[IP] Computer Program Could Take Guesswork Out of Medical Treatments
Health Alert from NewsMax.com
WILL YOUR DOCTOR BE REPLACED WITH THIS???
Computer Program Could Take Guesswork Out of Medical Treatments
While the nation's high-tech health-care system costs the U.S. $2 trillion a
year, there is little evidence that many common treatments and procedures
work better than cheaper alternatives.
Dr. David Eddy, a heart surgeon-turned mathematician and health-care
economist, hopes he has a solution to that problem: a computer program that
can gauge the efficacy of treatments for various conditions.
Dr. Eddy and other medical experts believe that doctors often rely on
traditional courses of treatment simply because they are traditional.
Dr. Eddy's research led to the conclusion that doctors "decided whether or
not to put a patient in intensive care or use a combination of drugs based
on their best judgment and on rules and traditions handed down over the
years, as opposed to real scientific proof," according to an extensive
report in Business Week entitled "Medical Guesswork."
Said Dr. Eddy: "I concluded that medicine was making decisions with an
entirely different method from what we would call rational."
The computer program developed over 10 years by Dr. Eddy's team, dubbed
Archimedes, assesses a wide range of factors to come up with treatment
recommendations and cost estimates.
He first applied the program to the treatment of patients who had diabetes
along with other conditions, such as hypertension. The program found that
the conventional approach - keeping blood sugar levels low and consistent to
ward off heart disease - did little to prevent heart attacks and strokes,
while a simple regimen of aspirin and generic drugs including a
cholesterol-lowering statin was far more effective.
Dr. Eddy hopes Archimedes can also prove helpful in determining the best
treatment options for various other conditions.
There is plenty of room for improvement. According to Business Week,
traditional treatments can often be found lacking. For example:
* Evidence shows that back surgery is no more effective at reducing
back pain than time, physical therapy and exercise.
* Although doctors perform 400,000 heart bypass surgeries and 1
million angioplasties each year, data show that treatment with drugs alone
works just as well to extend life and prevent heart attacks.
* There is no evidence that a routinely used test for prostate cancer
improves the likelihood of survival.
* Implanting tubes to drain the fluid in children's ears doesn't
really have the desired long-term effect of improving hearing and language
* Clinical trials found that bone marrow transplants for women with
breast cancer - costing up to $150,000 - don't save lives.
"Our mission is that in 10 years," said Dr. Eddy, "no one will make an
important decision in health care without first asking: 'What does
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