While many medical professionals spend their days juggling patients and insurance companies (and more!), they are also expected to keep up with the latest research. Research that might save lives and improve quality of lives are obviously important, but what about the integration of new or novel data?
Change in the medical world takes years. Possibly decades. This passage from Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto speaks to the difficulty and delay in adoption of new or novel data derived from research:
Sometimes, though, failures are investigated. We learn better ways of doing things. And then what happens? Well, the findings might turn up in a course or seminar, or they might make it into a professional journal or a textbook. In ideal circumstances, we issue some inch-thick set of guidelines or a declaration of standards. But getting the word out is far from assured, and incorporating the changes often takes years.
One Study in medicine, for example, examined the aftermath of nine different major treatment discoveries such as the finding that the pneumococus vaccine protects not only children but also adults from respiratory infections, one of our most common killers. On average, the study reported, it took doctors SEVENTEEN YEARS to adopt the new treatments for at least half of American patients.
What experts like Dan Boorman have recognized is that the reason for the delay is not usually laziness or unwillingness. The reason is more often that the necessary knowledge has not been translated into a simple, usable, and systematic form. If the only thing people did in aviation was issue dense, pages-long bulletins for every new finding that might affect the safe operation of airplanes – well, it would be like subjecting pilots to the same data deluge of almost 700,000 medical journal articles per year that clinicians must contend with. The information would be unmanageable.
While we cannot deny the importance of medical research, it is just as (maybe even more) important that the information is structured into an actionable architecture for efficient practicality.