Mind-map of Edward Tufte's Beautiful Evidence

Wrestling with Personalized Obesity Medicine

Participating in Obesity Medicine 2015 is an experience like no other because it’s an intense exposure to hundreds of folks who devote their professional lives to wrestling with personalized obesity medicine. The members of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) at this meeting are at the front lines of translating a finite evidence base into clinical practices that can meet the needs of a very diverse population of people with obesity.

The heart of this problem came into sharp focus with a discussion between ASBP President Eric Westman and Professor Richard Feinman about the limits of evidence-based medicine. Feinman summed up his view of things by saying that in the present context “evidence-based medicine is a self-serving term and ultimately meaningless.”

“So what” is the average response for the rank and file of this group of front-line clinicians. They have to find the best evidence they can and figure out how to use it to help people whose lives are profoundly affected by obesity. “I don’t know” might be the truth, but “let’s give it a try and we’ll get there one way or the other” is what’s needed.

So evidence-based guidelines are just a starting point.

Accumulating more evidence from randomized controlled trials will no doubt support better clinical decisions and reduce the need for trial and error. Eventually personalized obesity medicine will provide the evidence to drive better individualized clinical decisions.

But for now, it’s more of a wrestling match.

Click here to read more about personalized medicine, here to read more about balancing evidence-based medicine with patient experiences, and here to read more from ConscienHealth on the subject.

Mind-map of Edward Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence, image © Austin Kleon / flickr

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