My volume of recent posts on evidence and statistics (here, here, here, here) indicates how important I think it is that e-patients 'E'ducate themselves about 'E'vidence, as Sarah Greene recently wrote. Last week Ted Eytan steered me to HealthNewsReview, which scrutinizes news coverage of health stories. Newspapers and TV are covered.
When you're new to a subject, as I am to scrutinizing evidence, there's nothing better than this to help you learn. A few examples:
Elderly fare well in open-heart surgery (Associated Press) got two stars of a possible five:
This story failed to provide balance for a reader to understand the risks and benefits of this line of treatment, what other options are available, or the costs involved. Other than gaining the insight that the outcomes are better today than they were in 1989, the reader did not learn much beyond the fact that surgical treatment of coronary conditions may be an option for those in their 80s and 90s. Full reviewA single test to detect many winter ailments (Wall Street Journal) got a perfect five stars:
... a good job of presenting accurate, comprehensive information ... the test is presented in context of a key health issue: the under-diagnosis of the flu in vulnerable populations, such as children, versus the inappropriate and unneeded prescription antibiotics in cases where they are ineffective in treating the flu. This story takes a balanced approach in presenting the evidence supporting the pros and cons of the test. It could have been improved by stating that it is not necessary for most routine febrile illnesses in the outpatient setting. Full reviewA search for keyword "statins" shows that almost all stories on statins (at least the ones the site reviewed) are poor. Example, from the LA Times 11/10/08, Statins may benefit healthy people too:
This story fails to be skeptical about claims of self-interested researchers. Rather than pushing back against exaggerated claims of benefits, safety and guideline changes, the story magnifies them.Another review I spotted dinged an article for talking only about relative risk reduction, not raw numbers. That's consistent with the Making Sense paper, as I wrote earlier.
Ted Eytan is a pretty nifty MD. Clearly believes in teaching patients anything they want to know about.