Patients improve test compliance by considering health impact

It is impossible for physicians to diagnose and treat patients who are unwilling to get recommended screening tests because they are scared of what the results might mean. Yet such behavior, which experts dub health-information avoidance, is common. Previous research has found, for example, that as many as 55% of people tested for HIV never return to learn the results.

A combination of factors drives this self-defeating behavior, health psychology researchers say. This “defensive avoidance” comes about because patients fear that test results would threaten their sense of self, make them feel bad or require lifestyle changes. But new research shows that prompting patients to first think about the potential implications of learning their risk of disease can improve their willingness to follow through with testing by about 50%, according to a study posted online July 10 in the journal Psychological Science.

My latest in American Medical News. Read the whole shebang.