Monday, January 12, 2009

Super Crunchers: Chapter 4

The following summary was written by Frank Voisin, who regularly writes for Frankly Speaking. Recently, Frank sold four restaurants and returned to school to complete a combined LLB/MBA.

Evidence-Based Medicine was developed by two Canadians (Gordon Guyatt and David Sackett). The central premise is that treatment should be based on the best evidence (which, in turn, should be guided by statistical research). Just as super crunching is controversial in other fields, this caused an uproar in the medical community, which largely believes that medicine should be treated by doctors’ instincts.

Doctors should behave more like pilots. Pilots have significantly less discretion, and correspondingly there is less deviation from the norm. When doctors deviate from the norm (the proper procedures), people die. Statistical evidence shows that less discretion for doctors would save lives (this is the heart of Evidence-Based Medicine)

Statistics have also shown several well-ingrained practices (listening to the heart during annual medical exams) and beliefs (Vitamin B12 deficiencies must be treated with shots because pills are ineffective) to be incorrect. Yet, old habits die hard.

The key will be to make it easier for physicians to retrieve concise, high quality reports of the results of statistical research. It is currently too difficult and time consuming to find relevant information.

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