NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Physician Dr. Dhruv Khullar says that while people are generally bad at assessing risk, doctors can help steer decision making without focusing solely on positive outcomes.
“People in general are not great at evaluating risk,” Khullar writes in a New York Times UpShot piece. “They worry more about shark attack than car crashes.”
However, uncertainty, both evidential and outcomes-related, makes the dilemma troublesome for patients and doctors.
“Most clinicians want much more guidance, especially on how to communicate uncertainty,” Washington University School of Medicine Associate Professor Mary Politi said. “They feel comfortable talking about benefits, but not risks. Patients feel misled when bad things happen.”
One broad approach, Khullar says, is to guide patients to help them understand what’s important to them, then suggest options based on those goals and preferences.