The uncertainty is killing me: Self-triage decision making and information availability

Andrew A. Cooper, Karin R. Humphreys


Accurate self-triage is important for both the individual’s health, and the efficacy and efficiency of the health care system. Ambiguity and partial information from sources of questionable fidelity may contribute to the difficulties laypersons experience in making care-seeking decisions. The role of certainty in diagnostic information was investigated using hypothetical health threat scenarios. Sixty healthy undergraduates were asked to indicate how urgently they would seek care under the circumstances depicted in these scenarios. Information relating to certainty interacted with threat severity in a logical pattern, such that increased certainty of high severity threat prompted more urgent care-seeking response, while reduced certainty of lower severity threats increases urgency. Minor reductions in certainty reduced urgency of response for high severity threats. Implications of these results on health information resources and public services are discussed.

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Decision-making; Uncertainty; Health care; Behaviour and behaviour mechanisms; Psychology; Applied; Patients

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ISSN 1832-7931
Swinburne University of Technology