The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article by David Reuben, MD and Mary Tinetti, MD, both academic gerontologists, about patients who are unable to stay out of the hospital. The two physicians study the problems of old people, and are of the opinion that most of these "hospital dependent" patients are elderly. Certainly some of them are, but in my experience a surprising number are just chronically ill, ...

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During a recent lunch with my daughter, a senior at the University of Maryland, she shared her frustration with a question she often receives: “So, what are your plans for next year?” She commented that while her life experiences through present day have been memorable, each stage has been predictable. Now, for the first time, she has more questions than answers. This ambivalence -- this fear of what’s ahead -- ...

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The guy was a curmudgeon. That’s all you could say about him. His blood pressure and diabetes were dreadful, and he insisted there wasn’t anything he could do about it. The meds were too expensive; the diet was far too limiting; he had no pleasures in life other than food. He lived alone, hated his job, saw few people, had no friends -- so he told me at every visit. His visits ...

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Hospital-CEO-Pay-Linked-to-Patient-Satisfaction Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) tweeted this slide from a lecture by Harvard’s Ashish K. Jha at this year’s Association for Healthcare Journalist’s Annual Meeting in Denver. The slide shows how CEO incomes are affected by different variables and contains a few interesting tidbits of information. First, hospital CEOs earn around $600,000. Far more than most physicians. Second, hospital CEO salaries are not significantly affected by multiple ...

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The horse that came into my life has made me think about many things from a different perspective. I have learned about the horse’s subtle ways of communicating, her extrasensory (compared to our own) perception, and her instincts of flight. I have also become more aware of the energy I bring to my relationship with her. With no learned tricks or horse management skills, I have established a way of ...

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Traditional psychodynamic therapy is often caricatured as endless, with a complacent therapist silently growing cobwebs, listening to a patient who never plans to leave.  This isn’t completely unfounded: There are therapeutic advantages to losing track of time, “swimming in the material,” and letting one’s therapeutic focus be broad.  The patient’s chief complaint, i.e., the ostensible reason for coming, often gives way to more troubling underlying conflicts and concerns that might never appear in ...

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The discharge process has now been recognized as one of the most crucial points at which the actions of doctors and hospitals can have a huge impact on immediate health outcomes for our patients. At a time when 30-day readmission rates are still touching almost 20% for Medicare patients, there is an increasingly urgent need to focus on this transition of care point. Discharging a patient is, by its very ...

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One of the hardest things about being a surgeon is the inevitability of complications. It's true for any doctor; but with surgery, it's as if they are lit in neon and given a soundtrack. At least to me. Aiming for perfection (as do we all) and beating myself up (more than healthier people) when I miss the mark, I found bad outcomes of nearly any magnitude deeply disturbing. The big ...

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I felt a little sad when I read a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine about the introduction of point-of-care ultrasound in medical education. In it, two cardiologists from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital review the promise and some of the challenges of incorporating hand held ultrasonography into medical education and, more broadly, into medical practice. For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, this is not ...

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asco-logoAs characterized by Dr. Rita Charon in her JAMA article almost 15 years ago, narrative medicine is “the ability to acknowledge, absorb, interpret, and act on the stories and plights of others.” It is the recognition that scientific knowledge alone is not enough -- not enough for our patients, for ourselves, and for society. It stresses the importance of not only hearing what our ...

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