How to survive the medical misinformation mess.

This is a recent paper on the European Journal of Clinical Investigation with the very interesting title: How to survive the medical misinformation mess. It was brought to my attention on twitter, which is great for getting the latest research updates.

First published: 28 Sep 2017

Open-access: NO

From the abstract:

“Most physicians and other healthcare professionals are unaware of the pervasiveness of poor quality clinical evidence that contributes considerably to overuse, underuse, avoidable adverse events, missed opportunities for right care and wasted healthcare resources.”

The Medical Misinformation Mess comprises four key problems:

  1. Much published medical research is not reliable or is of uncertain reliability, offers no benefit to patients, or is not useful to decision makers.
  2. Most healthcare professionals are not aware of this problem.
  3. They also lack the skills necessary to evaluate the reliability and usefulness of medical evidence.
  4. Patients and families frequently lack relevant, accurate medical evidence and skilled guidance at the time of medical decision-making.

Increasing the reliability of available, published evidence may not be an imminently reachable goal. Therefore, efforts should focus on making healthcare professionals, more sensitive to the limitations of the evidence, training them to do critical appraisal, and enhancing their communication skills so that they can effectively summarize and discuss medical evidence with patients to improve decision-making. Similar efforts may need to target also patients, journalists, policy makers, the lay public and other healthcare stakeholders.”

I find that this is so true, and only recently did I find out more about how to accurately interpret the findings of clinical studies. Of course I learned about critical appraisal in my undergrad and more so during my MSc, but I’m sure I was not taught the more important thing which is to ascertain whether the results of the study was clinically significant or not, and not just looking at the p-value. And to find out that p-values can in many situations be used to portray a more favourable finding that it really is. Sometimes using p-values may not be the most suitable test. Rod Whiteley has been outspoken in this area and strives to educate clinicians to accurately interpret research findings. Click here to view an excellent presentation by Rod on how researchers can ‘cheat’ in their statistics.

Of course it is skill that you can better at with experience, but I think it is absolutely crucial for every clinician so that we may be able to accurately interpret all the research out there in order that they may accurately inform our practice.

Unfortunately this paper is not open-access. Please click here for the paper if you have access. I had trouble a few times with the Wiley website, so if that doesn’t work, please  click here to view it on PubMed.

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