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Research Letter
Less Is More
October 2016

Physician Understanding and Ability to Communicate Harms and Benefits of Common Medical Treatments

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore
  • 2Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore
  • 3VA Maryland Healthcare System, Baltimore

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(10):1565-1567. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5027

Effective patient care requires not only a working knowledge of recommended tests and therapies but also an understanding of the frequency of harms and benefits for each. To make educated decisions, patients must understand harms and benefits of treatments. Unfortunately, patients consistently overestimate benefits and underestimate harms of medical tests and procedures.1 Likewise, physicians are poor at assessing treatment effect size and other aspects of numeracy. Some have hypothesized that clinicians, similar to patients, overestimate risks and underestimate harms.2 We evaluated physician understanding of harms and benefits of common tests and therapies.

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