The first posting on my blog explained why I chose to name it “Auscultation.”  I wrote that I wanted to promote a conversation, and that listening was essential to doing so. I went on to write: “With an obvious nod to my being a cardiologist, I believe auscultation has long been an act that defines us as physicians and connects us in a profound way with our patients. The act of ...

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I spent a couple of hours today discussing a topic that has become increasingly important in the world in which we live, and which would have completely mystified an earlier generation of physicians. The subject was attribution. Simply put, how should one decide which patients “belong” to which doctors? On a more technical level, what algorithms should be employed to connect patients, or episodes of care for those patients, or ...

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There were several news stories recently that reported that Pfizer had abandoned its efforts to have its Lipitor brand of atorvastatin made available over the counter (OTC), without a prescription. I was never a big fan of OTC statins, but I was struck by the reason that Pfizer put out:

The study did not meet its primary objectives of demonstrating patient compliance with the direction to check their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol ...

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shutterstock_228580378 I have written previously about some “aha moments” that I have had as a clinician, when something that I knew was coming seemed to arrive with a thud in my own practice. I had another one of those moments a couple of weeks ago. I was finishing up with a new patient, and had explained to him and his wife my assessment ...

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shutterstock_195635468 I was driving to work the other day, and there was a story on the radio about the Congressional reaction to the latest recommendations for breast cancer screening from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Here’s the background. USPSTF published recommendations in late 2009 for the use of screening mammography in different age groups. For women between 40 and ...

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I had two experiences recently that reminded me that many doctors and nurses remain resistant to measuring and improving how patients experience the care we provide. One was a face-to-face discussion with a senior physician. The other was reading an article by a nurse. Both the doctor and the nurse denounced the growing focus on the patient experience by citing the threat to the quality of care, and I believe ...

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It has been known for a long time that “health care” -- all the stuff that we do, prescribe and provide -- is a minor determinant of how “healthy” any of us is. Overall health, or more technically, the variability in health outcomes, is much more dependent on the combination of genetics, personal behavior (think smoking and seat belts), environmental factors and socioeconomic status than it is on health care. I ...

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A recent piece in the New York Times profiled a young man with a remarkable medical history, and an equally remarkable approach to sharing it. I think it raises some profound issues regarding the self-monitoring movement and the “ownership” of patients’ health information, both of which have the potential to change our traditional practices in a big way. The guy -- Steven Keating -- is not your average Joe. He is a ...

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A few years ago, the United States Navy launched a new recruiting and marketing campaign using the slogan: “America’s Navy: A global force for good.” The line was apparently a flop, and the Navy threw it overboard for “protecting America the world over,” but I liked it. I thought it captured a deep truth about the Navy, which is that it is undoubtedly a global force and that the force exists for ...

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There are plenty of good reasons why thoughtful physicians are often unhappy with the current approach to measuring the quality of care they provide. Some, of course, object to the whole notion of quality measurement, but I believe they are in a shrinking minority clinging to an anachronistic mental model in which each physician defines for himself what constitutes high quality care. I have addressed this previously. But even those, ...

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