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Weather forecast for tonight: dark. George Carlin


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Mea sententia...

Apr 22, 2014

Don't let them Pick(er) on you!

I have a message for my colleagues and co-workers: don’t let them Pick(er) on us.


Categories: Medicine

Apr 15, 2014

Patient education or marketing?

The distinction between marketing and patient education can be very subtle.  Or not.


Categories: Medicine

Apr 08, 2014

In praise of the history

In medical school, I was taught to TAKE a medical history in such as way that I didn’t MAKE a medical history.


Categories: Medicine

Apr 01, 2014

The interview tell

It was the summer before my last year of medical school and I was traveling around the US for family practice residency interviews. My wife and I were staying with some of her college friends while I looked at a program in Denver.


Categories: Medicine

Mar 29, 2014

Two kinds of leadership

Leadership can focus on making sure everyone does their job.  Or leadership can focus on making it easy for everyone to do their job. The former is more common, the latter is more effective.


Categories: Management

Mar 22, 2014

Critical Decisions: a review

I recently finished reading Critical Decisions: How You and Your Doctor Can Make the Right Medical Choices Together by Peter Ubel, MD.  It should be required reading for all the following:  physicians and nurse practitioners, current patients, future patients, potential patients, family and friends of patients, patient advocates, health care policy makers, nurses, leaders and administrators in the medical industry, and anyone who writes or thinks about behavioral economics in health care. If you aren’t in any of those groups, don’t bother reading it.

Categories: Medicine

Mar 15, 2014

If you don't ask, they won't tell

In medicine, unlike much of the world, it is the questions one doesn’t ask that lead to trouble. When taking a medical history, the biggest enemies are time and fear. Time, because there is never enough to ask all the questions, listen carefully to all the answers, and pursue all the possible clues. Fear, because the natural reluctance to ask certain questions is a trap.


Categories: Medicine

Mar 08, 2014

Strep carriers and the slippery slope

I was taught that being an asymptomatic carrier of strep in the throat was not associated with either illness or risk of complications. That’s not always true.


Categories: Medicine

Mar 01, 2014

Teaching to the (medical) test

Teaching to the test is controversial. It helps students pass tests and makes educational programs look successful, but everyone knows it does not guarantee improved education.  It can be beneficial if it helps focus teaching on the core curriculum, and if the results are used to evaluate and improve the teaching process. It can also be abused. In its most extreme form, teaching to the test consists of skipping the educational process entirely and simply providing the correct answers to test questions. There is universal agreement that this is fraudulent. In many cases it is illegal.

Why are we taking this approach to quality improvement in medicine?


Categories: Medicine

Feb 22, 2014

EBM - misunderstood and misused

It is ironic that evidence-based medicine was introduced, not to eliminate variability, but to ensure that variability was both present and appropriate.  The intent was to ensure that physicians varied what they did based on the nuances of the evidence and incorporating patient values and preferences. 


Categories: Medicine

Feb 15, 2014

"They made me do it."

After reading this excellent study in the BMJ showing no benefit and some risk of harm from annual mammographic screening for breast cancer (see also this discussion in the NY Times) I suggested to a local institution that they should reconsider their Pay for Performance (P4P) initiative which penalizes their clinicians (by lowering their pay) if their female patients over 40 do not have regular mammograms. 


Categories: Medicine

Feb 11, 2014

Price, quality, service - and the EHR

Quality in the EHR is a zero-sum game, involving a balancing act among three key but competing needs: scope, resources and usability.


Categories: Medicine

Feb 01, 2014

No regrets.

It seems I come across an article like this at least once a week. There is a sad sameness to these articles: it takes years of sacrifice and lost earning years to become a doctor, after which our lives are stressful, frustratingly full of administrative garbage, and not rewarding in the way we had hoped. We aren’t as independent as we thought we would be, don’t have enough time with patients, don’t get the respect we deserve, and don’t earn enough money.


Categories: Medicine

Jan 29, 2014

Negotiated risk reduction

He had called and asked for medication for his cholesterol because he had been told by his wellness program at work that he needed to be on medication for his cholesterol to prevent a heart attack.  He didn’t understand why he needed to take time off work to come in and discuss the risks, benefits, and options before I would prescribe anything. And he was irritated that his wife was making a big deal about it. 


Categories: Medicine

Jan 22, 2014

What's it all about, doctor?

It’s about the patient. All about the patient. Only about the patient.

“If we are following any mandate from any business, hospital, insurer, electronic health record purveyor, or special interest group that truncates our ability to inform a patient and to offer care “with” them in their splendid variability, we are, in our view, abandoning our oath of practice.”

An awesome article by Drs. McNutt and Hadler. Read the whole thing.


Categories: Medicine

Jan 15, 2014

Ordering x-rays

I just don’t understand the way we order radiologic tests and procedures. 


Categories: Medicine

Jan 08, 2014

The decharger

Doctors often complain that patients indulge in maladaptive magical thinking and talk about how hard it is to get them to face reality. Sometimes, it is easier to join patients in their magical thinking.


Categories: Medicine

Jan 01, 2014

Happy New Year

Three years and 254 posts I started doing this, wondering if I would be able to find things to write about. As it turns out, that was the wrong question. A better question would have been, would I care enough to keep writing. So far, the answer is a resounding yes. My plan for the next year is to keep questioning so I can keep learning and growing. The future has a way of sneaking up on us like a windshield on a bug.

I hope you all have a wonder-full New Year, and that all your answers lead to better questions.



Categories: Administrative

Dec 29, 2013

Letting patients help

Anne came in for her annual health maintenance visit with great news. Her irritable bowel syndrome was no longer a problem. “I hope you aren’t upset with me, but I’m cured.”


Categories: Medicine

Dec 22, 2013

Remembering a motel call

I miss the relative simplicity and patient-centeredness that characterized the early years of my medical career.


Categories: Medicine
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