Faculty Profile

Brian ZikmundFisher

Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, PhD

  • Professor, Health Behavior and Health Education
  • Research Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Interim Co-Director, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine

Question: How can we help people understand the information they need to make better health decisions?

Dr. Zikmund-Fisher has devoted his career to working on this issue. Much of his work focuses on designing and evaluating methods of making health data such as risk statistics or laboratory test results more intuitively meaningful to patients, clinicians, and policymakers. He also studies the impact of people's consistent preferences for more versus less health care on over- and underutilization of care and explores the power of narratives in health communications. Many of his projects involve collaborations with clinicians in a wide range of specialties including internal medicine, family medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, surgery, and pharmacy. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journals Medical Decision Making and MDM Policy and Practice.

Dr. Zikmund-Fisher teaches graduate courses that focus on enabling students to communicate health and science information clearly and memorably. He is working with several collaborators to explore the use of improvisational theater games as tools for building health and science communication skills.

  • PhD, Behavioral Decision Theory, Carnegie Mellon University, 2002
  • MA, Behavioral Decision Making and Economics, Carnegie Mellon University, 1997
  • BA, Economics (Minor: Psychology), Swarthmore College, 1991

Research Interests:
  • health and medical decision making
  • risk communication (health, medical, and/or environmental)
  • numeracy
  • health message design
  • decision psychology and behavioral economics as applied to health
  • survey methods (esp. web-based survey experiments)

Research Projects:
Zikmund-Fisher has been collaborating with Dr. Jessica Ancker (Vanderbilt U.) on the Making Numbers Meaningful project, a National Library of Medicine-funded grant to conduct a massive systematic review of all available evidence on communicating health numbers to patients.
Zikmund-Fisher has been collaborating for a number of years with Dr. Laura Scherer (U. Colorado) and Dr. Victoria Shaffer (U. Missouri) on the concept of Medical Maximizing-Minimizing, a reliable individual difference that indicates people's stable preferences for more or less medical care. We have shown that this construct predicts both overuse of low-value care and underutilization of high-value healthcare services.

Bonner C, Trevena LJ, Gaissmaier W, Han PKJ, Okan Y, Ozanne E, Peters E, Timmermans D, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Current best practice for presenting probabilities in patient decision aids: fundamental principles. Medical Decision Making 2021;41(7):821-833. doi: 10.1177/0272989X21996328 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0272989X21996328 

Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Helping people know whether measurements have good or bad implications: increasing the evaluability of health and science data communications. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2019;6(1):29-37. doi: 10.1177/2372732218813377 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2372732218813377 

Scherer LS, Shaffer VA, Caverly T, DeWitt J, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Medical maximizing-minimizing predicts patient preferences for both high-benefit and low-benefit care. Medical Decision Making 2020;40(1):72-80. doi: 10.1177/0272989X19891181 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31975657 

Zikmund-Fisher BJ, Kullgren JT, Fagerlin A, Klamerus ML, Bernstein SJ, Kerr EA. Perceived barriers to implementing individual Choosing WiselyR recommendations in two national surveys of primary care providers. Journal of General Internal Medicine 2017;32(2):210-7. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-016-3853-5 

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J. (2013). The right tool is what they need, not what we have: a taxonomy of appropriate levels of precision in patient risk communication. Medical Care Research and Review 70(1 suppl):37S-49S. http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/98434 

Shaffer, V. A., Zikmund-Fisher, B. J. (2013). All stories are not alike: A purpose-, content-, and valence-based taxonomy of patient narratives in decision aids. Medical Decision Making 33(1):4-13. http://mdm.sagepub.com/content/33/1/4.abstract 

PubMed Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=zikmund-fisher+bandsort=date 

Email: bzikmund@umich.edu 
Office: 734-936-9179
Address: 3834 SPH I
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029

For media inquiries: sph.media@umich.edu 

Areas of Expertise: Health Care,  Health Communication