Just three weeks earlier, she had noticed something strange about one of her breasts. An irregular shape. Her daughter brought her to the doctor, and soon the patient, I’ll call her Amanda, was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage “to be determined.” In fact, she was now in an oncologist’s office, learning what tests she would receive to determine the extent of her tumor. And sitting between her and the doctor ...

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Ran into a radiology colleague today.  He will retire soon, and was happy to discuss the stress on radiology.  I have observed more interpretation errors (or at least I think I have) over the past five years.  We now strongly stress that the learners review all films and question radiology reads. My friend opined that volume expectations have become unsustainable.  We order too many imaging studies.  When you ask physicians to ramp ...

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Dear future self, Remember that day on surgery you stepped into the OR for the first time? How you had no idea you were supposed to pull your own gloves for the scrub nurse from the supplies cabinet, or that you needed to stand an arm’s length away from the equipment table to avoid breaking sterility? Remember how scared you felt? How clumsy you were when you scrubbed in, in a ...

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Like an anthem, a holy grail, the word appears in every journal, every proposal, and every health strategic plan. “Quality.” We say, read and hear it so often we are developing quality fatigue. Like iterative hackneyed phrases such as “out-of-the-box”, “deep-dive” and perhaps even “personalized medicine,” quality has begun to feel like water torture and risks being deprived of flavor or meaning.  However, do not so fooled or bludgeoned that you lose ...

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I was talking with a few friends not long ago.  Our conversation somehow got to the issue of authority, and what exactly respect for authority looks like.  One of them, trying to make a point, turned to me and asked: "So you surely deal with people who don't listen to what you have to say.  What do you do when your patients don't take the medications you prescribe?" I think he ...

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My longtime patient Brenda let the top of her exam gown drop to her waist, stepped down off the exam table and turned to look at herself in the mirror. As I watched, she cupped her seventy-eight-year-old breasts in her palms and unceremoniously hoisted them up to where they'd probably resided when she was in her twenties. "I'm thinking about having my boobs done," she said. "My girlfriend had hers done, ...

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My most important patient requires my constant diligence. For this reason, I am seldom far away from him. Only a few minutes inattention and there will be problems. I cannot forget my patient; I am trained to attend to him constantly. I am a professional, and my patient is, ultimately, my customer and the customer’s service is paramount, I am told. I am reminded by policies and procedures as well, ...

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When he turned 45, Mitch Alsup bought a red Corvette. Mitch is a quick-talking guy with dirty blonde hair and a short, trim physique. He has a ready smile and is willing to share his story. “As a kid, I use to go down to the Chevrolet dealership and sit in a Corvette,” he recalls. “I wanted one when I turned 18, but I came from a poor family. I had to ...

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Guilt was not a huge part of my vocabulary until I became a mom.  I never felt much guilt about how I spent my time.  Didn’t feel guilty about sleeping in, or working out, or having a girls’ night out.  And so on and so forth. And then I became a mom.  You know, that moment when you get shoved into the most beautiful world; a place more beautiful than you could ...

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In a recent post, I wrote about the iCOMPARE research study that is comparing the effects of increasing medical residents’ consecutive duty hours with observing the currently prescribed limits on their shifts. According to the study protocol, the primary hypothesis of the research addresses the safety of patients: that mortality under ...

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Dr. Brian Goldman, in his blog for CBC radio, wrote about the new article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on the sex ratio after induced abortion in Ontario, (i.e., sex selective abortion). The article in the CMAJ confirms what is no surprise to me as an OB/GYN, that the ratio of male to female births for a third child born to women who emigrated to ...

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Test your medicine knowledge with the MKSAP challenge, in partnership with the American College of Physicians. A 50-year-old man is evaluated for a 1-year history of increasing urinary frequency and urgency and occasional urge incontinence. He has no symptoms of urinary hesitancy or incomplete emptying. The patient has primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Medications are dalfampridine and vitamin D. On physical evaluation, temperature is 36.8 °C (98.2 °F), blood pressure ...

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I start this article with a disclaimer: I am not here to comment on the decreasing salaries of physicians or the knowledge that I will never get paid the way the prior generation of doctors got paid. It is hard for me (and the American public) to feel bad for anybody making more than $200,000 a year when the median household income is in the mid-$40,000 range. What this article is ...

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Of course, patients are entitled to medical care around the clock.  You would not expect to show up at 2 a.m. at an emergency room to find a "closed" sign.  If you are having chest pain on a weekend, and you call your doctor’s office, you should expect a prompt response from a living and breathing medical doctor.  Patients are aware that when they call the doctor at night, that ...

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I have a lot of ER stories that involve drug addiction and drug seeking behavior. I knew a patient who intentionally dislocated his shoulder three times in one day to receive pain medication. Another had a friend who stole an entire dirty needle box in order to rummage through it for injectable drugs. I have been told by patients that pain pills were eaten by dogs, stolen by neighbors, lost in ...

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When was the last time you used heroin?  In the past have you injected heroin or any other drugs?  Are you currently using drugs besides opiates like methamphetamines, cocaine, benzodiazepines or alcohol? After two years of family medicine residency, I ask these questions like they are questions that everyone asks in a casual conversation with a patient.  Although these types of interviews are customary for me, I recognize that it takes ...

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asco-logo I was at a meeting in 2014, called the REV Forum; its objective was to rethink cancer care delivery by gathering patients, advocates, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs. Even now I am struck by some of the things I learned that day. One that stays in mind is when a woman who looked like she was in her ...

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For decades and decades we have been counting the number of doctors in America. For decades and decades we have been coming up short compared to other developed nations, and some less developed ones as well. A poorly educated person may be tempted to suggest that we should “make” more doctors. After all, there is hardly a shortage of young people willing and able to undergo the rigors ...

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The practice of medicine has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades, with many of the changes unfortunately not so good for patients. It’s a well-known feeling among health care professionals, that among all the new elements of bureaucracy and information technology requirements and mandates, the one person who is often completely forgotten about is the patient. As someone who has worked up and down the east coast in ...

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ZDoggMD nails it again.  See what Doc Vader thinks about patient satisfaction.

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