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In Healthcare The Truth Is Often A Moving Target
truth.jpgIn healthcare, we long for absolutes, but are often frustrated.  We conduct rigorous clinical trials only to later find that a drug has an undesirable or dangerous side effect.  We write medical guidelines based on the best available evidence and then learn we made the wrong conclusions.

This is why in healthcare the truth is often a moving target.  Consider these recent events:

-Five years ago many women decided to stop taking hormones once a Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study indicated they may be harmful and do not protect from heart risks.  Today, we are reevaluating the use of hormones for younger post-menopausal women seeking to moderate hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.  However, new data indicate they increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.   

-In 2004, the FDA required manufacturers of antidepressants to put a “black box” warning on the drugs because of an “increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and adolescents.”  But, a study published this week in JAMA indicates that the benefits of antidepressants may outweigh the risks for this group of patients.

These are only the most recent examples.  Health communicators and journalists are tasked to tell the “truth” as they (or those hiring them see it). This task becomes even more difficult when emotion or controversy are involved.  

All of this means that we must try to keep our wits about us when talking about clinical trials, statistical data, treatment or other health-related topics.  This is especially true in times of crisis or national mourning.  We all think we have a monopoly on the truth, but unfortunately it’s often in the eye of the beholder.  

2 Comments/Trackbacks

Fard, Your point is right on, and helps to explain even further why Adam Bosworth of Google is scratching his head about "How do you know you're getting the best care possible?" at .

Vince, thanks for the comment and the link to the interesting article. You're right, his dilemma this gets back to the reliability and subjectivity of healthcare information.

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