My patient was an elderly farmer with severe vascular disease. He had advanced leg artery narrowing, had survived multiple heart attacks, and was admitted to the hospital after a large stroke. He was incredibly cheerful, vibrant, and optimistic. He had a very large, loving family who took turns attending to him, and encouraging him with each small improvement in his leg and arm strength. They knew his neurological exam better ...

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As physicians, we are trained to look for change. We look for changes in lab findings and change medications, and we ask our patients, “what has changed since I saw you last?” We are always trying to get our patients to change in one way or another. Doctors are hardwired to seek changes that produce a dopamine release in our brains. We love it when patients see an improvement in ...

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Addyi (flibanserin), the drug to increase female libido had a timid entry into the market with very few prescriptions considering the “hype.” Bloomberg Business reported 227 prescriptions in the first month. That’s a pittance considering Valeant paid $1 billion for the drug. I am unlikely to help Valeant recoup their investment, because the more I read about this drug, the worse it looks. Here’s why: It barely works One of the study ...

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Test your medicine knowledge with the MKSAP challenge, in partnership with the American College of Physicians. A 72-year-old man sustains a laceration on his left index finger while preparing chicken. He immediately washes the area and applies neomycin and an occlusive bandage. He changes the bandage and reapplies the medication twice daily. Two days later, he develops itching and redness at the wound site. He has had no ...

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On my medicine sub-internship, I took care of an elderly man who was a retired military surgeon. When he first came into the hospital, mentally altered from an underlying infection, he was irascible and unpleasant towards many staff members, swatting their hands away as they attempted to draw blood for lab tests. As the infection came under control, the shell of rage fell away to a quiet dissatisfaction. The bed was ...

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Consumers spend 16 times as long choosing a computer as they do selecting a health plan for themselves and their family. And it should not be a big surprise. For decades, nearly all insurance companies offered similar choices of in-network physicians and hospitals. And as a result, plans differed only minimally in clinical quality, access and service. And even when clinical outcomes varied, consumers had no easy way to access ...

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asco-logo She had been a patient for several years, and I still remember meeting her that first time: Her breast cancer was stage IV at diagnosis, already established in her bones; she was scared; she was in pain. Surgery was taken off the table, and she was referred for medical therapy. We had discussed prognosis, the incurableness of her cancer, ...

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When I was an intern in medicine, I couldn’t wait to start my role as a radiology resident. Even though I cared for my patients to the best of my ability and studied their diseases, I knew that my time in the department was limited. I wish I could say that I put my whole heart into my work, but with all of the extraneous demands of intern year -- ...

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One of the most notable things so many of last year’s biggest health stories have in common is that they envision an increased role for shared decision-making in primary care. Some patients will want to receive few aggressive interventions at the end of life; others will want more. Some women will be fine with waiting until age 45 or 50 to get their first mammogram; others will still want to start at ...

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Some maladies that attract psychiatric attention are unequivocally brain diseases.  Huntington’s disease.  Brain tumors.  Lead poisoning.  However, these are not psychiatric diseases.  Huntington’s is a genetic abnormality diagnosed and treated by neurologists.  Brain tumors are managed by neurosurgeons and oncologists.  Lead toxicity is treated by internal medicine.  Indeed, a long list of medical and surgical diseases include psychiatric features: stroke, anoxic brain injury, meningitis, lupus, diabetic ketoacidosis, and febrile delirium to name a few.  One important ...

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Over the years, I have heard families bemoan that their relative who was just readmitted to the hospital was sent home too early just a few days ago. Are they right? First, let me say that in some instances they may be correct. It is certainly possible that the hospital, under increased pressure to kick folks out, may have pulled the discharge trigger too soon. The hospital is not always right ...

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The customer is always right, or so the saying goes. If you have ever worked in retail, you may have been frustrated by buyers who ransack neatly folded tables of sweaters and leave them strewn about like tornado wreckage. If you are in the food industry, you may be annoyed by a diner who complains his soup is too cold even as you see steam rising off the bowl. It can sometimes ...

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I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. I never believed a second shot was fired. Nor do I believe that Bill Clinton was stalked on the grassy knoll. So I won’t speculate that Martin Shkreli’s arrest for alleged securities fraud that happened years ago is related to his raising Daraprim’s price by 5,500 percent. Just because something isn’t suspicious doesn’t mean that it isn’t odd. Shkreli is a perfect poster child for rapacious ...

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When I was a new attending, an older man came to see me as a new patient.  He had not seen a doctor in over thirty years and was experiencing worsening chest pain that first occurred when he walked upstairs but had progressed to pain at rest.  An electrocardiogram in the office showed signs of ischemia, and I advised him that I wanted to call an ambulance to take him ...

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A JAMA Surgery Viewpoint recently suggested that because of the findings of a Finnish randomized trial, surgeons now should give patients with appendicitis a choice between an appendectomy or treatment with antibiotics. The paper acknowledged my criticisms of the Finnish study that found that simple appendicitis could be treated successfully with antibiotics in almost 75 percent of patients. I respect the authors of the JAMA Surgery article and am happy they ...

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The best defense is a good offense. This is certainly true when it comes to online reputation and digital presence. Doctors should be using social media and other online platforms strategically.  Health care institutions without a medical professional as a social media strategist are taking a huge gamble. Imagine a politically polarizing communication related to your organization that was not intended to be public, but was leaked and widely circulated on the internet. ...

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"Donald passed away." We had been sitting in the chiefs’ office with a few of the attendings who had all had Donald (name changed to protect privacy) on their service at one time or another. Everybody exhaled a collective sigh, soaking in the sting of the knowledge of Don’s death; then, within a few seconds, everybody had smiles on their faces.  The smiles were born out of a personal experience with him in ...

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burnout Please stop using the word burnout. You are not burned out. You’ve been abused. Let’s get the diagnosis right. We enter medicine as inspired, intelligent, compassionate humanitarians. Soon we’re cynical and exhausted. How did all these totally amazing and high-functioning people get so f'd up so fast? Attention medical students and doctors: It’s not your fault. Burnout is physical and mental collapse caused by overwork. So why ...

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Recently, during a typical day as a developmental pediatrician, I walked down the hall to schedule an ophthalmology appointment for a toddler. As I spoke with the secretary, I saw a thin “new patient” chart on her desk for another patient. I recognized the name at once and was immediately transported back 25 years ago, to when I was a fellow in training at the center and learned a very ...

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Would my white lab coat be better put to use when I carve the Christmas roast than when seeing patients? After all, we know that these coats can be covered with pathogens, including drug-resistant ones, which may be transmitted to patients. They are cleaned infrequently: In a survey of physicians, nearly 58 percent said they laundered their white coats monthly or never. Less than 3 percent washed them daily ...

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