing risks and benefits of cancer screening, Elizabeth Tracey reports

When people with significant risk factors for lung cancer talked with their doctors about the risks and benefits of screening, those discussions lasted about a minute, a recent study found. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says this study illustrates the changing face of physician-patient interaction.

Nelson: I have found even when I believe adequately informing someone about a choice, very often the response will be I understand these things what would you do? In some ways medicine has evolved from a very paternalistic thing which is you have this problem we need to do this, to here are the options, which one would you like to select? And I think adequately explaining so that the options are understood and then providing an opinion I think both of those are going to be part of the solution.  :29

Many medical decisions fall under the so-called ‘shared decision making’ model, where a fully informed patient participates with their provider to decide a course of action. Nelson notes that such a partnership requires substantial education on the part of both physician and patient. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.