Abstract: Background. Little is known about how physicians provide statistical information to patients, which is important for informed consent. Methods. In a survey, obstetricians and gynecologists (N = 142) received statistical information about the benefit and side effects of an antidepressant. They received information in various formats, including event rates (antidepressant v. placebo), absolute risks, and relative risks. Participants had to imagine 2 hypothetical patients, 1 for whom they believed the drug to be safe and effective and 1 for whom they did not, and select the information they would give those patients. We assessed whether the information they selected for each patient was complete, transparent, interpretable, or persuasive (i.e., to nudge patients toward a particular option) and compared physicians who gave both patients the same information with those who gave both patients different information. Results. A similar proportion of physicians (roughly 25% each) selected information that was 1) complete and transparent, 2) complete but not transparent, 3) not interpretable for the patient because necessary comparative information was missing, or 4) suited for nudging. Physicians who gave both patients the same information (61% of physicians) more often selected at least complete information, even if it was often not transparent. Physicians who gave both patients different information (39% of physicians), in contrast, more often selected information that was suited for nudging in line with the belief they were asked to imagine. A limitation is that scenarios were hypothetical. Conclusions. Most physicians did not provide complete and transparent information. Clinicians who presented consistent information to different patients tended to present complete information, whereas those who varied what information they chose to present appeared more prone to nudging.
Gaissmaier, W., Anderson, B. L., & Schulkin, J. (2014). How do physicians provide statistical information about antidepressants to hypothetical patients? Medical Decision Making, 34, 206–215. doi: 10.1007/978-3-658-07796-9_2