The New York Times published an article that poses an important question to researchers- Do new medical procedures, products, and drugs work better than the old practices that they commonly replace? It is a similar question that consumers are faced with every time a new version of their favorite cell phone is released- it is new, but is it necessarily better?
A recent study reviewing issues of the The New England Journal of Medicine published from 2001-2010 reports that out of 363 studies examining clinical practice, 146 of the currently used practice was no better, or even worse, than what was previously being used by physicians. According to the online Psychology Dictionary, novelty, is defined as the quality of being new and uncommon, a primary identifying aspect of directing focus. As researchers and consumers in the medical marketplace, are we guilty of being driven by novelty, thus missing the benefits of older, less attractive interventions? On the flip side, are physicians set in their ways because “that’s the way we have always done it.”
The ultimate question challenges those in the medical field to take a hard look at the procedures, drugs, and devices, of yesterday, today and the future, and find evidence to support their use rather than falling back on comfort levels or getting swept up in the novelty of a new, flashy innovation.
Rigorous investigation through clinical research gives evidence to support if something works better, the same, or worse than a similar product or intervention. It allows data to speak for it self to support that a drug or device actually does what the manufacture claims. Dr. William E. Boden, chief of medicine at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, noted in the NY Times article that there will be a bigger push to ensure that there is evidence supporting the use of health care resources and dollars that are being allocated. That evidence comes from the data collected and analyzed in clinical trials. Clinical trials can make definitive statements related to the efficacy and safety of products and allow for evidence based comparisons between similar interventions.
Considering your own healthcare-are you more likely to choose a intervention that a physician has been doing for years and is comfortable with, considering it may not be the most effective or would you consider a novel treatment that does not have the evidence behind it that supports its use over another, comparable option? Do you ask your health care providers about previous clinical trials or evidence of effectiveness of an intervention presented to you? Would data from a clinical trial be helpful in your health care decisions or create confusion? Please share your thoughts here.
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