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How to make healthcare decisions and get the best results


One of the benefits of healthcare training is that I have the opportunity to learn how the human body works. I can also access some of the latest research, and make decisions informed by my values, the evidence, and my personal experience. We call this evidence based practice.


The foundation of evidence based practice rests in the scientific method. This may or may not be appealing to various swathes of humanity. However, when I take stock of the various healthcare decisions that I will need to make personally, or on behalf of family members, I like to at least know that I have the important facts on hand.


A great method to find useful healthcare information that is reputable and trustworthy is to seek out Cochrane Systematic Reviews from the Cochrane Library. Why this site as opposed to google, or some other web browser?


Information on google is notoriously biased. Often times, perverse interests of media, business, or other vested parties are attempting to manipulate the system or algorithm. Advice, especially for conditions such as back pain, neck pain, or other musculoskeletal conditions is often conflicting depending upon what profession one sees. For example, it is the rare surgeon who doesn't recommend surgery; a rare GP who doesn't recommend a prescription; and a rare chiropractor who doesn't recommend spinal manipulation/adjustments for low back pain.


With Cochrane Reviews, the goal is to remove professional bias and promote scientific evidence based on teams of researchers using advanced methodology and statistical analysis. Furthermore, their goal is to then make a plain language statement for consumers of healthcare to make an informed choice.


Other means of making informed choices include using a heuristic, or mental shortcut, to search out Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis. These are important because they are the top of the evidence based pyramid.


Still other methods of finding useful research include Clinical Practice Guidelines, which are summaries of research in a particular area and for a particular field. They are meant to be standards by which healthcare practitioners use for guidance.


Lastly, if you wish to have a good set of questions to ask me (or any healthcare practitioner), here are a few:

  1. Has this treatment been proven to work in high-quality studies?

  2. What were the actual results?

  3. Are the benefits worth the risks?

  4. What alternatives are there?

  5. What would happen if I did nothing?

These questions are a good armament to ask a healthcare practitioner. This should encourage discussion, information exchange, and education so that you can make an informed decision about the health of you and of loved ones.


Sources:

Hippocrasy, by Rachelle Buchbinder and Ian Harris. Newsouth books, Sydney 2021.


The Cochrane Library, accessed July 2021: https://www.cochrane.org/about-us






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