I Wanna Be Literated #267

I Wanna Be Literated #267

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

Random Acts of Medicine: The Hidden Forces That Sway Doctors, Impact Patients, and Shape Our Health
by Anupam B Jena & Chris Worsham

There’s nothing like a good summer book, and there’s no reason why a summer book shouldn’t be fun AND informative. Random Acts of Medicine is one of those rare books because it deals with a pretty complicated topic, but it’s also very accessible. I cannot stress this enough: there are plenty of informative and enlightening books out there, but not all of them are written in a way the general population can absorb. This book has important points to make and wants people to understand them.

Throughout the book, authors Anupam B Jena and Christopher Worsham (both doctors and professionals in their respective fields) conduct “natural” experiments where they compare how specific, sometimes uncontrollable phenomena, can affect our health. For example, how does the birthday of children affect their health, do marathons make a difference to heart attack victims, when doctors are absent do their regular patients do worse, do politics factor into surgery outcome, and many many more. Jena and Worsham carefully walk us through their study, how they conducted it, what factors they had to take into account, what their controls were, what the results are, and most importantly, what the outcome means to our lives. Are there habits we should break? Should different protocols be implemented? It’s all expertly written and endlessly fascinating. One important thing to understand in this book is that Jena and Worsham are trying to make their studies as scientific as possible, and in order to do that they have to translate a bigger question (like “ do smarter doctors do their job better?”) into something they can measure (“does having a degree from a top ranked medical institution mean the hospital the doctors practice in have fewer patient deaths?”). That might not sound sexy, but it’s important to know that science works best when it answers small questions.

One drawback maybe to this book is that sometimes the severity and the significance of their findings might not completely land with some people. For example, in some studies we find that there is an increase of 0.5 % in patient death in a certain hospital when doctors use a certain procedure. That might not sound like much, but when you think about how many people enter that hospital, that might translate to thousands of human beings being affected. Sometimes a change of just a fraction of a percent can have a big impact.

Random Acts of Medicine is written in a way that helps us gain a better understanding of the world around us and gives us the tools to improve our lives. One of the must-read books of the year.

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