In our present age, there seems to be more misinformation available than actual medical data. Just doing an internet search on any number of topics can lead to scrolling through pages of false healthcare advice and pitches to buy cures for horrible diseases that the medical community apparently doesn’t know how to treat.

While having all this misinformation in sight, it is much worse when it comes from a doctor or other medical community member. Although some of the information sounds good and right, it probably is not if it is not evidence-based.

How to Keep Practicing Evidence-based Medicine?

  • We don’t need to navigate all of PubMed to know what the evidence shows. Our medical societies do that for us and develop clinical guidelines.
  • We need to keep current on recent healthcare updates. What we learned in our training is evidence-based. Yet, the evidence changes as more research is done. We don’t want to become relics of the past, even if we believe medicine was better in the old days. We need to embrace new evidence as it becomes evident.
  • Don’t give in to patient demands. The COVID pandemic has never shown this to be more apparent. Those treating patients with acute COVID-19 infections have probably all received a request for ivermectin, among other things. We must learn to say no when the requests are unreasonable and may be even harmful.
  • Don’t sell supplements that have no evidence or other non-proven remedies. You’ve simply become a snake-oil salesman. It may be tempting, but we have a duty to our patients.
  • Practice standard of care. You may disagree with what your peers are doing, but if you ever end up in court, you will be judged based on what your peers do: the standard of care. Our peers may not all be right, but we must weigh this against the evidence.
  • If you are an outlier, examine yourself. If you practice medicine completely differently than all the other doctors you know, you may be innovative or practicing non-evidence-based medicine. If you know a better way to do something, educate your peers. Patients will all benefit from this.
  • If you think the evidence is wrong, do something about it. Speak with a medical organization. You can even write a letter to the editor of the publication that published any given study. We need to keep asking questions.
  • Address misinformation when we see it. This may be unpleasant, but we are the experts in the field. Social media is full of verbal attacks on doctors who speak up against misinformation. We may want to avoid this, but nothing changes by being silent. If all of us start addressing misinformation, we may see a change. The problem is that only a handful of doctors address this problem, and the number of people who profit from misinformation is too high. There is power in numbers.
  • Become active in your local community. When people see you as a leader in your field, they will be more likely to listen to you. As doctors, we never have enough time. However, this may save time in the exam room and doesn’t need to be a full-time commitment. Maybe just a lecture every few months to the public will help.

Practitioners of alternative medicine are at war with doctors. Our knowledge threatens their business. No matter what they peddle, they will never win the war because the evidence is on our side. Some alternative therapies may be helpful, but they are not backed by science. As doctors, we must uphold the standard of requiring evidence when patients place their lives in our hands.

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Physician’s Weekly | January 3, 2024