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Benefits of assessing life expectancy in older patients


Narrator:         This is Science Today. A website developed by a team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, is helping doctors assess the life expectancy of their elderly patients. Dr. Alex Smith, a palliative medicine physician, says he and his colleagues developed ePrognosis to better assess the burdens and benefits of tests and treatments in elderly patients.

Smith:              A lot of times when doctors are making decisions about what sort of tests or treatments to recommend for patients, they consider the benefits but don't have as great a sense of the burdens. And for many tests and treatments, the burdens and the harms are experienced up front. But the benefits don't occur for years and sometimes up to a decade after the test or treatment. 

Narrator:         Another factor to consider is if patients want to know their life expectancy and discuss that openly with their doctor. Smith and his colleagues conducted a study of 60 disabled older adults and found that the majority did, but only one of those 60 patients had actually talked to a physician about life expectancy. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.