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Get to know the Society for Medical Decision Making

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This week, Alan Schwartz and Valerie Reyna provide a bit of information to Decision Science News readers, and people familiar with the Society for Judgment and Decision Making (SJDM) about the Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM).

As a result of strengthening ties between the Society for Judgment and Decision Making and the Society for Medical Decision Making, SJDM members with interests in decisions around health and health care are encouraged to attend (and submit presentations for) the SMDM annual meeting (for 2009, it’ll be at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, CA, USA, October 18-21). This “travel guide” highlights some of the differences between the meetings that you should expect.

About SMDM and its meeting
The Society for Medical Decision Making’s mission is to better understand medical decision making, and to improve health outcomes through the advancement of proactive systematic approaches to clinical decision making and policy-formation in health care by providing a scholarly forum that connects and educates researchers, providers, policy-makers, and the public. Its members include physicians, economists, psychologists, decision analysts, and other decision researchers. Its annual meeting is one year older than SJDM. The two societies had about 50 members in common in 2008.

Meeting format – what’s similar?
Like the SJDM meeting, SMDM features poster sessions, concurrent oral presentation sessions with question and answer time, and symposia. There is a presidential address, a keynote address, an awards presentation, and a social event.

Meeting format – what’s different?
Both SMDM and its meeting are somewhat larger than SMDM. A typical SMDM meeting sees about 560 attendees to SJDM’s 490.

SMDM oral presentations are 15 minutes long (including questions), rather than SJDM’s 20 minutes. Presentation sessions are usually chaired by a society member who is not speaking in the session, and is
responsible for timekeeping.

The SMDM symposium differs from the SJDM symposium. In SMDM, a symposium is usually held as the only session in its time slot, and is organized by the symposium chairs for the meeting. Most often, the chairs seek external funding (e.g., from one of the National Institutes of Health) to support a panel of presenters around a focused theme. In this, they resemble panel-based keynotes.

SMDM also offers (at extra cost) an extensive set of half-day and full-day short courses during the day before the meeting. These courses feature instruction by experts in a variety of methodological and content areas and vary in the level of background required; it is common for senior SMDM members to take short courses as students. Although the catalog of short courses for 2009 is already fixed, SJDM members might enjoy developing and teaching a short course at a future meeting; if that interests you, it’s wise to take a course this year to get familiar with the format.

Cultural notes
Like SJDM, SMDM is considered a very friendly meeting, and encourages presentations by students and trainees as well as more senior researchers. The keen observer of scientific cultures will, however, find several intriguing differences between SJDM and SMDM which reflect the different traditions of social science and medical meetings:

SMDM presidential addresses traditionally tackle broad themes about the Society and its role in health care scholarship, policy, and education, unlike the traditionally data-heavy research talks based on the work of the president at SJDM.

SMDM has a higher registration fee ($410 for members and $560 for non-members in 2008) meeting elements are often supported by external funding. The hotels are often more expensive, concurrent oral sessions provide microphones for the audience, and laptops are provided by the hotel for presenters.
When asking a question of a presenter at SMDM, it is customary to go to the microphone, state your name and institution, and, if possible, offer some brief encouraging words about the value of the research before asking the question. You may also hear people begin their question with “I’m confused”, in tribute to founding (and still highly active) SMDM member Steve Pauker, for whom this has become a trademark phrase. The dress code at SMDM is, on average, slightly less casual. The SMDM social event often involves renting out a museum, aquarium, or other artistic or scientifically-oriented institution, and providing a catered reception with opportunities for discussion that conclude considerably earlier than SJDM’s typical post-midnight last round. (There have been notable exceptions, however, such as the 1997 Houston meeting’s rodeo event complete with barbeque and a cow-chip throwing contest). In 2009, to avoid Los Angeles traffic, the social event will take over the upscale bowling alley next door to the hotel.

Key phrases you may hear at the SMDM meeting

Time-tradeoff and standard gamble: Two common methods for assessing the health-related utility for a person in a given state of health. In time-tradeoff, respondents identify the indifference point between living their full life expectancy in an impaired health state and living a shorter life in perfect health. In standard gamble, respondents identify the indifference point between an impaired health state for sure and a gamble with some probability of perfect health, otherwise death.

Quality-adjusted life year (QALY): A common metric for evaluating the impacts of changing health states on health-related utility over a life time. One QALY is one year of life spent in perfect health (or two years spent in a health state assessed as having utility 0.5, etc.)

Cost-effectiveness analysis: A decision analysis which seeks to minimize the ratio between the cost of a strategy (e.g., a treatment program for a disease) and its health benefit (“effectiveness”), typically measured in $/QALY or €/QALY. Conventionally, interventions with ratios lower than $50,000-$100,000/QALY are deemed “cost-effective”.

The International Patient Decision Aid Standards (IPDAS): A developing international set of criteria to determine the quality of patient decision aids, tools that attempt to improve decision quality by helping patients understand complex information and clarify their own preferences.

For more information about SMDM, including its call for papers, visit http://www.smdm.org

In 2009, there is also a special opportunity for three SJDM members to have travel supported to present their work in collaboration with SMDM members. This has a deadline of May 30, 2009; see http://decision.cybermango.org


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