How Much of Medical Knowledge is Wrong?

Mike Gillam, 8 April 2015

Associate professor of Stanford and Tufts, Dr. John Ioanaddis, shared his controversial research with The Atlantic in 2010 showing mistakes in traditional healthcare teaching. In his original research he looked at the top 50 most cited, presumably most respected, articles in healthcare and found that 40% of them had their findings changed or overturned completely.

When projecting the error rate to the rest of medical literature, Dr. Ioanaddis estimated that 90% of what was known in healthcare was wrong.

To many, his 2010 announcement seemed bold, yet in the short five years since his article, look at how medicine has changed.

The very pillars of nutritional teaching for decades has been shaken. For any trained clinician, reading the latest healthcare news is an exercise in rediscovering the importance of humility regarding the unknown in medicine and the thought known.

Perhaps even more importantly, this strongly suggests that our design for clinical decision support systems will need to support methods for continual updates to the knowledge base. The knowledge on which we stand is slippery sand and the terrain is changing every day.

What knowledge were you taught about medical care that has since been overturned?

Mike Gillam, MD, FACEP  2015


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