• Not all survival rate studies are bad

    I’ve always been partial to the BMJ’s Christmas issue. Way back in 2007 they published a phenomenal article on medical myths. Then in 2008, they published another on festive medical myths.

    This year, they have another masterpiece. It’s entitled, “The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study.” Here’s the abstract:

    Objective To quantify the consumption of chocolates in a hospital ward environment.

    Design Multicentre, prospective, covert observational study.

    Setting Four wards at three hospitals (where the authors worked) within the United Kingdom.

    Participants Boxes of Quality Street (Nestlé) and Roses (Cadbury) on the ward and anyone eating these chocolates.

    Intervention Observers covertly placed two 350 g boxes of Quality Street and Roses chocolates on each ward (eight boxes were used in the study containing a total of 258 individual chocolates). These boxes were kept under continuous covert surveillance, with the time recorded when each chocolate was eaten.

    Main outcome measure Median survival time of a chocolate.

    Results 191 out of 258 (74%) chocolates were observed being eaten. The mean total observation period was 254 minutes (95% confidence interval 179 to 329). The median survival time of a chocolate was 51 minutes (39 to 63). The model of chocolate consumption was non-linear, with an initial rapid rate of consumption that slowed with time. An exponential decay model best fitted these findings (model R2=0.844, P<0.001), with a survival half life (time taken for 50% of the chocolates to be eaten) of 99 minutes. The mean time taken to open a box of chocolates from first appearance on the ward was 12 minutes (95% confidence interval 0 to 24). Quality Street chocolates survived longer than Roses chocolates (hazard ratio for survival of Roses v Quality Street 0.70, 95% confidence interval 0.53 to 0.93, P=0.014). The highest percentages of chocolates were consumed by healthcare assistants (28%) and nurses (28%), followed by doctors (15%).

    Conclusions From our observational study, chocolate survival in a hospital ward was relatively short, and was modelled well by an exponential decay model. Roses chocolates were preferentially consumed to Quality Street chocolates in a ward setting. Chocolates were consumed primarily by healthcare assistants and nurses, followed by doctors. Further practical studies are needed.

    Go read the whole thing.


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