Many patients not on board with evidence-based healthcare, survey finds

Doctors and other health experts who have been charged with trying to convince the general population to take a more active role in their healthcare decision-making are doubtless facing an uphill climb, as indicated by a survey published in this week's Heath Affairs. Not only are patients confused with regard to evidence-based care terms such as "quality guidelines" and "quality standards," but many also continue to believe that more and newer care is better. Patients also are reluctant to believe that their doctor could provide anything but sound advice. 

"The idea that getting high-quality care or the 'right' care could mean getting less care was counterintuitive," the study's authors wrote. "As one interview participant said, 'I don't see how extra care can be harmful to your health. Care would only benefit you.'" 

In all, 1,500 patients with employer-provided insurance were surveyed about their thoughts on evidence-based healthcare. Only 34 percent of those who participated could remember their doctors talking about the best ways to manage their care based on scientific research. 

Furthermore, 41 percent of patients said that they normally don't ask their doctors questions about medical problems due to uncertainty. 

"Interview participants said that they were reluctant or too timid to raise concerns about unnecessary care," the authors wrote. "They  believed that determining what constituted necessary care was mainly their provider's job." 

Despite the revealed skepticism of most of the patients, the study's authors were encouraged by what they called "early adopters": those patients who did assume a more active role in their healthcare decisions and were willing to accept more evidence-based findings. 

"[The early adopters] represent a foundation on which to build greater acceptance of evidence-based healthcare, and they may be a useful resource in stimulating change," the authors wrote. 

To learn more:
- here's the study in Health Affairs
- check out this NPR News piece
- read this Wall Street Journal Health Blog post