Objectives Doctors and other health care professionals (HCPs) involved in screening play a key role in informing their patients and the public about the risk of overdiagnosis as one of the main harms of screening. Moreover, they have a considerable influence on the societal narrative about screening, which to date seems to be dominated by the message that ‘screening saves lives’ with little resonance about the risk of overdiagnosis. If doctors are to provide nuanced information about screening, they themselves must be well informed about overdiagnosis and be willing to share this information with the public.
This systematic review aims to provide an overview of all available research on HCPs’ knowledge and perceptions of overdiagnosis due to screening and their willingness to discuss this risk with their patients or the public.
Method We systematically searched several databases (MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, Scopus, CINAHL, and PsycArticles) for studies that directly examine HCPs’ knowledge and subjective perceptions of overdiagnosis due to health screening, both qualitatively and quantitatively. We optimised our search by scanning reference, citation and ‘similar articles’ lists. We contacted experts in the field, and hand searched all abstracts from the annual conference on ‘Preventing Overdiagnosis’. After selection and quality appraisal, we analysed qualitative and quantitative findings separately in a segregated design for mixed-method reviews.
Results With our thorough database search we retrieved 31 publications of studies that examined HCPs’ ideas on benefits and harms of screening. Only 14 of those mentioned overdiagnosis as a possible harm, of which only few had overdiagnosis as a main research topic. We will present detailed results at the conference.
Conclusions Research on this topic is scarce and half of the research on HCPs’ ideas on benefits and harms of screening does not address the risk of overdiagnosis.
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