When Bad Heads Go Viral: How A Malformed Headline Is Skewing Medicine’s View Of The Patient’s Role In Decisions

See my post about this on Forbes.

This is as close as a call to arms as we ever get around here, given how collaborative we are. But this is a case of bad science and/or bad reporting, with clear harm to the participatory medicine movement. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter – we need to sound the alarm, spread the word, and call for corrections.

On Monday (the holiday) the weekly press release from JAMA Internal Medicine (formerly the Archives of Internal Medicine) included several articles about shared decision making, which is an important aspect of patient-provider partnerships. (We’ve often discussed it here.) Unfortunately a press release about one of the new articles has a false headline that has gone viral on thousands of sites. The head is not only not supported by the study’s data, it’s not even supported by the study’s design. The headline:

“When doctors and patients share in decisions, hospital costs go up”

It’s on a press release is from the University of Chicago, home of study author David Meltzer. I don’t know if this is sloppy reporting or an intentional PR stab in the back to the patient engagement movement. What I do know is that the study didn’t even look at cases where patients did share in decisions.  (It only measured attitudes, and not in cases where SDM is used!) I wrote about it in some depth yesterday on Forbes.

The harm is, as Health News Review has often reported, that many editors (from two-bit websites on up to the Los Angeles Times) will grab a press release or headline and print it verbatim. It happened here: by 9 .am. Tuesday a search for that headline produced two thousands hits, and as of yesterday it was around 4,000.

As I say, the press release is either bad science reporting or an intentional stab in the back. Please, please, spread the word; where you see that headline discussed, post a comment linking them to here or my Forbes post, and request a correction from the site’s editors.

If you have something to add to the discussion, please comment on the Forbes post – I want our point of view to be visible to people outside the SPM circle.

 

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Posted in: pt/doc co-care | shared decision making

 

 

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