Launching the Century of the Patient

Efficient health care requires informed doctors and patients. Gerd Gigerenzer and Sir J. A. Muir Gray identify seven "sins" that have contributed to a lack of respective knowledge and explain why governments and health institutes need to change course.

Efficient health care requires informed doctors and patients. The health care system we inherited from the 20th century falls short on both counts. Most doctors and patients do not understand the available medical evidence. We identify seven "sins" that have contributed to this lack of knowledge: biased funding; biased reporting in medical journals, brochures, and the media; conflicts of interest; defensive medicine; and medical schools that fail to teach doctors how to comprehend health statistics.

These flaws have generated a partially inefficient system that wastes taxpayers' money for unnecessary or even potentially harmful tests and treatments, and for medical research that is of limited relevance for the patient. Raising taxes or rationing care are often thought to be the only alternatives in the face of exploding health care costs. Yet there is a third option through promoting health literacy: getting better care for less money. The 21st century should become the century of the patient. Governments and health institutions need to change course and provide honest and transparent information, creating better doctors, better patients, and, ultimately, better health care.

Book Chapter

Gigerenzer, G. & Gray, J. A. M. Launching the Century of the Patient. In G. Gigerenzer & J. A. M. Gray (Eds.), Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions: Envisioning Healthcare 2020. Strüngmann Forum Report, vol. 6. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Teaser: Gigerenzer - Gray