VIDEO: The Truth about Mammograms - Adam Ruins Everything

Here's a great, brief explainer about the problems with mammography (and most cancer screening)  - 2:43

A slightly longer/better version is here on TruTV's website: The Truth About Mammograms - Full Episode (4:30)

Source: http://www.trutv.com/shows/adam-ruins-ever...

A Decision Aid: Goals of Care for Patients with Dementia #SDM

There was an excellent paper in JAMA Internal Medicine (FULL TEXT), "Effect of the Goals of Care Intervention for Advanced Dementia" that was ePublished in November and is now in print. Dr Laura Hanson, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her colleagues were, in short, exploring the following:

Question  Can a decision aid intervention about goals of care improve communication, decision-making, and palliative care for patients with advanced dementia?

Findings  In this randomized trial of 302 nursing home residents with advanced dementia, family decision makers reported better end-of-life communication with clinicians. Clinicians were more likely to address palliative care in treatment plans, use Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment, and less likely to send patients to the hospital.

Meaning  The goals of care decision aid intervention is effective in improving quality of communication, palliative care treatment plans, and reducing hospitalization rates for nursing home residents with advanced dementia.

I wrote Dr Hanson who kindly provided a link to their decision aid video. It is 21 minutes, so the best way to use it might be to email it or set up a computer for family members so they can view it when a patient is admitted to a long term care facility.

 

This video has been added to the Hands On Aids part of the Less is More Medicine site, where you will find lots of other shared decision-making tools.

 

Hanson LC, Zimmerman S, Song M-K, Lin F-C, Rosemond C, Carey TS, et al. Effect of the Goals of Care Intervention for Advanced Dementia. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2017; 177(1):24-31

 

Source: https://www.med.unc.edu/pcare/resources/go...

Wake up and smell the #overdiagnosis

Alan Cassels is not a shy kind of guy. He tells it like it is and is not one to stay quiet even if what he says may be unpopular. 

And usually it is pretty unpopular. 

However, it is necessary. From calling out the BC government's inaction on Choosing Wisely to fighting the overmedication of Canadian seniors and digging into the Sex, drugs, and rockin' beat of tramadol and tramacet's marketing machine, he is not afraid to talk about the elephants in the room, when it seems no one else is willing.

 

Cassels is a policy analyst, author, and champion debunker when it comes to pharmaceutical policy and the medicalization of Canadians.

In his most recent article for Focus Magazine, Cassels highlighted the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference, the harms of prostate cancer screening, and my perspective on the issues. 

I've had the chance to work with Cassels on a few small projects but to be called a 'resistor' by him feels like quite a pretty high honour! Check it out in Focus.

Mammogram Theater: A Visual Aid For Medical Decision-Making

With a title like "mammogram theatre" you would wonder if this post is meant to poke fun at the elaborate song and dance of mammography; we have spent years promising women that "early detection is key," only to realize that screening mammography cannot do what we originally hoped it could (but many still pretend it can).

Of course women want their breasts and lives saved. But the information on the benefits of mammography has been largely overstated in part due to cognitive biases (like lead-time bias, base-rate fallacy, etc), and the risks are too often left out of the conversation.

Every test has risk and benefits, but it can be challenging to decide if a test or treatment is right for you or your patient when there is too much information, experts disagree when they review the same studies, and the media has a constant see-saw back and forth of "yes" and "no" headlines that seem only to confuse. It can feel a bit like ping-pong, following the discussion back and forth. It's not really fair to ask patients to make sense of all this.

So yes, the promise of benefit of mammography may have been a bit of dramatization, but the theatre I speak of is a literal one. 

Dr. Andrew Lazris is an American internist who partnered with environmental scientist Erik Rifkin to popularize a simple, easy way of showing how many are helped and harmed by common tests and procedures.

Lazris and Rifkin have developed a tool to give people a realistic way of evaluating 'hope and worry;'

Their "benefit-risk characterization theater" images vividly show the odds, based on solid research. (read more on NPR)

This is a tool to help doctors and patients have informed discussions about the risks and benefits of breast cancer screening with mammography, to engage in shared-decision making on the topic. Take a look:

This tool has been added to the "hands-on tools" section of this website, where you can find other tools like it.

Source: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2...

Use your B.R.A.I.N. A Decision Support Tool

The Centre for Collaboration, Motivation, and Innovation (CCMI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to building skills and confidence for better health and health care. Their vision is "to improve health outcomes through helping people take active roles in their health."

The BRAIN Informed Decision Making Aid

Achieving this vision entails the development of tools that can facilitate patient-provider conversations. To that end, they have adapted the BRAIN Informed Decision Making tool from the International Childbirth Association.

At the recent BC Patient Safety Quality Council's Quality Forum (#QF16), I was asked to give a talk on Choosing Wisely and was put into the "Patient Empowerment" breakout session. It was fortuitous that my talk preceded that of the CCMI team as I got to see their presentation on the tool and learn about its development (slides accessible here).

Helping a patient to explore the [B]enefits, [R]isks, [A]lternatives, their [I]ntuition, and [N]ext steps, the BRAIN tool can assist people navigating any significant health choice.

You can view and download the PDF on the CCMI's website. The simple format and generalizability means it could easily become a 'go to' tool for patients and clinicians who wish to engage in shared decision-making.

Please feel free to leave your feedback on this tool in the comments section below; the input can be forwarded to the CCMI team. Has it been a helpful tool for you as a patient or caregiver? Do your patients find the format straightforward?
 

More

Seeking more tools like this to facilitate patient-provider discussions around important health choices? Less is More includes a list of mainly Shared Decision Making Tools, in the hands-on resource section.

Source: http://www.centrecmi.ca/wp-content/uploads...

When the nurse told me "less is more"

I was called to the emergency room to admit a very ill patient. With sepsis and an MI, this frail elder probably wasn't going to do so well.

“He’s pretty sick, eh?”
“Yah. Poor guy.”

The nurse and I paused, resigned to the fact that this elderly man was nearing his end and there was little we could do to change that. I think we both sighed at the same time.

I entered the room and talked to the patient and the family at length. They showed me a photocopy of the DNR form he had signed years ago. He didn't have any kind of advance directive, and had rarely talked about the process of dying, aspects of medical treatment, or what his goals might be for the remainder of his life.

At home, he spent most of is time in bed. Mobility was a bit shaky with a walker so it was safer to stay put. Poor hearing, shoddy vision, and mild dementia made it nearly impossible for him to read or watch TV or to do much of anything, really. He still beamed during visits from the grandkids. His daughter told me that she thinks he had been depressed for a long time; every second day he would say that he was ready to die.

I stepped closer to him. The laboured breathing didn’t look any better close up. He did have the breath to tell me, “I’m dying.” When I discussed the various range of treatments from comfort care (treating pain and respiratory distress), to medical management (antibiotics, blood thinners), to aggressive medical therapy (maybe some non-invasive support for breathing), he said that he wanted to die.

Was he just feeling terrible because his heart had jammed from the strain of fighting off a systemic infection, something that would be exhausting and uncomfortable even on its own? Or was this an expression of considered hope for an end to his now languid existence?

It wasn’t easy to communicate clearly or in detail. I asked more questions, but he said little. Even with a raised voice, I don’t know if he could hear me. His family was uncertain about what he would want done. It was clear that anything aggressive was not right. With failed kidneys, I’d have to give an IV blood thinner (heparin infusion) with up to 4x a day lab tests to prevent worsening of the heart attack. His breathing might get worse and if so, could be helped by strapping a machine on his face to push and pull air in and out of his lungs. That seemed cruel.

But, should I still offer some minimally invasive things that might improve both quality and quantity of life? Antibiotics might help the breathing to get easier and give him a chance of surviving. But this might also just delay the inevitable, prolonging suffering.

I try not to be wishy-washy and give patients and families clear recommendations, but it is hard. When people’s values vary so widely, and there are several avenues that might be appropriate, I don’t feel I can make the decisions for them.

I try really hard not to push my belief in “less is more medicine” too far. I don't want patients to be denied opportunity for healing and improvement. Just as I feel very strongly about doing less of the unnecessary things and interventions that will give more harm than benefit, I also feel very strongly that patients should have timely and meaningful opportunity to have the tests and treatments that might really benefit them.

“What do you think he would want? Is that consistent with his wishes? . . . ”

After I finished talking to the patient's family, I confirmed the plan with the nurse. We would keep the antibiotics and a few heart medications, but for the most part emphasize comfort. I left orders for adequate medications for pain, respiratory distress, and restlessness, to be used regularly if needed. If he got worse, we would stop the antibiotics. I didn’t think they would really help him but his family wanted to try. Although they would not want to extend his distress, it was all pretty sudden and not treating potentially reversible things was different than ensuring he was comfortable while dying (when no reversible causes remained).

It felt like we had arrived at some understanding of the medical reality, the patient’s wishes, and the substitute decision makers’ needs. As I discussed this and explained to the nurse that it wasn't maximum medical therapy but that it seemed a reasonable approach. Nurses, especially those who've got experience under their belt, seem to have a kind of wisdom that comes from the direct care of patients like these.

She looked at me and said "well, you know, less is more."

My colleague, an ER-physician who was in the same residency program as me and knows my passion, was within earshot. She chuckled.

A big smile stretched across my face, and I started looking at my list to find the next patient.

VIDEO: Good Stewardship / Model conversations with patients about overtesting and overtreatment

The National Physician Alliance (NPA) has done a lot of work in the area of preventing overdiagnosis and empowering patients to find the right amount of care. They are a partner in the Tandem Health project/app, created Top 5 lists (in good stewardship) which served as a model for the Choosing Wisely Campaign, and promote responsible prescribing (by limiting influence of the pharmaceutical industru) through The Unbranded Doctor.

Created in 2011, this video is a timeless tool for Good Stewardship. It gives a simple, 5-step plan of how health care providers can discuss unnecessary tests and treatments with patients.

They suggest:

1. Clarify what the patient’s true concerns are
2. Provide the patient with the information he/she needs to understand the plan
3. Be courteous and respectful
4. Provide clear contingency plan
5. Make sure the patient is satisfied with the plan
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh7EKP9wSg...

VIDEO: Making Decisions With, Not for, Patients

Dr Victor Montori (@vmontori) is a leader in the area of shared decision-making (SDM) and minimally disruptive medicine.

In this interview by his colleague, Advanced Cardiology Fellow, Dr Selma F Mohammed, Dr Montori highlights what shared decision-making is, why it is important, whether patients want it, and how to do it.

The video is a great introduction to the idea, and could be a wonderful teaching tool for medical students or clinicians in practice.

Montori holds our feet to the fire:

It all starts by caring enough to engage the patient in the decision-making. Many people argue that
     'We don't have time for this in the consultation. I'd rather just tell people what I think is best for           them and then they can decide whether they want it or not.'
Well, that's not very caring. This might be efficient, but it does not reflect the best that we can offer.

This guy is my hero!

Watch the video:  Making Decisions With Not for, Patients

If you like the idea of the shared decision-making tools they mentioned, check out the Less is More Medicine's collection of different ones in the Hands-On Tools section.

Source: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/844541

Better informed women probably less likely to choose mammography

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 8.53.24 PM.png

An interesting article was published in the latest Lancet: Use of a decision aid including information on overdetection to support informed choice about breast cancer screening: a randomised controlled trial.

In brief, women who got information about the risk and possible harms of breast cancer screening (by mammography) were less likely to intend to be screened. The study didn't go on to look at what the women actually chose (only what they intended to choose). However, it still confidently suggests that women who have all of the information are less likely to get screened.

Contrast this informed approach with the classic approach from the well-intentioned doctor: "You need a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. Here is the requisition."

It is not wrong to say no. (These are the words of Dr Iona Heath - well ahead of the curve - in the title of a  BMJ paper in 2009 regarding this same topic).

It is not wrong to say no. And the more you know, the more likely you'll say no. 
 

Not sure what to do for yourself?
Not sure how to start discussing this with patients?
 

- Here is a Canadian resource to help you decide if Mammography is right for you; it's not perfect but it is a start

- Below is an icon array from the Harding Center for Risk Literacy that helps visually represent the benefits vs. harms of mammography:


Source: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/a...

Disutility: Finding the balance between benefit and hassle

James McCormack (@medmyths, The Best Science Medicine Podcast) sent me a great article: "Patient-Accessible Tool for Shared Decision Making in Cardiovascular Primary Prevention."

The UK group looked at the problem of patients discontinuing medication and focussed in particular on statins for primary prevention of cardiovascular events. A lot of research assumes that the 'burden' of taking a pill is a negligible factor in medication adherence, but these researchers thought otherwise. They surveyed 360 people to see how they might balance their potential cardiac risk with the 'disutility' of a preventative, once a day medication as intervention. Paraphrasing, they wanted to know:

how much longer would a person need to live (thanks to a medication) in order to make it worth the hassle of taking the medication

The article is worth sharing because it introduced a few new ideas to me:

  • "disutility" : a word the researchers use to capture the idea of inconvenience or burden of care
  • there is some good evidence that educating people more and more about their risk will not change their adherence to medication
  • talking about reasons they would not want to take the medication may be more important
  • as every person has a different tolerance of disutility, individualized discussions (shared decision-making) still remains a good strategy
  • for people who fall in the middle ground when balancing utility and disutility, factors like gender, smoking, blood pressure, and cholesterol factor into the decision whereas they do not for those with high or low disutility

Figure 4.

Disutility vs utility. Frequency distribution of disutility, longevity benefit that subjects expressed a desire to make tablet therapy worthwhile (top), and the frequency distribution of utility, actual expected gain in lifespan from statin therapy in the English population (bottom). The difference between the 2 values is the net benefit of tablet therapy. Because utility has a very much narrower spectrum than disutility, for those with a high disutility, regardless of utility, statins are a net harm; for those with low disutility, regardless of utility statins are a net benefit. It is only for those in the middle gray zone (top) that sex, smoking status, blood pressure, and cholesterol are the deciding factors.

Read the full article here, in Circulation. 

If you are very interested in the idea of 'disutility,' you may enjoy Dr Victor Montori (@vmontori)'s work on "Minimally Disruptive Medicine."