5 ways statistics can fool you-Tips for practicing clinicians

Colin P. West, Denise M. Dupras

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Published literature suggests that many clinicians are not fully equipped to evaluate and apply researchreports for the care of their patients. In this article, we introduce and illustrate five basic statistical conceptsthat can significantly impact the interpretation of the medical literature and its application to thecare of patients, drawing examples from the vaccine literature: (i) consider clinical and statistical significanceseparately, (ii) evaluate absolute risks rather than relative risks, (iii) examine confidence intervalsrather than p values, (iv) use caution when considering isolated significant p values in the setting ofmultiple testing, and (v) keep in mind that statistically nonsignificant results may not exclude clinicallyimportant benefits or harms. These tips may help busy clinicians better interpret the increasinglyoverwhelming amount of medical literature they are faced with in their daily practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1550-1552
Number of pages3
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 15 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Veterinary
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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