GUT decision-making

Blog Post by Alan Schwartz, Associate Professor of Medical Education and Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine (reposted from Prof. Schwartz’s Making Medical Decisions blog)

I was recently at a workshop for National Science Foundation Principal Investigators focused on how to communicate research to the public and the media. One of the suggestions was to develop a three-word summary of the principle message of your research work. This is hard. After thinking about it for a while, though, I realized that medical decision science (at least as I practice it) is primarily about helping physicians and patients to do three key things:

  • know your goals
  • understand uncertainty
  • pay attention to trade-offs

Which conveniently folds up into the acronym G-U-T: goals, uncertainty, trade-offs.

Normally, we think of making gut decisions as an intuitive, impulsive, “hot” process. Now, though, when I think of asking people what their gut is telling them, I’ll be thinking of their GUT: What are your goals for life, and how does that factor into this decision? What is uncertain in this decision, how much does it matter, and how can you know more or worry less? What trade-offs will you face between outcomes that you care about, and how will you make them?

(And should I add “S” for “society” and make it “GUTS?”)

Readers, what are your three words for making medical decisions?

Prof Schwartz is author of Medical Decision Making: A Physician’s Guide, with Prof George Bergus.


3 Responses to GUT decision-making

  1. Leon Epstein says:

    I teach a course in “The Epidemiological Basis for Managerial Decision Making” And GUT or GUTS is very useful

    • That’s a very intriguing course title!

      • Leon Epstein says:

        I began the course some 20 years ago. I had been a research epidemiologist and could not understand why health administrators did not utilise our data in their decision-making process. However when I entered a senior administrative role (directing a University Hospital) I realised that the data was either not available or not appropriate. The course is a series of “personal” case studies

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