Medical Monday: Evaluating Medical Reports in the Media

Everyone is interested in medical news. It is inherently sensational. But, it is challenging to report, and even journalists with the best of intentions have a hard time getting it right. 

When an intelligent patient comes to the office and spends 15 minutes with her doctor, and the doctor goes through a detailed explanation, under the best of circumstances, only part of that will be correctly remembered. Here are some links if you are interested in reading more about that : 

How Much Can Patients Learn in a 15-Minute Doctor Visit?

New Prescriptions: How Well Do Patients Remember Important Information?

Long term clinical trials: how much information do participants retain from the informed consent process?

The difficulties are on both sides. Doctors have crammed schedules. They aren't always the best of communicators. Sometimes the doctor and the patient have differing agendas for the visit. And the patients are often distressed about what they hear, which impairs understanding and memory. 

Consider classroom learning. I need to hear things and be thinking about them, take notes, see diagrams about the topic, get handouts, look it over,  and repeat it all before it is really ingrained. This type of thing is also what patients need to understand a topic. They know this and so they head for the internet. That's where it gets exciting. 

Since I am in the process of building a website for patients, I have been researching other doctors' websites. They range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Most of the sites have some useful information. However too many of them contain unfounded claims and conflicts of interest by way of selling unproven remedies. In many cases the remedies involve foods or supplements which in limited lower quality studies, showed promise, but were never followed up or proven. 

I will highlight perhaps the most prominent of these internet doctors, Dr. Mehmet Oz. With the most impeccable of academic credentials, and a media empire to boot, he is under serious fire for making unsubstantiated claims and hawking unproven products. The best documentation of this to date is through Vox Media, what I would call the thinking person's news network. Until I read the series of articles at Vox, I had no idea, since I do not have a TV. Check out this entertaining and informative debate here

Meanwhile, if you would like to read more about how to safely navigate the internet, check a  series of pages on my site, starting HERE.  There are lots of internal links so be prepared to click. I really put my heart into these pages since I believe strongly in freedom of information and the patient empowerment movement. I hope they are beneficial for you.