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About the Site:

This is the blog for the book Medical Decision Making: A Physician's Guide, by Alan Schwartz and George Bergus (Cambridge University Press, 2008). The book is now available from Cambridge University Press

About the Authors:

Alan Schwartz, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Medical Education and Pediatrics at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, where he teaches and conducts research on physician and patient decision making.

George Bergus, M.D., M.A. is the Dr. William and Sondra Myers Family Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and Co-Director of the Family Practice/Psychiatry Residency program. He holds a Certificate of Additional Qualification in Geriatrics.


Lessons outside health care

June 18th, 2009 by Alan Schwartz

SMDM Annual Meeting Co-chairs Alan Schwartz and Brendan Delaney are pleased to announce the 2009 Annual Meeting will include a pre-meeting symposium on Saturday, October 17, 2009 in Hollywood, California, USA, titled, Getting Tools Used: Lessons from outside health care.

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Posted in Understanding uncertainty, Valuing health | 2 Comments »

Decision psychology and swine flu

May 5th, 2009 by Alan Schwartz

Behavioral economist (and 2009 President of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making) Dan Ariely appeared on NPR’s Marketplace to discuss reasons for the swine flu panic. Read or listen to the interview here.

He focuses on the difference between the value of an identified life and a statistical life, as well as the impact of uncontrollability on risk perception (part of the constellation of factors Paul Slovic has referred to as being associated with “dread risk”).

The availability heuristic is also relevant here – there is very little reporting of deaths associated with seasonal flu and a lot of reporting about potential new strains. This leads to an underestimate of the risk of seasonal flu, even in the young and elderly.

Posted in Beyond the individual, Decision Making, Understanding uncertainty, Valuing health | No Comments »

Symposia from SJDM/SMDM online

December 15th, 2008 by Alan Schwartz

The 2008 annual meetings of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making (SJDM) and the Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM) included a “symposium exchange”. A symposium by SJDM members was presented at SMDM 2008 (Pennsylvania, PA) and a symposium by SMDM members was presented at SJDM 2008 (Chicago, IL). At least one of the talks reported on a study of behavioral economics for weight loss that has recently received considerable media attention.

Videorecordings of the symposia are now available. You can find links at

Posted in Beyond the individual, Decision Making, Developing information, Understanding uncertainty, Valuing health | No Comments »

GUT decision-making

October 27th, 2008 by Alan Schwartz

I was recently at a workshop for National Science Foundation Principal Investigators focused on how to communicate research to the public and the media. One of the suggestions was to develop a three-word summary of the principle message of your research work. This is hard.

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Posted in Goals of medical care, Understanding uncertainty, Valuing health | 1 Comment »

The prediction problem

March 1st, 2007 by Alan Schwartz

A major problem in all preference or utility assessment, particularly holistic assessments that require the visualization of a health state in its entirety, is that people must often be asked to assess their preferences for health states that they have not yet experienced. That is, they must predict how they will feel about future health states that may arise as a result of their decisions.

Unfortunately, people are generally poor predictors of future experiences for several reasons.

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Posted in Valuing health | 2 Comments »