Patients Harbor Unrealistic Expectations of Medical Tests, Treatments

Share this content:
Patients Harbor Unrealistic Expectations of Medical Tests, Treatments
Patients Harbor Unrealistic Expectations of Medical Tests, Treatments

(HealthDay News) — Most patients overestimate benefits and underestimate harms of treatment, tests and screenings, according to a review published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Tammy C. Hoffman, PhD, and Chris Del Mar, MD, from Bond University in Gold Coast, Australia, conducted a systematic review to examine patients' expectations of the benefits and/or harms of any treatment, test or screening. Methodological quality was independently examined by two researchers who extracted participants' estimates of benefit and harms. Data were included from 36 articles (35 studies) involving 27,323 patients.

The researchers found that across 32 studies, 54 outcomes assessed benefit expectations; of the 34 outcomes with overestimation data, most participants overestimated benefit for 22 outcomes. The investigators could not calculate the proportion of participants who overestimated and underestimated benefit for 17 benefit expectation outcomes. However, the study authors thought participants overestimated benefits for 15 of the outcomes. 

Across 13 studies, expectations of harm were assessed by 27 outcomes; underestimation data were available for 15 outcomes, and most participants underestimated harm for 10 of the outcomes. For two outcomes about benefit expectations and two outcomes about harm expectations, at least 50% of participants made a correct estimation.

"Clinicians should discuss accurate and balanced information about intervention benefits and harms with patients, providing the opportunity to develop realistic expectations and make informed decisions," the researchers wrote.


  1. Hoffman TC and Del Mar C. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6016.
You must be a registered member of Endocrinology Advisor to post a comment.

Sign Up for Free e-Newsletters

CME Focus