The majority of us reading these words speak english as a primary language. Clearly that statistic is going to be changing in the near future but for the most part, we will be able to communicate clearly and effectively with a common dialect and lexicon of understanding. Underlying this ability to share thoughts and insights will be a new mother-tongue--statistics. We are awash in big data and the ability to measure our health metrics, entertainment preferences, consumer habits, and overall personal and professional outcomes will be unparalleled. Troubling to those of us in the medical space, either as writers, researchers, practitioners, or journalists is the lack of understanding of what these data points reveal.
Not only in the fire-hose 24-hour news cycle but in our individual data collection we have the potential to mislead or misinform. Mobile health and the increasing volume of mhealth products are flooding the market as we count steps, respiration rates, monitor our weight and upload biochemical measures. Telemedicine is around the corner and will require a sentinel of awareness and the ability to distinguish relevance. When we are educated about statistical concepts we own a power to discern between tampered data sets, media hype, and rigor that we can trust. Talithia Williams presents a compelling case for asking questions of our data.
The new breed of high-tech self-monitors (measuring heartrate, sleep, steps per day) might seem targeted at competitive athletes. But Talithia Williams, a statistician, makes a compelling case that all of us should be measuring and recording simple data about our bodies every day — because our own data can reveal much more than even our doctors may know.
Our bodies will become the nerve centers of critical information exchange. Take ownership of your data. You are the expert. You are the authority. Medical doctors are experts on the population NOT the experts of you, at the patient level.
Counting versus understanding...
Susan Etlinger reminds us that "data doesn't create meaning, we do". I observe a parallel evolving understanding of epigenetics and the forces rewriting the interplay of genetics and disease. The importance of context requires multi-modal understanding of the humanities, social sciences, sociology, rhetoric, philosophy, and ethics to create stronger critical thinking that informs our understanding.
Susan continues and states,. "Because after all, if I can spot a problem in an argument, it doesn't much matter whether it's expressed in words or in numbers. And this means teaching ourselves to find those confirmation biases and false correlations and being able to spot a naked emotional appeal from 30 yards, because something that happens after something doesn't mean it happened because of it, necessarily" ..."Romans called this "post hoc ergo propter hoc," after which therefore because of which."
Go create something meaningful!
Thoughtful discussions about content development and outcomes analytics that apply the principles and frameworks of health policy and economics to persistent and perplexing health and health care problems
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In a world of "evidence-based" medicine I am a bigger fan of practice-based evidence.
Remember the quote by Upton Sinclair...
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”