Poker and marketing strategies might help doctors think better

May 29, 2014, St. Michael's Hospital
"Sadly, more research has gone into how decision are made when people gamble or buy a car than it has to discovering how doctors make complex decisions," said Dr. Gustavo Saposnik, lead author and director of the Stroke Research Unit of St. Michael's Hospital. Credit: St. Michael's Hospital

Stroke doctors might be wise to think about poker players and marketers before making medical decisions, according to an article published today in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

"Sadly, more research has gone into how decision are made when people gamble or buy a car than it has to discovering how doctors make complex decisions," said Dr. Gustavo Saposnik, lead author and director of the Stroke Research Unit of St. Michael's Hospital. "I think if doctors better understand a poker player's betting strategy or the psychology behind a salesman's tactics it might change their decision-making process. Doctors might be more encouraged to use tools that would help them make quick, accurate, unbiased decisions when facing difficult clinical scenarios."

Neither professional nor doctors have all of the information when they make a decision. Just as poker players make decisions without knowing where every card is, an may not be fully aware of all existing health issues, preferences or advanced directives of a patient.

Both poker players and clinicians have tools to assist them making a rational and informed decision with the information they have available. Professional poker players, for example, use risk assessment tables to assess the chance of winning a hand and determine whether to bet or fold. Stroke doctors have several risk scores at their disposal that estimate a patient's potential outcome with or without certain therapies.

"A University of Toronto study demonstrated that computerized tools more accurately predict stroke risk than stroke experts can on their own," said Dr. Saposnik, who is also an associate professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

Poker players may decide to continue betting despite a lower chance of winning, just as doctors may decide to go ahead with more aggressive treatments even when the risk may be high and the estimated benefit low. In the physician's case, however, this decision could be based on patient preference or family guidance.

"Understanding how stroke doctors make will become more and more important because the population is aging," explained Dr. Saposnik. "This is significant to stroke care because many stroke risk factors – such as high blood pressure, heart failure, coronary artery disease – are more common in old age. This means stroke patients will become more and more complex."

The United Nations suggests that the number of older patients has tripled in the past 50 years and will triple again during the next 50 years. Older patients are also more likely to have more than one chronic health issues, such as diabetes and cancer.

"A patient with high stroke risk and multiple makes care decisions harder," said Dr. Saposnik. "The best thing we can do to improve care is to develop better risk assessment tools that take the nuances of each patient's condition and help us predict what we can't see. Understanding patients' preferences and seeking guidance from family members is also critical."

Dr. Saposnik doesn't think that lessons in logic are limited to casinos. Marketing and sales tactics have been refined based on research into how people make purchasing decisions.

Low ball is a marketing and sales tactic that involves quoting a low initial price to customers and increasing prices down the road. These regular prices are usually hidden, misread, or dismissed at the time of the initial offer. A classic example is a discounted three-month rate for a cell phone plan where the rate dramatically increases in price thereafter.

Customers accept the seemingly low ball deal and then are inclined to accept the higher price because they have already decided to purchase the item or service. Dr. Saposnik believes doctors might be similarly susceptible to the first offering.

"Treating based on first piece of information may seem tempting," said Dr. Saposnik. "But should carefully consider all relevant pieces of information for a more realistic assessment and better final decision."

Explore further: People with dementia less likely to return home after stroke

Related Stories

People with dementia less likely to return home after stroke

October 31, 2011
New research shows people with dementia who have a stroke are more likely to become disabled and not return home compared to people who didn't have dementia at the time they had a stroke. The study is published in the November ...

Stroke risk reduced if brain blood vessel disorder is left alone

April 29, 2014
Treating patients who suffer from a common condition that affects blood vessels in the brain increases their risk of stroke, a study has found.

New test set to improve care for patients with suspected heart attack

May 2, 2014
Manchester researchers have developed a novel approach, called the Manchester Acute Coronary Syndromes Decision Rule, to more quickly and effectively diagnose heart attack in patients admitted to emergency departments.

Lack of support for stroke survivors with visual impairment

March 24, 2014
More than a quarter (26%) of stroke survivors living with visual impairment do not receive adequate support, new research from the University of Liverpool reveals.

Video games effective treatment for stroke patients: study

April 7, 2011
Virtual reality and other video games can significantly improve motor function in stroke patients, according to research from St. Michael's Hospital.

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.