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Survey of public definitions of the term 'overdiagnosis' in the UK

Ghanouni, AP; Meisel, SF; Renzi, C; Wardle, J; Waller, J; (2016) Survey of public definitions of the term 'overdiagnosis' in the UK. BMJ Open , 6 (4) , Article e010723. 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010723. Green open access

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Abstract

Objectives: To determine how ‘overdiagnosis’ is currently conceptualised among adults in the United Kingdom (UK) in light of previous research, which has found that the term is difficult for the public to understand and awareness is low. This study aims to add to current debates on healthcare in which overdiagnosis is a prominent issue. Design: An observational, web-based survey was administered by a survey company. Setting: Participants completed the survey at a time and location of their choosing. Participants: 390 consenting UK adults aged 50-70 years. Quota sampling was used to achieve approximately equal numbers in three categories of education. Primary outcome measures: Participants were asked whether they had seen or heard the term ‘overdiagnosis’. If they had, they were then invited to explain in a free text field what they understood it to mean. If they had not previously encountered it, they were invited to say what they thought it meant. Responses were coded and interpreted using content analysis and descriptive statistics. Results: Data from 390 participants were analysed. Almost a third (30.0%) of participants reported having previously encountered the term. However, their responses often indicated that they had no knowledge of its meaning. The most prevalent theme consisted of responses related to the diagnosis itself. Subthemes indicated common misconceptions, including an ‘overly negative or complicated diagnosis’, ‘false positive diagnosis’ or ‘misdiagnosis’. Other recurring themes consisted of responses related to testing (i.e. ‘too many tests’), treatment (e.g. ‘overtreatment’), and patient psychology (e.g. ’overthinking’). Responses categorised as consistent with ‘overdiagnosis’ (defined as detection of a disease that would not cause symptoms or death) were notably rare (n=10; 2.6%). Conclusions: Consistent with previous research, public awareness of ‘overdiagnosis’ in the UK is low and its meaning is often misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Type: Article
Title: Survey of public definitions of the term 'overdiagnosis' in the UK
Location: UK
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010723
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010723
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 British Medical Journal Publishing Group. This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Decision Making, Health Beliefs, Medical Screening, Preventive Medicine, Public Health
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy > Practice and Policy
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1477637
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