Big data is taking over the world. The information that we can receive from large amounts of data is so much more informative and accurate than what we get from stories. Stories are only interesting if they describe the unusual, the improbable, and the exceptions to the rules. What is missing from the stories, are the endless cases where the rules are followed, and nothing exceptional happens. Medicine is benefiting, and will continue to benefit greatly with the help of big data. Firstly, it creates a situation where there is no longer a such thing as ‘alternative medicine’. If a certain treatment works and is supported by data, it is medicine. If it doesn’t, it is not. It doesn’t matter if the remedy on trial is an ancient eastern herbal tea, an engineered molecule, meditation or neurosurgery. Data will be the ultimate jury to determine if this treatment is beneficial, harmful, neither, or both.
The interpretation of data is more important than the data itself. This is the main point that people seem to forget especially when listening to stories about miracles or wonder treatments. Take this story for example: A person had a number of metastases all over their body that no professional physician knew how to treat, and all of the ‘conventional medicine’ remedies had failed. He was taken to a healer who dealt with energy only, and instructed to fast for a week. After their treatment was complete, he went to get a new CT scan and found that the cancer had completely disappeared. If you told me that story, I would not call you a liar. There is a definite possibility that this can happen. However, what did I learn from the story? Nothing statistically, nothing about the treatment, nothing about clinical recommendations of his disease or anything else not related to the very person in the story. The only thing that can instruct me about how to deal with future patients, would be to look at significant amounts of data that shows us patterns which are helpful to understand how certain treatments or remedies affect us.
Another important point about the interpretation of data is understanding that we do not get clear yes/no answers, and the data does not tell us what to do. Data does however, guide us with evidence and information to help us understand probability and statistics. This is the very pure rationale behind the final recommendations that are given, but those recommendations often must be questioned. The most important question to ask, is ‘how do you know’? Take this pill, it will cure your disease. How do you know? The fact that 60% of people who took the pill had their disease cured does not mean that it will cure me. It means, that there might be a 60% chance that I will be cured. If you told me that I would be cured, you misled me. Endless claims are thrown around with certainty and it is very easy to forget to question where this information came from, but it is too important to forget. How do you know? Ask, and seek the answers!
Anybody can say anything. Many digital platforms, including social media, blogging platforms, as well as personal websites have created a democratization of information. Think about a religion that had sacred texts in a language that only the high priests understood, so they interpret and instructed the masses about the religion, the law, and the practices. One day, a high priest decided to teach the masses the language of the holy text instead of telling them what to do. This creates a situation where everyone can read the text themselves, interpret it, debate it, and understand it as oppose to follow it blindly. Too often however, someone makes a claim, and people will repeat that claim to others in passing conversation, or blindly follow it, or perhaps retweet it without verifying if it’s true or accurate.
Most people today are hungry for information, and if you gave them the choice of being a blind follower or an able reader, they would choose the latter. Luckily for us, the internet has given us the opportunity to have all the information that we want at the tip of our fingers, no matter where we are in the world. Everything is completely accessible, but it’s all thrown into one enormous pool of information and given to us to sort out. The consequences of which are that we have access to everything, but we also have to know how to find and use the information properly. People are also lazy, and putting in the work to find the important information isn’t an easy thing to do. Hopefully I’ve convinced you that it is a worthwhile task however. It’s so important to understand why you are doing something, or why you are taking something, and the fact that all this information is so accessible leaves little reason not to find out. This site is dedicated to provide you with the evidence behind the tests, treatments, remedies or whatever else should be on that list. We do not seek to tell you what to do, rather we seek to help you understand why other people are telling you to do or not do something. With this information you can make the informed decisions that you will be happy with. If you have a treatment/remedy/test that you would like more information on, write it in the comments and we’ll be happy to provide you with that information or write a post about it.