Rigorous evidence about the broad range of harms that might be experienced by a patient in the course of testing and treatment is sparse. We aimed to generate recommendations for how researchers might more comprehensively evaluate potential harms of healthcare interventions, to allow clinicians and patients to better include this evidence in clinical decision-making. We propose seven domains of harms of tests and treatments that are relevant to patients: (1) physical impairment, (2) psychological distress, (3) social disruption, (4) disruption in connection to healthcare, (5) labeling, (6) financial impact, and (7) treatment burden. These domains will include a range of severity of harms and variation in timing after testing or treatment, attributable to the service itself or a resulting care cascade. Although some new measures may be needed, diverse data and tools are available to allow the assessment of harms comprehensively across these domains. We encourage researchers to evaluate harms in sub-populations, since the harms experienced may differ importantly by demographics, social determinants, presence of comorbid illness, psychological state, and other characteristics. Regulators, funders, and editors might require either assessment or reporting of harms in each domain or require justification for inclusion and exclusion of different domains.
© 2021. Society of General Internal Medicine.