In an optimistic op-ed piece in the May 1 Wall Street Journal, “Will Medicine Ever Make Up Its Mind?” Thomas Goetz, an editor at Wired and author of The Decision Tree, considers the evolution of medical knowledge that might or should inform health care decisions.
It seems like there’s an endless series of contradictory health findings, he writes:
“But here’s the thing: As frustrating as these shifts can be in isolation, taken together they reflect an effective system. Every revision and new recommendation is an attempt to put forward the best available information.
Medical science will always be a moving target, and it will always be an unfinished process…We look to science to get as close to that truth as possible. This is why medicine will always be rooted in risks and probabilities…
Not to worry, he suggests. While statistics can make us uncomfortable, some researchers at Dartmouth have demonstrated
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if we want doctors who know what they’re doing, we should invest in their education and training, starting early on and pushing well past their graduation from med school. Sure, we like physicians who are kind and honest people and can talk to them in ways they understand. This is crucial, but only to a point — we still depend on doctors to know their stuff.
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This morning I was in the gym, half-watching CNN as I did my usual exercises. Mathew Chance, a senior international correspondent based in Moscow, recapped the horrific scene involving explosions at two metro stations at the peak of rush hour. Chance reported that the bombers were both women. Most of the other facts surrounding the tragedy remain uncertain, he said. John Roberts, one of the CNN hosts, asked about any claims of responsibility for the terrorist attacks. “Well, in fact, we had some information earlier today,” Chance responded. “…there had been a claim of responsibility…But that information appears to be incorrect.“
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MedlinePlus, a virtual superstore of medical information, is one of the most frequented health-related websites worldwide. The site, co-sponsored by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, is comprehensive and, with some exceptions (see below) relatively free of commercial bias. I find it a useful starting point for almost any health-related search…
See more MedlinePlus, Now More Than Ever
Into my Google Reader this morning came a post from Biophemera (an intriguing blog at the interface of art and science). Scientist-artist Jessica Palmer offers a provocative clip featuring Alex Lundry, a self-described conservative political pollster, data-miner and data visualizer… One of the first rules of medicine is knowing your sources…
See more Beware the Power of Data Handling in Politics (and Medicine)
Yesterday, Dr. Pauline Chen reported in the New York Times on virtual visits, a little-used approach for providing care to patients hundreds or thousands of miles apart from their physicians. Telemedicine depends on satellite technology and data transfer. It’s a theoretical and possibly real health benefit of the World Wide Web, that giant, not-new-anymore health resource that’s transforming medicine in more ways than we know.
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Here’s my short list, culled from newsworthy developments that might improve health, reduce costs of care and better patients’ lives between now and 2020, starting this year:
1. “Real” Alternative Medicine. By this I don’t mean infinitely-diluted homeopathic solutions sold in fancy bottles at high prices, but real remedies extracted from nature and sometimes ancient practices.
A good example is curcumin, a curry ingredient from the root of the turmeric plant. We’re just starting to uncover this compound’s anti-cancer effects in humans. Another natural antidote that’s gaining ground is green tea; scientists are sifting through its components to see how it reduces cell growth in some forms of leukemia and other tumors.
2. Chemotherapy Pills. Why get treatment through an intravenous catheter if you can pop some pills instead? To be clear, some of the best and most effective cancer therapies require infusion. And just because a medication can be
See more Looking Ahead: 7 Cancer Topics for the Future