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Study reveals how doctors would treat themselves if put in patient's shoes

Posted On Wed, April 13, 2011

A new study from two universities may indicate why patients seeking medical advice should ask for a second or third opinion.

According to a survey conducted by researchers from Duke University and the University of Michigan, physicians often recommend treatments for patients that they wouldn't necessarily choose for themselves.

The researchers asked some doctors how they would treat a particular condition, while others were asked to put themselves in the patient's shoes and decide what treatment they'd prescribe for themselves if they had the same health problem.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the physicians who were self-prescribing chose treatments with high rates of mortality but fewer side effects, but for patients, it was just the opposite, recommending treatments with more side effects but a lower risk of death.

"Many physicians are biased by their own background, valuing things that patients don't necessarily value," said Peter Ubel, a professor from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and one of the study's lead authors. "They can even be influenced by financial and professional conflicts of interest."

The study's results hold implications for patients and their health insurance policies, as rates are often driven by the cost of treatments and procedures ordered by physicians.

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