A new study finds that when individuals actively choose their own medical treatments, they tend to select lower-risk procedures.

Yale researchers report their findings in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

The 216 subjects of the Yale study were told about hypothetical new medications that would either prevent heart disease or treat chronic pain.

These hypothetical treatments were said to be very effective, well tolerated and covered by insurance, but participants were also told that they carried an extremely rare risk of a serious side effect related to rheumatic disease.

The test subjects were then divided into two groups. Those in one group were told that the doctor felt that they should take the medication and gave the patient a prescription.

Subjects in the second group were told that the decision to take the medication was completely up to them.

Worry about the risk involved was significantly greater, and the willingness to take the medication significantly lower, in those subjects who were told the choice was theirs than in those who were given a prescription.

“This study shows that when patients take responsibility for choosing treatments that involve potential risk, they are more cautious than those who do not,” according to lead author Liana Fraenkel, M.D., M.P.H. of Yale School of Medicine and the V.A. Connecticut Health care System.

She believes this is a good thing for health care, saying, “Having knowledgeable and highly engaged patients making informed decisions is a requirement for ensuring high-quality health care and decreasing unwarranted variability in the delivery of health care services.”

Source: Yale University