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SBM and Society for Medical Decision Making Collaborate on Annual Meeting Workshops

Laura D. Scherer, PhD, Society for Medical Decision Making

Historically, the Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM) and the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) have operated in parallel. Each is interested in similar research questions and has a similar goal of conducting empirical research that broadly addresses behavioral and psychological factors related to health. SMDM has been relatively more focused on the factors that impact individual decisions related to health, while SBM has primarily addressed behavioral factors that relate to health promotion.  Despite considerable overlap in perspectives and goals, there is surprisingly little communication between these societies.

To address this issue, over the past few months a group of interested members from SBM (Jada Hamilton, Megan Oser, Christine Rini, Erika Waters) and SMDM (Dana Alden, Laura Scherer) have met monthly with the aim of increasing crosstalk between these two societies. A concrete goal of this “Crosstalk Committee” has been to develop programming for the SBM and SMDM annual meetings that would be of interest and relevance to both societies. Crosstalk Committee discussions led to broad agreement that the topic for these events should be one that both societies have grappled with for years. While several possibilities were listed, we ultimately settled on an issue that is fundamental to our societies’ shared objective of improving the decisions that individuals make relating to their health: What defines a “good” medical decision?

There is currently little consensus on what an optimal medical decision is or how to measure it. Moreover, the criteria will likely vary depending on the perspectives and priorities of different stakeholders. Given the importance of this issue for the collective research interests of SBM and SMDM members, the time is right to have an in-depth intellectual discussion about this issue, in which various perspectives are articulated and shared. Importantly, our goal is to have this discussion in collaboration with members of both SBM and SMDM.

In light of this goal, the Crosstalk Committee is organizing an interactive, cross-disciplinary workshop for the 2015 SBM Annual Meeting. The workshop will feature representatives of key stakeholder groups, including: physicians (Robert Jacobson), patients (Brian Zikmund-Fisher), decision scientists (Ronald Myers), and health insurance providers (John Baleix).  Speakers will provide their perspectives on this important topic by reviewing three case studies of difficult decisions and interacting with the audience.

In the coming months, we aim to develop a related seminar for the 2015 SMDM conference. We hope that the committee’s efforts stimulate cross-society discussion of important topics that are of interest and relevance to both groups. This particular issue—what it means to make a “good” decision—is one that psychologists and health professionals have struggled with for years and, as such, begs for conceptual clarity within the context of behavioral medicine research. We look forward to future efforts to generate exciting discussions and collaboration between SMDM and SBM.