Helping patients to reach decisions regarding their treatment: Do ‘non‐directive’ approaches cause systematic bias?

JoyAnne MacInnes, Paul Salkovskis, Abigail Wroe, Tony Hope

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Objectives: Many patients want help in considering medical information relevant to treatment decisions they have to make or agree to. The present research investigated whether focussing on particular issues relevant to a medical treatment decision (using an apparently non-directive procedure) could systematically bias a treatment decision.
Design and methods: In a randomised design, participants (community volunteers, n=146) were given standard information about treatment of cardiac risk factors by medication (statins). There were four experimental interventions in which the participants focussed on the likely personal relevance of subsets of the information previously given (positive, negative or mixed aspects) or on irrelevant information. Participants were asked to rate their anticipated likelihood of accepting treatment before and after the experimental intervention.
Results: The rating of acceptance of treatment was significantly increased by positive focussing; negative focussing did not significantly alter the decision rating.
Conclusions: The results partially replicate similar studies in health screening decisions. Reasons for the differences in results from those obtained in screening studies are considered. It is suggested that negative focussing may have less effect in decisions in which there are few risks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-888
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date19 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

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