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How Big Data Is Affecting Medical Judgment

Thu, 07/18/2013 - 10:44am
Wes Fisher, M.D.

Decisions in medicine are supposed to rest on concrete observations and hard evidence.

Often, hard evidence does not exist or when it does, it isn’t used.  Why is this?

Concrete observations, too, are increasingly missed as we stare at computer screens longer and patients less.  Yet we persist. Why?

This is our reality now, our evolving medical world.

But if we stop and think about it, medicine, by definition, is a world of technological faults, systemic frailties, and human inadequacies.  We are convinced we know how a patient dies, for instance, thanks to the wonders of unprecedented imaging capabilities but stand slack jawed when an all-too-underperformed autopsy discloses a surprise cause of death that was completely missed by all.

And our answer to these inadequacies?  Stop doing autopsies.  Even though autopsies have consistently shown that one in four deaths occurs from an unexpected outcome or complication of care.

Why did we stop doing them?  Let me count the reasons: we are human, you see.

History repeats.

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