Medical interventions: patient expectations ‘overly optimistic’

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In this article, Jane Lewis summarises findings from a systematic review of studies from around the world published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The review found that patients have a tendency to overestimate the benefits of medical tests, treatments and screens, while underestimating their potential harms.

The authors state that this means that the benefits and harms of a particular intervention need to  be explicitly discussed with patients, and quantified using evidence-based data where possible. However, whilst consultations are an ideal opportunity to correct any patient misconceptions about interventions, clinicians may fail to detect and correct these, or may even reinforce them, either actively or by omission.

The full paper that the article is based on is Patients’ Expectations of the Benefits and Harms of Treatments, Screening, and Tests: A Systematic Review. Hoffmann, T and Del Mar, C. JAMA Intern Med. Published online December 22, 2014. You can view the Abstract, but the article is not freely available online.  It may be available via Open Athens or through your local NHS Library. To search for your nearest library, please see

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