Objective: This study was designed to assess the understanding of primary care physicians who practice in the state of Florida of the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy as described in the Women's Health Initiative clinical trial.
Study design: All primary care physicians in the state of Florida, including family practice, internal medicine, and Ob/Gyn were identified and mailed an anonymous survey asking about their understanding of the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), including heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporotic fractures, colon cancer, stroke, and death. Univariate statistics stratified by specialty were performed with Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variance.
Results: Six thousand one hundred twenty-five surveys were mailed, with the return of 600 completed surveys, including 203 Ob/Gyn, 145 internal medicine, 219 family practice, and 33 other. Overall, Ob/Gyns had a more positive view of HRT, and internal medicine had a relatively negative view of HRT. In general, respondents overestimated the risk attributable to hormone replacement therapy. Ob/Gyns were significantly more likely to provide accurate assessments of these risks and benefits compared with the other specialties. Respondents correctly identified the magnitude of risks and benefits 28% of the time, 67% of the time overestimated risks and benefits, and 5% of the time misunderstood the direction of risk vs benefit of HRT.
Conclusion: This study suggests that the findings of the Women's Health Initiative are misunderstood by the majority of primary care specialists, although Ob/Gyns have a better understanding of the risks and benefits compared to other specialties. We hypothesize that respondents that overestimate the increase or decrease in risk were making the error of confusing relative risk with absolute risk difference. There is a great need for physician education about the attributable risks and benefits of HRT.