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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Robert M. Hamm, PhD (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Description: This is a thoughtful exposition of the breadth of the medical decision issues to which the analyses of decision theory have often been applied. The authors' approach to medical decision making ensures that readers from different backgrounds understand the concepts by expressing them in words, elaborated with concrete numerical examples and graphs, instead of expecting symbolic formulas to communicate. They state four fundamental beliefs as the focus for the book: 1) basic patterns of decision making are found in the majority of clinical decisions; 2) making good decisions is better than making perfect ones; 3) making clinical decisions requires input from both patients and physicians; and 4) the practice of medicine and healthcare policy are inseparably linked.
Purpose: As medical educators, the authors hope to bridge the gap between decision scientist and community physician. They implement clinical examples to present a version of decision making theory that many readers will find refreshing and helpful.
Audience: This book is aimed at practicing physicians already well down the clinical path, never planning on doing a decision analysis, who want to understand the ideas that have been produced by this field and to appreciate how they are relevant to daily medical practice. Researchers and analysts will find theories in the book appealing, as there is a rich vein of issues needing further study. Other nonphysicians will appreciate the clear exposition of ideas that are, after all, of universal human interest.
Features: The five sections cover the goals of medical care, valuing health, understanding uncertainty, developing information, and issues beyond the individual. Each has two to three chapters discussing different elements of the topic, with case examples. Each topic is covered thoroughly, though at an introductory level. Readers can easily follow and understand the authors' explanations. Although the exposition provides an integrated picture of the field, in fact some of the topics and perspectives are relatively new and are those of the authors themselves.
Assessment: "This book has the potential for teaching practicing physicians to make good decisions and to make decisions well. Several books are available that are aimed at teaching medical students or residents the basic mathematics of the fundamental decision analysis techniques, guiding them with formulas, examples, and exercises. This book, in contrast, conveys the ideas through discussion without the technical details. Those wishing to learn particular calculations can use one of these other books or the Encyclopedia of Medical Decision Making, Kattan (Sage Publications, 2009).
Talia B. Magrill, BA, contributed to this review."