Decision making is a critical element in the field of medicine that can lead to life or death outcomes, yet it is an element fraught with complex and conflicting variables, diagnostic and therapeutic uncertainties, patient preferences and values, and costs. Together, decisions made by physicians, patients, insurers, and policymakers determine the quality of health care, quality that depends inherently on counterbalancing risks and benefits and competing objectives such as maximizing life expectancy versus optimizing quality of life or quality of care versus economic realities. Broadly speaking, concepts in medical decision making (MDM) may be divided into two major categories: prescriptive and descriptive. Work in the area of prescriptive MDM investigates how medical decisions should be done using complicated analyses and algorithms to determine cost effectiveness measures, prediction methods, and so on. In contrast, descriptive MDM studies how decisions actually are made involving human judgment, biases, social influences, patient factors, and so on.
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