Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 114–117 | Cite as

Patients' Preferences for Risk Disclosure and Role in Decision Making for Invasive Medical Procedures

  • Dennis J. Mazur
  • David H. Hickam
Original Article


To assess the level of involvement patients want in decision making related to the acceptance or rejection of an invasive medical intervention and whether their preference for decision making is related to their preference for qualitative (verbal) or quantitative (numeric) information about the risks of the procedure.


Cross-sectional study using structured interviews of consecutive patients seen for continuity care visits in a general medicine clinic.


A university-based Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.


Four hundred and sixty-seven consecutive patients with a mean age of 65.2 years (SD 10.70 years, range 31-88 years) and with a mean of 12.6 years (SD 2.96 years, range 0-24 years) of formal education.


In the context of an invasive diagnostic or therapeutic intervention, patients were asked whether they preferred patient-based, physician-based, or shared patient-physician decision making. Patients were asked to give the ratio of patient-to-physician decision making they preferred, and whether they preferred discussions using words, numbers, or both. Of 467 subjects, 318 (68%) preferred shared decision making; 100 (21.4%) preferred physician-based decision making; and 49 (10.5%) preferred patient-based decision making. In terms of risk disclosure, 436 (93.4%) preferred that their physician disclose risk information to them. Of these 436 patients, 42.7% preferred disclosure of information about the probability of adverse outcomes using qualitative (verbal) expressions of probability; 35.7% preferred disclosure in terms of quantitative (numeric) expressions of probability; and 9.8% preferred disclosure in both qualitative and quantitative terms. Younger patients (odds ratio [OR] 0.96; confidence interval [CI] 0.93, 0.99), patients who had at least one stroke (OR 3.03; CI 1.03, 8.90), and patients who preferred to discuss risk information with their physicians in terms of numbers (OR 2.39; CI 1.40, 4.06) tended to prefer patient-based or shared decision making.


Male veterans consistently preferred shared patient-physician decision making in the context of invasive medical interventions.

informed consent medical decision making patient-physician communication pharmaceutical industry medical devices and products 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis J. Mazur
    • 1
  • David H. Hickam
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Service and Health Services Research and Development Program, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oregon Health Sciences UniversityPortlandUSA

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