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Speaking of risk, managing uncertainty: decision-making about cholesterol-reducing treatment in general practice

Kirkegaard, Pia, Risør, Mette Bach, Edwards, Adrian G. ORCID:, Junge, Ann Gram and Thomsen, Janus Laust 2012. Speaking of risk, managing uncertainty: decision-making about cholesterol-reducing treatment in general practice. Quality in Primary Care 20 (4) , pp. 245-252.

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Background: Decision making regarding treatment options and risk communication between health professionals and patients have become key areas of research and quality improvement. Decisions are directed towards applying evidence, exploring individual patient concerns, and addressing medical uncertainty. Compared with research on health professionals' views on higher stakes decisions, relatively little attention has been paid to improving decision making and risk communication for lifestyle-related risk conditions involving lower stakes or longer term treatment options, such as medication to reduce risk of future disease. Aim: To examine general practitioners (GPs) who experienced difficulties with decision making regarding treatment options and risk communication with asymptomatic patients with high cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease. Methods: An exploratory qualitative and ethnographically informed approach was used. Danish GPs (six male, six female, average age 48 years), were interviewed in three groups. Interviews were transcribed and coded, while analytical concepts about medical uncertainty were identified. Results: The study identified two modalities of medical uncertainty: epistemological uncertainty about scientific knowledge and evidence-based medicine; and situational uncertainty produced in the one-to-one relationship between the GP and the patient during the consultation. The study also stressed that the decision making about cholesterol-reducing treatment is interpreted by the GPs as reversible and provisional. Conclusion: These modalities of medical uncertainty can be addressed proactively when developing concepts, tools and training interventions to optimise communication about treatment options in primary care.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: cardiovascular disease, decision making, general practitioner, preventative treatment, primary care, risk, uncertainty
Publisher: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd.
ISSN: 1479-1072
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 10:29

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