Study: Many Invasive Medical Procedures are the Result of Uncertainty, Not Evidence

Forbes contributor David DiSalvo offers reflection on a JAMA article which highlights the epidemic of overtesting and delves into the origins of this behaviour. 

“The psychological dynamic of investigation momentum has two major parts,” Dr. Sah explained during a phone interview. “The first is our inherent aversion to ambiguity. The second is the sense of commitment we feel once we’ve started an investigation and feel like we must continue.” . . . 

these results tell us is that of all the testing variables, uncertainty was the biggest catalyst moving participants toward choosing an invasive procedure . . . As Dr. Sah explains, the implications of these results do not only reflect on patients. “Physicians also want to resolve uncertainty.  It is peoples’ tendency toward wanting to resolve ambiguity overall–both on the parts of patients and doctors–that fuels investigation momentum.”

The JAMA paper and the interview responses from Dr Sah are illuminating. If we can understand why we perpetuate our tendency to overinvestigate, perhaps we can intervene more fruitfully.

Read more on Forbes.