During her annual physical exam, one of my patients recently asked me, "Are urgent care centers any good, Dr. P?" She recounted an incident a few months earlier where she awoke with an acute illness and was sick enough that she felt she needed to receive care -- at least some medical attention -- more imminently than she could get from waiting to speak to my office in the morning. She ...

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Consider the messages that tattoos are sending Ink is everywhere these days, and I don’t mean on newspapers or in magazines. Tattoos are far more pervasive than I can ever recall in my fifty years. There was a time, when I was young, that boys were awestruck by the old Navy veterans, whose arms bore anchors, and the Marines with Semper Fi across their battle scarred chests. Occasionally, ...

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Not too long after setting up shop in this town, I shared a tough case with one of my favorite intensivists. (By way of diversion, I'll add there were only two of them at the time, and they were both my favorites. Practical and canny, surgical-patient-wise, they were a pleasure to work with. Over the years we developed great mutual respect and affection; to the extent that caring for critically ill and deeply ...

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Have you ever had a situation where your perception of some event or entity changed dramatically in an instant? I specifically remember an instance of this happening to me while working as a junior medical student in a family practice clinic. It was a typical day and I was doing the typical thing that you’re supposed to do as a medical student -- feign interest in the clinic’s goings on and try ...

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Chest pain and what we can learn from changing flat tires “Daddy, I think we have a flat tire.” I just rolled out of the garage with my 4th grade daughter. It was Tuesday morning. Usual daily routine. Drop her off at school then go to work. A little different today as I was to lead an important meeting. How could she possibly know what a flat tire sounds like? Now? Right now? She’s ...

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You may find this story hard to believe, but it's true. A 75-year-old non-smoking man with no serious medical problems and a relatively low-risk family history (father, a life-long smoker, died of a stroke at age 76) has been undergoing routine physical examinations by his primary care physician in Florida every 6 months for several years. The visits include a full battery of laboratory studies, nearly all of which have been completely ...

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Drop doctorspeak and get real with patients If you’re a doctor, I bet you speak doctorly. You act doctorly. And dress doctorly. And spend your days in clinic with other doctorly doctors. But life is what happens while you’re busy staring at computerized flow sheets, algorithms, and billing codes. Real life happens outside of man-made medical institutions. Patients live in the real world. And I always wanted be a real ...

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When I was a medical student, I worked with an non-government organization (NGO) in Rwanda to provide medical care to women with HIV. Nearly all had witnessed their family members murdered during the genocide, and many became afflicted with HIV as a result of rape. Our initial focus was on getting antiretroviral therapy to these women, but we quickly realized that while it was important for them to have access ...

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In inpatient settings, family physicians frequently care for patients with progressive, incurable conditions that cause severe pain. Interventions aimed at slowing the progress of a disease often add to patients' physical distress; therefore, pharmacologic management of pain is a key component of end-of-life care, as outlined in an article in an issue of American Family Physician. However, as Drs. Timothy Daaleman and Margaret Helton discuss in an accompanying editorial, providing analgesia is ...

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We are at a pivotal moment in health care. It’s changing so rapidly even the people leading the change can barely keep up. One of the biggest paradigm shifts over the last decade is the focus on quality over quantity. Improving the health care experience and patient satisfaction are also being talked about in boardrooms across the country (largely due to the link with reimbursements, but still unthinkable a few ...

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