One Challenge with Evidence Based Medicine

I’ve often wondered how medical professionals work through all of the different studies which seemingly say the opposite thing. This chart below illustrated the challenge perfectly:

The key question is, “What happens when the evidence says 2 things?

I’ll be interested to hear some doctors perspectives on it. My guess is that when you start to dig into the details of each of these studies and don’t just read the sensationalized headlines that you probably see a lot more consistency than what is represented in the chart above.

I know I’ve seen that when it comes to studies on EHR software. One study will say that an EHR is inefficient and the next study will save millions of dollars for the institution and make them more efficient. Once you get past the headlines of the studies you usually find that the studies don’t conflict. Instead the studies were looking at very specific situations and parameters. So, it’s really important to look past the headlines and know what the study is really saying.

The question I have for doctors is when do they have time to do all of this research to reconcile the differences? They tell me they’re too busy clicking check boxes.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Two phrases have served me well in life:
    1. Consider the source.
    2. Follow the money.

    As the Vox article suggested, and as we know from the mainstream media, don’t believe everything you hear or read, whatever the subject. To gain wisdom, one must sort through a lot of “knowledge”. Don’t take anyone’s advice without question — especially your doctor.

    In the area of public health, the FDA and USDA are certainly spectacularly wrong on many issues. Is the food pyramid better for you or Big Agriculture? Are FDA-approved drugs better for you or for Big Pharma?

    To paraphrase the old Smokey-The-Bear slogan, “Only you can prevent ignorance”.

  • You (or someone else) is mixing up cause and association. Many of these studies may find an association without one causing the other. And some are just plain poorly done studies or poorly written reports of studies that were done and interpreted properly. This is common, especially in the media, who always like to report about things (food, etc.) causing cancer or something else – I assume that is attention-getting so they have more readers.

  • Sandra,
    You’re right in many cases. I’ve seen the correlation without causation being a major problem in so many studies. However, there are cases where 2 studies produce opposite results. What do you do then?

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