Statistics in Medicine

Statistics are used in Medicine in the following:

Vital statistics are records of vital events, such as births and deaths.

1. How vital statistics are determined

2. What they mean

3. How they are used.

Appraising Guidelines

Evaluating Study Protocols and Articles

to evaluate the content of a protocol or article, but they often feel uncomfortable about critiquing the design and statistical methods of a study. No study, however important, will provide valid information about the practice of medicine and future research unless it is properly designed and analyzed. Careful attention to the concepts covered in this text will provide physicians with many of the skills necessary for evaluating the design of studies.

Participating in or Directing Research Projects

Clinicians participating in research will find knowledge about biostatistics and research methods indispensable. Residents in all specialties as well as other health care trainees are expected to show evidence of scholarly activity, and this often takes the form of a research project. The comprehensive coverage of topics in this text should provide most of them with the information they need to be active participants in all aspects of research.

series of articles on study design and statistical methods. Some of the articles have been published in a separate monograph (eg, Bailar and Mosteller, 1992; Greenhalgh, 1997b).

Chapter 13 focuses specifically on how to read the medical literature and provides checklists for flaws in studies and problems in analysis.


Practitioners must understand epidemiologic problems because this information helps them make diagnoses and develop management plans for patients. Epidemiologic data reveal the prevalence of a disease, its variation by season of the year and by geographic location, and its relation to certain risk factors. In addition, epidemiology helps us understand how newly identified viruses and other infectious agents spread. This information helps society make informed decisions about the deployment of health resources, for example, whether a community should begin a surveillance program, whether a screening program is warranted and can be designed to be efficient and effective, and whether community resources should be used for specific health problems. Describing and using data in making decisions are highlighted in Chapters 3 and 12.


Physicians continually evaluate information about drugs and medical instruments and equipment.

Application of statistical methods provides the ability to estimate the average response to treatment, along with the variation in response among patients, and statistical models can be used to identify factors associated with better or poorer response.

This material may be provided by company representatives, sent through the mail, or published in journals. Because of the high cost of developing drugs and medical instruments, companies do all they can to recoup their investments. To sell their products, a company must convince physicians that its products are better than those of its competitors. To make its points, it uses graphs, charts, and the results of studies comparing its products with others on the market.