Doctors choose different treatments than they recommend

A study published in April 2011 Archives of Internal Medicine focused on influences on physician decision making related to providing treatment recommendations to their patients. Patients look to their physicians for thoughtful recommendations when they are faced with difficult health decisions. This study concluded the act of making a recommendation changed the way the doctor thought about medical choices. Some doctors made different decisions for themselves than what they recommended for their patients. The study surveyed 240 physicians providing two scenarios. One was colon cancer with two surgery choices, both of which had 80% cure rates. One surgery had 20% mortality within two years. The other had a lower death rate but a higher risk of surgically related complications. Physicians chose the the first options for themselves but recommended the second option to their patients.

"If gaps exist between what [a doctor] would do [if he were] in the patient's position and what [he] is recommending for a patient, it is important for the physician to reflect on this disparity and evaluate himself for cognitive bias," said Timothy E. Quill, MD, author of an accompanying editorial in Archives. He is director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

Source: American Medical News