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Health Forum Online    The Psychologist's Source for C.E. Credits Online

Ethically Assisting Patients in Decision-Making in the Context of Medical Uncertainty: Statistics vs. Values

by Michelle Rodoletz, PhD & Michael A. Diefenbach, PhD  3 CE Credits

Certain scenarios within the medical context exist in which there is no definitive empirical evidence to favor one clinical protocol over another. This is typically the case in the treatment of late stage cancer patients and/or patients that are transitioning into palliative care. It is also the case in illnesses for which there are genetic tests to identify risk and/or available prophylactic options to reduce disease susceptibility. In some disease models, there is not only a lack of unity among the medical community, but even an air of controversy. In a climate of medical uncertainty, health-related decisions must be ethically guided by an individual’s health-related values and goals rather than hard scientific evidence. Providers are often called upon to facilitate this “preference-sensitive” decision process for patients, families, and their support system.

This course presents current findings on medical treatment decision making from a patient perspective. Our review is guided by relevant medical policy, ethics and theory- and evidence-based data. Common therapeutic themes associated with the preference sensitive decision process are discussed and the role of the healthcare provider in facilitating this process and the clinical application of decision aids are presented.


Continuing education for this online course is offered through the following approvals:


  • HealthForum is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. HealthForum maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • HealthForum (ACE Provider #1156) is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org, through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) Program. HealthForum maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: (6/20/2017 to 6/20/2020). Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits. Social workers participating in this course will receive 3 Ethics continuing education clock hours.
  • HealthForumOnline, LLC, SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0355


Course Sections/Outline:

  • Overview
  • Underlying Medical Policy
  • Psychosocial Theoretical Framework
  • Clinical Implications For the Patient
  • Considerations Beyond the “Identified” Patient
  • Decision Aids/Interventions
  • Summary
  • References

Learning Objectives:

After completing this course, health professionals will be able to:
  • Identify and discuss 2 prominent psychological theories that underlie medical decision making
  • Distinguish between effective decisions and preference-sensitive decisions within the medical context and predict at least 3 factors associated with suboptimal healthcare decisions
  • Recognize 3 critical psychological constructs that underlie preference-sensitive decisions, along with the supporting empirical evidence from a range of disease models
  • Select and apply an evidence-based decision aid to facilitate preference-sensitive decisions and adaptation among patients challenged with medical uncertainty