Researchers Eldar Shafir and Donald Redelmeier helped prove this point in an article inThe Journal of the American Medical Association. They gave doctors the medical history of a 67-year-old man who’d been suffering chronic hip pain from osteoarthritis. He’d been given drugs to treat his pain, but they had been ineffective, so there was only one viable option: hip-replacement surgery, which would involve a long and painful recovery. Then a final check with the pharmacy uncovered one medication that hadn’t been tried. Would the doctors like to give the drug a shot? Forty-seven percent of doctors chose to try the medication in a final attempt to keep the patient from going under the knife.
Another group of doctors saw the same facts, except they were told that the pharmacy had discovered two medications that hadn’t been tried. If you were the patient with the bum hip, you’d be thrilled–two nonsurgical options are better than one. But when the doctors were presented with two nonsurgical options, only 28% chose to try either one.
What happened here is decision paralysis. More options, even good ones, can freeze us, leading us to stick with the “default” plan, which in this case was slicing open someone’s hip. This clearly is not rational behavior, but it is human behavior. Similar tests with different groups have revealed consistent results.
In (maybe?) arguably one of the most complex industries (healthcare), keeping strategy simple allows/fosters doing/decision-making.