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The Drug Information Cascade : Information Schism Between Medical Professionals and the General Public

Patient – Prescriber Network

The World Health Organization has an “Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal” where they have discussed the Drug Information Cascade into the form of an officially published article. In the article, Andrew Herxheimer believes there is a legitimate need to improve the dissemination, spread and flow of information between the patients and medical professionals. In particular, it seems the inflow of information towards medical professionals is distinct and portioned away from the inflow of information for patients and ordinary individuals that receive health care. Medical professionals receive much of their drug information from peer-reviewed journals and scientific publications. This inflow of information is in certain ways very technical, highly critiqued and aimed towards scientists and academics in narrow niches of medical studies. The inflow of information for patients and average individuals receiving healthcare is very different in nature: information arrives verbally from doctors during medical visits or in written form from popular science articles that aim to disseminate scientific information in a fashion that allows the general public to understand. It is this natural division in the inflow of information that impedes new drugs from being popularly used and trusted by the general population.

While medical professionals may understand the drug has many potential benefits, it is harder to disseminate that same information to the general public in a way that allows individuals to feel comfortable enough to trust and adopt the new drug.

This material relates the information covered in class because it involves concepts like (1) the spread of innovation (2) density of clusters and finally (3) information cascades. When a new and effective drug is published in scientific journals, the information can travel quickly through the network of medical professionals. But, when the same information is diluted and refashioned for the general public, the innovation reaches in impediment: in this way, the general public can be viewed as cluster with a density high enough so that the new innovation (effective drug) is unable to impede the barrier. But, if certain individuals take a risk and adopt the drug, then an information cascade may follow where other individuals base their decision on the decisions of a few and also choose to adopt the drug. In this way, the new drug may effectively permeate and spread through the network of individuals within the general population.





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November 2014