Evidence-Based Medicine proposes a prescriptive model of physician decision-making in which “best evidence” is used to guide best practice. And yet, proponents of EBM acknowledge that EBM fails to offer a systematic theory of physician decision-making. In this paper, we explore how physicians from the neurology and emergency medicine communities have responded to an evolving body of evidence surrounding the acute treatment of patients with ischemic stroke. Through analysis of this case study, we argue that EBM’s vision of evidence-based medical decision-making fails to appreciate a process that we have termed epistemic evaluation. Namely, physicians are required to interpret and apply any knowledge — even what EBM would term “best evidence” — in light of their own knowledge, background and experience. This is consequential for EBM as understanding what physicians do and why they do it would appear to be essential to achieving optimal practice in accordance with best evidence.
Health professions education is in constant pursuit of new ways of teaching and assessment in order to improve the training of healthcare professionals. Educators are often challenged with designing, implementing, and evaluating programs in the context of their professional practice, particularly those in response to dynamic and emerging social needs. This article explores the synergies and intersections of two approaches -- quality improvement and program evaluation -- and the potential utility of their combinations within our field to design, evaluate, and most importantly, improve educational programming. We argue that the inclusion of established quality improvement frameworks within program evaluation provides a proven mechanism for driving change, can optimize programming within the multi-contextual education systems, and, ultimately, that these two approaches are complementary to one another. These combinations hold great promise for optimizing programming in alignment with social missions, where it has been difficult for institutions worldwide to generate and capture evidence of social accountability.
This paper begs an ontological question about the nature of health and challenges some underpinning assumptions in western healthcare. In its analysis, the structure of health, in its various statuses, is framed as a complex adaptive system made up of dynamically interacting subsystems that include the physiological, psychological, spiritual, social, cultural, and more, realms. Furthermore, openness in complex systems such as health, is necessary for the exchange of energy, information, and resources. Yet, within healthcare much effort is invested in constraining systems’ behaviours, whether they be systems of knowledge, states of health, models of care, and more. This paper draws on the complexity sciences and Levinasian philosophy to explicate the essential role of system openness in individual and population health, and the viability of healthcare systems. It highlights holism to be ‘not whole-ism’, and system openness to be, not just a reality, but a critical feature of viability. Hence requisite openness is advocated as essential to efficacious and ethical healthcare practice and strategy, and vital for good quality health.
Rereading Popper’s “The Logic of scientific discovery”, at his 120th anniversary, brings some thoughts regarding the diagnostic process and decision making in medicine from the viewpoint of the classical scientific method. In recent years physicians are increasingly becoming technical experts who base their decision-making on uniform criteria, guidelines and classifications but unfortunately have moved away from understanding the basic concepts in the philosophy of science. This raises an ethically and philosophically important issue; what does a medical diagnosis mean? Is this an absolute or a relative truth? The implications of this question are enormous in terms of prognosis and treatment. Both patients and physicians should be educated about the nature of the diagnostic process.
Rationale, aims and objectives: The available evidence on the existence and consequences of the use of heuristics in the clinical decision process is very scarce. The purpose of this study is to measure the use of the Representativeness, Availability and Overconfidence heuristics in real conditions with Primary Care physicians in cases of dyspnea and to study the possible correlation with diagnostic error. Methods: A prospective cohort study was carried out in 4 Primary Care centers in which 371 new cases or dyspnea were registered. The use of the three heuristics in the diagnostic process is measured through an operational definition of the same. Subsequently, the statistical correlation with the identified clinical errors is analyzed. Results: In 9.97% of the registered cases a diagnostic error was identified. In 49.59% of the cases, the physicians used the representativeness heuristic in the diagnostic decision process. The availability heuristic was used by 82.38% of the doctors and finally, in more than 50% of the cases the doctors showed excess confidence. None of the heuristics showed a statistically significant correlation with diagnostic error. Conclusion: The three heuristics have been used as mental shortcuts by Primary Care physicians in the clinical decision process in cases of dyspnea, but their influence on the diagnostic error is not significant. New studies based on the proposed methodology will allow confirming both its importance and its association with diagnostic error.
Rationale and Objectives Medical humanities are becoming increasingly popular, required, and recognized as positively impacting medical education and medical practice. However, the extent of medical humanities teaching in medical schools is largely unknown. We aimed to review medical school curricula in Canada, the UK, and the US. Our secondary objective was to compare the inclusion of medical humanities in the curricula with rankings of medical schools. Methods We searched the curriculum websites of all accredited medical schools in Canada, the UK, and the US to check which medical humanities topics were taught, and whether they were mandatory or optional. We then noted rankings both by Times Higher Education and U.S. News and World Report and calculated the average rank. We formally explored whether there was an association between average medical school ranking and medical humanities offerings using Spearman’s correlation and inverse variance weighting meta-analysis. Results We identified 18 accredited medical school programmes in Canada, 41 in the UK, and 156 in the US. Of these, 9 (56%) in Canada, 34 (73%) in the UK and 124 (79%) in the US offered at least one medical humanity that was not ethics. The most common medical humanities were Unspecified Medical Humanities, History, and Literature (Canada), Sociology and Social Medicine, Unspecified Medical Humanities, and Art (UK), and Unspecified Medical Humanities, Literature, and History (US). There was a negative relationship between the ranking of the medical school and whether they offered medical humanities. Conclusions The extent and content of medical humanities offerings at accredited medical schools in Canada, the UK, and the US varies. The quality of our analysis was limited by the data provided on the Universities’ curriculum websites. Given the potential for medical humanities to improve medical education and medical practice, this variation should be investigated further.
Rationale, Aims and Objectives: One of the sectors challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic is medical research. COVID-19 originates from a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the scientific community is faced with the daunting task of creating a novel model for this pandemic or, in other words, creating novel science. This paper aims to explore the intricate relationship between the different challenges that have hindered biomedical research and the generation of scientific knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: During the early stages of the pandemic, research conducted on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was chaotic and sparked several heated debates with respect to the scientific methods used and the quality of knowledge generated. Research on HCQ is used as a case study in this paper. The authors explored biomedical databases, peer-reviewed journals, pre-print servers and media articles to identify relevant literature on HCQ and COVID-19, and examined philosophical perspectives on medical research in the context of this pandemic and previous global health challenges. Results: This paper demonstrates that a lack of prioritization among research questions and therapeutics was responsible for the duplication of clinical trials and the dispersion of precious resources. Study designs, aimed at minimizing biases and increasing objectivity, were, instead, the subject of fruitless oppositions. These two issues combined resulted in the generation of fleeting and inconsistent evidence that complicated the development of public health guidelines. The reporting of scientific findings highlighted the difficulty of finding a balance between accuracy and speed. Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges in terms of (1) finding and prioritizing relevant research questions, (2) choosing study designs that are appropriate for a time of emergency, (3) evaluating evidence for the purpose of making evidence-based decisions and (4) sharing scientific findings with the rest of the scientific community. This paper demonstrates that these challenges have often compounded each other.
Rationale, aims and objectives: Consistent data demonstrates negative psychological effects of caregiving on front-line health professionals. Evidence that psychological resilience factors can help minimise distress and the potential for low-cost interventions have created interest in resilience-based development programmes; yet evidence of perceived value amongst health professionals is lacking. This study explored health professionals’ experiences and perceptions of a novel, resilience-based intervention designed to pro-actively prepare staff for coping with error; to investigate their perceptions of what resilience meant to them, the relevance of the intervention, and impact of participation on ability to cope with error. Method: Semi-structured interviews 4-6 weeks post intervention with 23 randomly selected participants from seven cohorts (midwives, paediatricians, obstetrians/gynaecologists, paramedics) and trainees (physician associates, mammographers, sonographers). Thematic analysis of interview data. Findings: Participants reported various interpretations of, and a shift in perception regarding what the concept of psychological resilience meant to them and their practice. These included for example, resilience as a positive or negative concept and their awareness and response to a range of personal, organisational and system factors influencing personal resilience. They valued the prophylactic, clinically relevant, interactive and applied nature of the intervention; having developed and applied valuable skills beyond the context of involvement in error, noting that individuals needed to be willing to explore their own coping mechanisms and human fallibility to gain maximum benefit. There was also consensus that whilst proactively developing individual level psychological resilience is important, so too is addressing the organisational and system factors that affect staff resilience which are outside individual staff control. Conclusion: Enhancing resilience appears to be considered useful in supporting staff to prepare for coping with error and the wider emotional burden of clinical work, but such interventions require integration into wider system approaches to reduce the burden of clinical work for health professionals.
Background and Aims Current guidance advises that at least 90% of anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions are performed as day case operations. Same-day surgery rates achieved by surgical units have significant clinical and financial implications. The primary aim of this multi-centre study was to determine the rate of admission and causes for admissions in patients undergoing anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Method Patient documentations were studied for those who underwent an elective anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction between January 2015 and April 2019. Contributing factors related to admission length were investigated and included patient age, gender, body mass index (BMI), operating surgeon, operating hospital, American Society of Anaesthesiology (ASA) grade, and position of the patient on the operating list. Both univariate and multivariate analysis was conducted using the STATA/IC 16.1 statistical package. Results The day surgery rate of anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions were 52% (50/95). Patients positioned later on the operating list were more likely to be admitted post-operatively (OR – 4.49; p=0.002; 95% CI – 1.72-11.69) and this was the only factor associated with admission. A large majority of admitted patients (95.6%) were admitted without a clinical cause and were otherwise safe for same-day discharge. Conclusions The day surgery rate for ACL reconstruction remains low, despite an extremely low complication rate. Reconfiguration of the operating lists and positioning anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions earlier in the day will likely increase the same-day discharge rate.
Rationale, Aims and Objectives: Alignment between patients’ treatment choices and treatments received is acknowledged as an important outcome of shared decision-making (SDM), yet recent research suggests that patients’ choices do not always align with their actual treatment trajectories. This paper explores the alignment of patient-expressed treatment choices (for surgery or medical management) after exposure to decision aids and treatments received among patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis within High Value Healthcare Collaborative (HVHC) systems as the collaborative integrating decision aids intended to support SDM into routine clinical practice. Method: This retrospective cohort study examines data from adult (>18 years) patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis who received decision aids as part of orthopedic consultations within HVHC systems between 2012-2015. Multivariate logistic regression explored the association between patient-level characteristics with the odds of treatment choice-receipt alignment. Results: The majority of patients with knee osteoarthritis (68.3%) and hip osteoarthritis (71.9%) received treatments aligned with their choices following exposure to decision aids, but analyses reveal important differences in the odds of such alignment across patient characteristics. In adjusted models, African American patients with knee osteoarthritis had 50% lower odds of receiving treatment aligned with their choices compared with white patients (OR = 0.52, p<0.05). Medicare- or Medicaid-insured knee patients had 49% and 59% lower odds (respectively) of receiving choice-aligned treatments relative to privately insured patients. Patients with knee (OR = 0.40, p<0.01) or hip (OR = 0.75, p<0.05) osteoarthritis at earlier decision-making stages had lower odds of receiving treatments congruent with their choices. Conclusion: This work elucidates the odds of treatment choice-aligned care for patients within health care systems attempting to routinely integrate decision aids to support SDM into clinical practice and underscores the gaps in achieving this alignment among African American patients, those with public insurance and those at early decision-making stages.
Rationale, aims and objectives: People living with dementia admitted to hospitals are more likely to experience poorer outcomes than people without dementia. Caregivers play an important role in managing medications across transitions of care. This qualitative study explores the experiences and perspectives of caregivers about the medication management guidance provided at hospital discharge. Methods: A qualitative approach using semi-structured, telephone interviews was conducted with 31 caregivers of people with dementia across Australia. Purposive sampling was used to ensure maximum variation of diverse experiences and perspectives. Results: Caregivers’ experiences of medication guidance for people with dementia at discharge were described in three themes including: a) inadequate information about medication management at discharge; b) limited caregiver engagement in medication management decisions; and c) difficulties ensuring medication supply post discharge. Most participants indicated they would like to be included in discussions at discharge. However, participation was influenced by caregivers being overwhelmed by discharge processes; proactively seeking information on medication-related harm; and belief in advocacy as part of their caregiver role. Caregivers reported they would like to receive a tailored medication list for people with dementia which included information on medications that may impact on the patient’s cognition, and for hospital staff to communicate with both the community pharmacist and primary care physician, to improve co-ordination post transition. Discussion: In our study of caregivers of people with dementia, we identified key recommendations that could be tested to facilitate regular participation of people living with dementia and their caregiver around medication guidance at discharge.
Rationale Prescribed opioids are major contributors to the current international public health opioid crisis. Such iatrogenic calamities usually result from collective decision failures of healthcare organizations rather than solely of individual organizations or professionals. Findings from a system-wide safety analysis of the iatrogenic opioid crisis that includes roles of pertinent healthcare organizations may help avoid or mitigate similar future tragedies. In this exploratory study, we report on such an analysis. Methods Root cause analysis, incorporating recent suggestions for improvement, was used to retrospectively identify possible causal factors from the literature. Based on their mandated roles and potential influences to prevent or mitigate the iatrogenic crisis, relevant organizations were grouped and stratified from most to least influential. Results The analysis identified a chain of multiple interrelated causal factors within and between organizations. The most influential organizations were: pharmaceutical, political and drug regulatory; next: experts and their related societies, and publications. Less influential: accreditation, professional licensing and regulatory, academic and healthcare funding bodies. Collectively, their views and decisions influenced prescribing practices of frontline healthcare professionals and advocacy groups. Financial associations between pharmaceutical and all other organizations/groups were common. Ultimately, patients were adversely affected. There was a complex association with psychosocial variables. Limitations Our analysis suggests associations not causality. Conclusions The iatrogenic crisis has multiple intricately linked interacting roots. The major catalyst: pervasive pharma-linked financial conflicts of interest (CoIs) involving most of the other healthcare organizations. These extensive financial CoIs were likely triggers for a cascade of erroneous decisions and actions that adversely affected patients. The actions and decisions of pharma ranged from unethical to illegal. The iatrogenic opioid crisis exemplifies widespread “institutional corruption of pharmaceuticals.”
Artificial intelligence and big data are more and more used in medicine, either in prevention, diagnosis or treatment, and are clearly modifying the way medicine is thought and practiced. Some authors argue that the use of artificial intelligence techniques to analyze big data would even constitute a scientific revolution, in medicine as much as in other scientific disciplines. Moreover, artificial intelligence techniques, coupled with mobile health technologies, could furnish a personalized medicine, adapted to the individuality of each patient. In this paper we argue that this conception is largely a myth: what health professionals and patients need is not more data, but data that are critically appraised, especially to avoid bias. The validity of data and the validity of inferences drawn from the data by algorithms are indeed a major epistemic issue, though rarely addressed as such by health professionals or philosophers of medicine. Considering the history of epidemiology, specifically the formation of the concept of bias, we propose three research priorities concerning the use of artificial intelligence and big data in medicine.
ABSTRACT ¬ Rationale, aims and objectives: Physician consultations are a limited resource. Anesthesiologists provide anesthesia during surgery and procedures, prepare patients for surgery in preoperative clinics, and provide postoperative care. This study sought to evaluate current consultation usage patterns, with an aim to determine possible opportunities for efficiency. Method: A retrospective comprehensive population-based cohort study was performed, evaluating all hospitals in the Canadian province of Ontario from 2002-2018. The main outcome measures were American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) classification of the patients, and whether the patients underwent surgery within 3 months following the anesthesia consultation. Results: A cohort of 2,023,499 patients, and a total of 2,920,100 preoperative anesthesia consultations was obtained. The number of consults per year doubled between 2003 (112,983/year) and 2017 (246,427/year). Each year, an average of 19.32% of the consults (range: 17.69-20.49%) were for patients that did not progress to having surgery. Of those that did have surgery following the anesthesia consult, 37.23% were ASA Classification I or II. The most common surgical procedures (percent of total) following anesthesia consult were: Knee implantation of internal device (9.46%), hip implantation of internal device (5.84%), cataract excision (4.09%), repair of muscle of chest/abdomen (3.31%), uterus excision (2.76%), and gallbladder excision (2.67%). Conclusions: This study reveals data on utilization and trends over time of preoperative anesthesia consultations. Potential opportunities for optimization were found, including patients who did not proceed to surgery, and healthier patients undergoing low to moderate risk surgery that may not require consultation.
Motion capture and analysis techniques are emerging in the surgical education and surgical education research literature as viable ways to augment the assessment of technical skills. In particular, these methods provide an opportunity to reveal objective information about the efficiency of surgical procedures, above and beyond the accuracy of procedural outcomes. One assessment that is very prevalent in the literature are counts of the number of movements a surgeon makes in completing a technical performance. In this commentary, the number of movements metric is explored from kinesiology and engineering perspectives; two disciplines that have contributed heavily to the development of rigorous motion analysis methods. Furthermore, the assumption that skill efficiency improves linearly as a learner progresses along the continuum of expertise is challenged. While movement efficiency does certainly improve, this assumption does not necessarily capture the way that learners flexibly prioritize particular aspects of performance in the intermediate stages of skill learning. By way of this commentary, important a priori decisions that should proceed effective motion capture and analysis are highlighted, a call for the standardization of procedures is made, and an opportunity to better understand the way that computerized movement analysis techniques may contribute (or be detrimental) to competency constructs in surgical education and assessment is realized.
Rationale The end of life (EOL) experience in the intensive care unit (ICU) can be psychologically distressing. The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) personalizes the EOL experience by carrying out wishes for dying patients and their families. While the 3WP has been integrated in academic, tertiary care ICUs, implementing this project in a community ICU has yet to be described. Objectives To examine facilitators of, and barriers to, implementing the 3WP in a community ICU from the clinician and key-stakeholder perspective. Methods This mixed-method study evaluated the implementation of the 3WP in a 20-bed community ICU in Southern Ontario, Canada. Patients were considered for the 3WP if they had a high likelihood of imminent death or planned withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy. Quantitative data include patient demographic data and wishes implemented. Following the qualitative descriptive approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with purposively sampled clinicians and key-stakeholders. Data from transcribed interviews were analyzed in triplicate through qualitative content analysis. Results During the 10-month period, 66 of 67 wishes were completed, with a median of 4.5 wishes per patient-family dyad. Interviews with 12 participants indicated that the 3WP personalized and enriched the EOL experience for patients, families and clinicians. Interviewees indicated higher intensity education strategies were needed to enable spread as the project grew. Clinicians described many physical resources for the project but required more non-clinical project support for orientation, continuing education and data collection. Instead, these roles were completed by clinicians with saturated work capacity which may have inhibited the spread of the project. Conclusions In this community hospital, ICU clinicians and key stakeholders reported the 3WP improved EOL care for patients, families, and clinicians. Project implementation in a community ICU requires investigators take into account project characteristics and adapt the intervention to the community hospital context.
The frantic search for a cure or prophylactic treatment of COVID-19 has unfortunately led to a dropping of the guard of many medical specialists resulting in widespread adoption of unproven treatment modalities. The recent article regarding the inconsistent physician attitudes towards hydroxychloroquine paints a depressing picture of the actual practices during the so-called era of evidence-based medicine. On this backdrop, we comment on how Romania (where this survey took place) has imposed some of the most severe lockdown measures in Europe, including the forced hospitalization of all confirmed with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Additionally, a therapeutic guideline was written into law, endorsing concomitant use of several drugs with unproven antiviral efficiency. This unprecedented situation has resulted in the sometimes indiscriminate prescription of off-label drugs, with a non-negligible risk of adverse reactions, especially in fragile patients with coexisting conditions. In light of the experience accrued in a COVID-19 dedicated unit, the authors discuss the importance of avoiding polypharmacy and administering all antiviral drugs within the confines of rigorously conducted clinical trials.
Despite the great promises that artificial intelligence (AI) holds for health care, the uptake of such technologies into medical practice is slow. In this paper, we focus on the epistemological issues arising from the development and implementation of a class of AI for clinical practice, namely clinical decision support systems (CDSS). We will first provide an overview of the epistemic tasks of medical professionals, and then analyse which of these tasks can be supported by CDSS, while also explaining why some of them should remain the territory of human experts. Clinical decision-making involves a reasoning process in which clinicians combine different types of information into a coherent and adequate ‘picture of the patient’ that enables them to draw explainable and justifiable conclusions for which they bear epistemological responsibility. Therefore, we suggest that it is more appropriate to think of a CDSS as clinical reasoning support systems (CRSS). Developing CRSS that support clinicians’ reasoning process therefore requires that: 1) CRSSs are developed on the basis of relevant and well-processed data; and 2) the system facilitates an interaction with the clinician. Therefore, medical experts must collaborate closely with AI experts developing the CRSS. In addition, responsible use of an CRSS requires that the data generated by the CRSS is empirically justified through an empirical link with the individual patient. In practice, this means that the system indicates what factors contributed to arriving at an advice, allowing the user (clinician) to evaluate whether these factors are medically plausible and applicable to the patient. Finally, we defend that proper implementation of CRSS allows combining human and artificial intelligence into hybrid intelligence, were both perform clearly delineated and complementary empirical tasks. Whereas CDRSs can assist with statistical reasoning and finding patterns in complex data, it is the clinicians’ task to interpret, integrate and contextualise.