Information asymmetry

Brilliant article written by Apply Research: Article.

– “Information asymmetry” is a overlooked problem in health care. Kenneth Arrow, a Noble Prize winner in Economics, described the phenomenon as the severe disadvantages that people face when they know less about a commodity than the seller does.

This holds true in many aspects of life. From banking to housing, from couches to cars. Yet, one of the most frightening displays of competency difference is seen in health care.

The gap between the knowledge of the clinician and most patients´ proficiency to understand health information is so vast, that patients face gruelling odds [1]. An alarming minority of patients is actually able to receive, analyse and interpret information critical for their own health and well-being. In other words, patients are by all accounts totally and unequivocally at the mercy of the clinician in front of them.

This raises some serious dilemmas. Clinicians can recommend care of little or no value because:

  • It is financially rewarding
  • It is easy and it keeps patients satisfied
  • Professional indolence has caused auto-pilot habits
  • They genuinely (but incorrectly) believe in the actual service they are providing

For decades health literacy has allowed clinicians to assume a God-like status. Even in cases where evidence is scarce or completely missing, clinicians can quietly build a bubble of self-glorification without protest or scrutiny.