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The Rule of Halves

Assume there is a new drug that holds great promise for diabetes treatment.

Consider a group of 100 people who have diabetes:

Of those 100, only half will be diagnosed.

Of that group, only half will receive care from a physician.

Of that group, only half will reach their desired treatment targets.

Of that group, only half will achieve desired outcomes.

Of the 100 diabetic patients, only 6 of them will achieve the desired outcomes.

The Rule of Halves is based on median statistics – in any population, and using any measure, half the population will be on one side of the median, half on the other.

While the rule of halves may be a crude method to estimate the impact of new interventions, it provides context to the difficulties in translating medical research into results at the population level. The rule of halves comments on the inefficiencies within our medical system. How can we encourage more people to seek assistance from a healthcare professional? What measures can we take to deliver more accurate diagnoses? How can we improve access to medicines?  What barriers prevent patients from being compliant with physician instructions?

Not addressing these factors means that only a fraction of the population will benefit from any given medical innovation. Therefore, we must deal with structural issues within the healthcare system in order to improve health outcomes at the population level.

(Written by Aninditee Das / Image Source)

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