Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

How the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) influenced physicians' practice and attitudes.

  • Author(s): Bush, Terry M
  • Bonomi, Amy E
  • Nekhlyudov, Larissa
  • Ludman, Evette J
  • Reed, Susan D
  • Connelly, Maureen T
  • Grothaus, Lou C
  • LaCroix, Andrea Z
  • Newton, Katherine M
  • et al.

Published Web Location
No data is associated with this publication.

BACKGROUND:The landmark Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy Trial published in 2002 showed that the health risks of combination hormone therapy (HT) with estrogen and progestin outweighed the benefits in healthy postmenopausal women. Dissemination of results had a major impact on prescriptions for, and physician beliefs about HT. No study has fully examined the influence of the widely publicized WHI on physicians' practice and attitudes or their opinions of the scientific evidence regarding HT; in addition, little is known about how physicians assist women in their decisions regarding HT. DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS:We conducted in-depth telephone interviews with family practitioners, internists, and gynecologists from integrated health care delivery systems in Washington State (n = 10 physicians) and Massachusetts (n = 12 physicians). Our objectives were to obtain qualitative information from these physicians to understand their perspectives on use of HT, the scientific evidence regarding its risks and benefits, and counseling strategies around HT use and discontinuation. APPROACH:We used Template Analysis to code transcribed telephone interviews and identify themes. RESULTS:Physicians were conflicted about the WHI results and its implications. Seven themes identified from in-depth interviews suggested that the WHI (1) was a ground-breaking study that changed clinical practice, including counseling; (2) was not applicable to the full range of patients seen in clinical practice; (3) raised concerns over the impact of publicized health information on women; (4) created uncertainty about the risks and benefits of HT; (5) called for the use of decision aids; (6) influenced discontinuation strategies; and (7) provided an opportunity to discuss healthy lifestyle options with patients. As a result of the WHI, physicians reported they no longer prescribe HT for prevention and were more likely to suggest discontinuation, although many felt women should be in charge of the HT decision. CONCLUSIONS:Physicians varied in their opinions of HT and the scientific evidence (positive and negative). Whereas the WHI delineated the risks and benefits of HT, physicians reported that decision aids are needed to guide discussions with women about menopause and HT. Better guidance at the time of WHI study publication might have been valuable to ensure best practices.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Item not freely available? Link broken?
Report a problem accessing this item