I’m very pleased that HealthNewsReview.org – and our associated blog – were mentioned in an Institute of Medicine book, “Patients Charting the Course: Citizen Engagement in the Learning Health System.” The book is a summary of a workshop by IOM’s Roundtable on Value & Science-Driven Health Care. Its description:
“As past, current, or future patients, the public should be the health care system’s unwavering focus and serve as change agents in its care. Taking this into account, the quality of health care should be judged not only by whether clinical decisions are informed by the best available scientific evidence, but also by whether care is tailored to a patient’s individual needs and perspectives. However, too often it is provider preference and convenience, rather than those of the patient, that drive what care is delivered. As part of its Learning Health System series of workshops, the Roundtable on Value & Science-Driven Health Care hosted a workshop to assess the prospects for improving health and lowering costs by advancing patient involvement in the elements of a learning health system.”
You can read the book online for free by clicking on the image above or on this link.
Many believe that the single greatest barrier to successful public access to and use of medical information as a core care component is the general lack of reliable information sources in the traditional public media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, radio, and television—all major information
sources for patients) (Schwitzer et al., 2005). Gary Schwitzer, a professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota, publishes www.HealthNewsReview.org, which weekly rates the handling of major health-related news stories. He uses ten criteria to assess the quality of these reports.
Did the news report:
establish the availability of the treatment, test, product or procedure;
avoid disease-related fear mongering;
evaluate the quality of evidence;
quantify potential harm;
establish the true novelty of the treatment, test, product, or procedure;
quantify potential benefits;
rely solely or largely on a press release;
use independent sources and report conflicts of interest; and
compare the new approach with existing alternatives?
Major medical and health reports emerge every day, but few receive passing grades in the Schwitzer reviews. Network television reports are consistently the worst, and the situation is not improving. Many major newspapers and local television stations no longer even have health reporters on their staffs, relying on general beat reporters to cover health.
Campaigns to better educate the public, policy makers, and the media about the importance of evidence are crucial. We should not underestimate the public’s ability to understand and accept evidence. In the 2009 National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) consumer survey, for example, consumers identified comparative effectiveness research as more likely than other healthcare reforms to improve quality of care for breast cancer patients.
Projects such as NBCC’s Project LEAD® (Leadership, Education, and Advocacy Development) training courses are important. Such courses on critically evaluating research and evidence need to be made more broadly available to the general public and journalists. Much work on this front is also being done by others, including Gary Schwitzer with his popular HealthNewsReview blog; the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice’s Center for Medicine and the Media; and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making.