By Eve Harris
How do you know your doctor is right? Ideally you and your doctor have a relationship based on trust. That is, you believe she knows the best options to recommend to you. You may think your doctor is right, but -- how does your doctor know she's right? We'd like to think physicians are relying on the latest evidence of medical practice. But not all physicians do that.
I recently joined in a robust, four-day discussion designed to address this issue at the 14th Rocky Mountain Workshop on How to Practice Evidence-Based Health Care. Doctors, policy makers and yes, journalists gathered to explore what many patients might have thought they were already getting: evidence-based health care, also called evidence based medicine.
In evidence based medicine, a hierarchy of evidence guides decisions about patient care. But at the same time, evidence based medicine recognizes that evidence alone is not sufficient. That's because treatment options come with risks, and different patients will react differently to different risks. It's not a simple matter of "Drug X" or "Treatment Y" has a five percent higher likelihood of success. If "Treatment Y" involves a risk or side effect a patient finds unacceptable, then this patient's preference is part of the decision process.
Decision makers must always acknowledge these trade offs.