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Become a Credible Hulk to Make Better Medical Decisions

“‘If a cold is treated energetically it will get well in seven days, while if left to itself it will get well in a week’. Put more cynically, ‘Nature cures, but the doctor takes the fee.’”- Testing Treatments

A ‘Credible Hulk’ is an individual who backs up their rage with facts and documented sources.

As a physical therapist, I don’t expect my residents and colleagues to flip tables and throw waiting room chairs. I do expect everyone to back up opinions with facts and documented sources.

Simply saying “I am entitled to my opinion” is a cop-out. When I hear that phrase, throwing a chair feels desirable.

Healthcare providers are not the only potential Credible Hulks. We can all anchor our beliefs to high-quality research, regardless of our position and field.

The keys are to find the right research and be willing to make adjustments when new research comes to light.

Where to Find Credible Research

The past year has demonstrated a wide spectrum of trust in research and science. Unfortunately, many people distrust credible sources and put their faith in biased opinions with little credibility or conflicts of interest.

How do you know what sources to trust?

The book Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare provides great starting points:

  1. Use reliable sources, such as NHS Choices

  2. Be a healthy skeptic of any information without sources

  3. Look for conflicts of interest (Coca Cola funding research assessing the effects of sugar on obesity)

  4. Don’t be afraid to ask experts hard questions

  5. Seek multiple opinions from credible sources

To best understand treatment options, go to the source, the research. Testing Treatments provides great tips and tricks to digest and understand research studies, regardless of your background.

If you don’t want to read the hard science, that is not a problem. You can go to the experts. Just be careful where you place your trust.

Don’t Blindly Follow the “Experts”

“Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of uncertainty/certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, non absolutely certain.” — Richard Feynman

Often, we put most of our trust in expert opinion, but this leads us down a dangerous path.

Many judgments and biases can lead well-meaning assessments to be incomplete and potentially flat out wrong. Research has the benefit of controlling variables, reducing biases (if the study is well constructed), and objectifying results.

If you are recommended a course of action by a colleague, mentor, or physician, they should be respectfully challenged if the recommendation lacks adequate support in the research.

The “gold standard” or “best practice” of any approach is constantly evolving and at times performing an about-face. All experts should employ the philosophy of ‘strong beliefs, weakly held.’

Having doubt does not mean you have weak convictions and are apprehensive to act, but instead that you are constantly open to new evidence and make decisions based on a strong foundation.

Rather than simply taking something at face value, do a little research yourself to determine the validity and seek the necessary amount of information to make a sound decision.

Becoming a Credible Hulk

The amount of information available today is both exciting and terrifying. At any given moment, with a couple of swipes and clicks, anyone can access a wealth of information on nearly any topic imaginable.

Access to information is a wonderful thing, unfortunately, it has its drawbacks. A primary concern is the credibility of the information.

Source credibility is often considered to be made up of expertise and trustworthiness. Expertise is the extent to which the source is able to give accurate information while trustworthiness reflects the extent that one is willing to provide accurate information.

There are many conditions and ailments that benefit from a healthcare provider’s help, but treatment decisions should be made as a team, based on current evidence, clinician expertise, and patient values.

“The clinician’s expertise lies in diagnosing and identifying treatment options according to clinical priorities; the patient’s role is to identify and communicate their informed values and personal priorities, as shaped by their social circumstances.” — Testing Treatments

As a healthcare provider, I can best draw on my treatment experiences, but being a Credible Hulk has improved my ability to mentor, coach, teach, and manage people. It has helped with my personal growth.

We can all benefit from turning a little green.


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