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Aversion to ambiguity and willingness to take risks affect therapeutic decisions in managing atrial fibrillation for stroke prevention: results of a pilot study in family physicians

Authors Raptis S, Chen JN, Saposnik F, Pelyavskyy R, Liuni A, Saposnik G

Received 14 June 2017

Accepted for publication 19 July 2017

Published 11 September 2017 Volume 2017:11 Pages 1533—1539

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S143958

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Akshita Wason

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen

Stavroula Raptis,1,* Jia Ning Chen,2,* Florencia Saposnik,2 Roman Pelyavskyy,2 Andrew Liuni,3 Gustavo Saposnik2,4

On behalf of the Stroke Outcomes Research Canada Working Group (SORCan- www.sorcan.ca)

1Applied Health Research Centre, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, 2Stroke Outcomes and Decision Neuroscience Research Unit, Department of Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto, 3Medical Department, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., Burlington, ON, Canada; 4Neuroeconomics and Decision Neuroscience, Department of Economics, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Background: Anticoagulation is the therapeutic paradigm for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). It is unknown how physicians make treatment decisions in primary stroke prevention for patients with AF.
Objectives: To evaluate the association between family physicians’ risk preferences (aversion risk and ambiguity) and therapeutic recommendations (anticoagulation) in the management of AF for primary stroke prevention by applying concepts from behavioral economics.
Methods: Overall, 73 family physicians participated and completed the study. Our study comprised seven simulated case vignettes, three behavioral experiments, and two validated surveys. Behavioral experiments and surveys incorporated an economic framework to determine risk preferences and biases (e.g., ambiguity aversion, willingness to take risks). The primary outcome was making the correct decision of anticoagulation therapy. Secondary outcomes included medical errors in the management of AF for stroke prevention.
Results:
Overall, 23.3% (17/73) of the family physicians elected not to escalate the therapy from antiplatelets to anticoagulation when recommended by best practice guidelines. A total of 67.1% of physicians selected the correct therapeutic options in two or more of the three simulated case vignettes. Multivariate analysis showed that aversion to ambiguity was associated with appropriate change to anticoagulation therapy in the management of AF (OR 5.48, 95% CI 1.08–27.85). Physicians’ willingness to take individual risk in multiple domains was associated with lower errors (OR 0.16, 95% CI 0.03–0.86).
Conclusion: Physicians’ aversion to ambiguity and willingness to take risks are associated with appropriate therapeutic decisions in the management of AF for primary stroke prevention. Further large scale studies are needed.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation, decision making, therapeutic decisions, anticoagulants, risk, physicians

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