Evidence Based — Having Second Thoughts!

So this morning I taped my radio show for airing this Sunday. During each show, I provide a sharp patient tip — a tool or piece of information anyone can use to help them better navigate the dysfunctional system we call American healthcare.

This week’s tip is about making judgements about treatment options based on scientific evidence — you know — where real experiments on real people have proven one thing works — or doesn’t. Specifically I was addressing recent reports that zinc and echinacea supplements don’t really help relieve a cold. I took the stand that if you understand what the real scientific evidence says, then you won’t waste your money on those supplements, or many other remedies, that don’t really work.

But — I’m having second thoughts now. What I realize is that none of these studies (as near as I can tell) ever account for the very real ability for someone’s head to practically over rule their physiology. For example — one recent study says that chondroitin and glucosamene are ineffective in relieving pain for arthritis sufferers. Oh really? Then how do we account for all those people who say it really helps them? Who is judging their opinions? Do we think they really DO have pain, they just don’t realize it?

Secondly — it occurs to me that “evidence-based” never seems to account for individual differences. It reminds me of when I was a first-grade teacher. We would be told that a certain method of teaching (for reading and math in particular) was THE method — when, in fact — now we know that different people (children) learn in different ways.

So who’s to say that individual bodies won’t react to treatments differently? Actually — we DO know that! So — how do we now marry those two concepts that account for individuality?

For now, I’m going to think about it this way. Perhaps “evidence based” represents the majority. But anecdotal evidence by individuals who find relief must still be accounted for — and respected.

Trisha Torrey
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