Let’s help patients with the tradeoffs in medicine


Some reflections by Holly Witteman on how to help patients and their families deal with medical trade-offs and options. Quote:

What makes health tradeoffs especially tough is that they incorporate uncertainty. It’s one thing to choose between the butter and the butter money. It’s quite another to choose between a 15% chance of butter and a 12% chance of butter money. And yet, many medical decisions are set up precisely this way, because we never know for sure whether a treatment or therapy will work, or which people taking a drug will experience the uncommon, unpleasant side effects.

She suggests three approaches to help improve our dealing with trade-offs:

  1. Start how people approach trade-offs, not how we wish them to;
  2. More research on how to help people facing difficult health decisions; and,
  3. The trade-offs medical practitioners face in health communications.

Let’s help patients with the tradeoffs in medicine.


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