Many patients appear willing to undergo preventive care on the basis of overly optimistic expectations of the benefits of preventive interventions and screening.
Analyzing data from 354 patient questionnaires on the perceived benefit of screening for breast and bowel cancer, and medication to prevent hip fracture and cardiovascular disease, researchers in New Zealand found participants overestimated the degree of benefit conferred by all interventions.
A lower level of education was associated with higher estimates of minimum acceptable benefit for all interventions. Increasing age was associated with higher levels of minimum acceptable benefit for all interventions other than hip fracture prevention.
The authors conclude physicians should consider these misperceptions, which may impair informed decision making about the use of such interventions, when counseling patients.
Clinicians should also consider using decision aids when discussing these interventions, especially with older patients and those with a lower level of education, as they may reduce patients' tendency to overestimate intervention benefits.