Thursday, July 7, 2011

Theorizing

The theory that health information technology will contribute to further disparities in health care outcomes remains an interesting one; I’m just not sure we’ll realize the results any time soon. The NYT has an interesting story with a less-interesting anecdote in the middle. Naturally, I’ll focus on the less-interesting anecdote (the story is about genomics and cancer; a Duke lab announced too-good-to-be-true results that turned out to be just that, with fraud discovered…here’s the less-sensational anecdote):
The Duke case came right after two other claims that gave medical researchers pause. Like the Duke case, they used complex analyses to detect patterns of genes or cell proteins. But these were tests that were supposed to find ovarian cancer in patients’ blood. One, OvaSure, was developed by a Yale scientist, Dr. Gil G. Mor, licensed by the university and sold to patients before it was found to be useless.

The other, OvaCheck, was developed by a company, Correlogic, with contributions from scientists from the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration. Major commercial labs licensed it and were about to start using it before two statisticians from M. D. Anderson discovered and publicized its faults.

I realize this is not precisely what the theorizers have in mind when they talk about widening inequality, but it does show that health tests are generally less accurate than you’d think.

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