February 23, 2018

Credit: Themba Hadebe / AP Images

Nearly half of medical procedures may not be based on sound science. That’s according to Eric Patashnik, director of Brown University’s public policy program. And he says it’s not necessarily your doctor’s fault. How did we get to this point? We put that question to Patashnik, who is co-author of the new book, “Unhealthy Politics: The Battle over Evidence-Based Medicine.”

Three Takeaways: 

  • Significant procedures are sometimes not nearly as effective as you might think. “In 2002, the New England Journal of Medicine published a landmark study where they found that this very common knee operation worked no better than a sham procedure in which a surgeon merely pretended to operate,” Patashnik says.
  • It’s estimated that unneeded or unproven medical procedures cost us billions each year.
  • Polls show that doctors are trusted by the public more than politicians, which means it’s hard for public policy to shape the healthcare system unless medical associations sign off on it.

More Reading: 

  • “Evidence-based” has become a politically fraught term. Need proof? Here you go. And, here's more.
  • Eric Patashnik recently summed up his argument for more evidence-based medicine in an essay for Vox.
  • There’s actually an organization, Choosing Wisely, that tries to get doctors and patients to talk about evidence-based medicine. Patashnik has written about their impact, and what needs to change to make the initiative successful.

evidence-based medicine, Eric Patashnik, Sci and Tech

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