Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Back to essentials (2)

In many cases, delay is not feasible. Decisions need to be made, even if the environment is one of limited attention, information, and processing capacity, so shortcuts, or heuristics, are necessary. A heuristic is a decision rule that utilizes a subset of the information set. Since in virtually all cases people must  economize and cannot analyze all contingencies, we use heuristics without even realizing it. Medical decision making is plagued with heuristics and biases. Sometimes may be helpful and others may distort and have serious consequences for health and costs.
Once a government has set up a program to identify low-value medical interventions (Essencial), a list of what should be avoided, the most difficult part is how to translate it into practice. Of course, right now there are only 9 interventions and it is quite easy, but with larger complexity it would require a new framework for medical decision making. We need to understand deviations from what should be expected, and what to do about it: a "behavioral" medical decision making framework. Information and rules are not enough. Unfortunately, we still don't have a universal toolkit to fix such issue, only some pieces that may help. Anyway, this is not a rationale to fold the arms.

PS. The opposite of bad can be worse, by the Incidental Economist.

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