The widespread implementation of rationing and priority-setting policies in health care opposes the stochastic practice of medicine induced by professional uncertainty and professional vested interests in market-oriented clinical environments. It also clashes with consumers' overly optimistic and “mythical” view of the effectiveness of medicine, which is bound to support a potentially unlimited provision of health services. Thus, for consumers and society at large, it is necessary to create conditions favorable for a more conscious demand of evidence-based health care. In pursuit of this goal, we suggest the adoption of a community-oriented strategy based upon delivery of information to the public in order a) to generate greater awareness (“healthy skepticism”) among consumers, through disclosure of data on the true effectiveness of health care interventions and on the existing variation in their utilization, and b) to provide tools to empower consumers in dealing better with both the uncertainty in their own individual patient-physician relationships and with the health policy issues to be faced in the future. Such a community-oriented strategy could also reinforce and support, through the generation of a “bottom-up” pressure from consumers toward physicians, a wider adoption of evidence-based interventions by health care professionals. This paper, using data from surveys on public opinions and attitudes toward the practice of medicine, focuses on how consumer demand for more evidence-based medical practice can be promoted.
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