I'm impressed by how much we struggle with seemingly simple health decisions when faced with sorting through too much information. Buying sunscreen: It's a simple task, right? Most of us do it every year about this time. And among actions we can take to reduce our risk of cancer in general and skin cancer specifically, this choice is fairly important. So my colleague was surprised to hear this snippet of conversation as she contemplated ...

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Media-fueled flip-flops and research breakthroughs on lifestyle and health behaviors are wearing down my usual patience with the provisional nature of science. Even simple dietary recommendations like ...

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I know the ropes at the VA ... I'll pick up the phone in a heartbeat and call my senator and get what I need right away. A lot of guys aren't like that. –Max Gruzen, PTSD patient, Vietnam veteran from the New York Times So this is what it means to be an "engaged" patient in the VA system today. You have to know a senator who will intervene on your ...

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"All patients are alike. This one complains about the same things that the last one did." "Every patient is unique. We can never find a way to make each one of them happy." Remember that 1980s public health paradox: Do you focus on intensive interventions that might produce significant improvements in outcomes for a defined, high-risk group or do you direct energy to system-level changes that may achieve more modest outcomes ...

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Remember in second grade when you realized that you could say the word "giraffe" 25 times and it would lose its meaning, shed the image of that gawky creature and turn into a little pile of meaningless sound? You know, when you had your first insight into the wonders of language? I was reminded of this experience when, at a conference about patient engagement in health care, the word "dignity" was ...

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I heard this on the radio recently: Mom takes her new baby to the emergency department on a weekend because she thinks her daughter might have a urinary tract infection. She's right, but regulations say the baby has to stay in the hospital for two days to ensure the infection clears. Afterwards, the mom is surprised by and concerned about a $7,000 hospital bill for the baby's care. The reporter says ...

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There's a pesky cognitive bias that creates a honking big barrier to patients and families making the most of the health advice and services available to us. It's the tendency of experts to overestimate the knowledge of others. One consequence of expertise -- or even just easy familiarity with a topic or institution or practice -- is the inability to remember not knowing what you now know. Think back to your ...

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It looks like an airport lounge without the rolling suitcases. There are about 20 of us cancer survivor-types fiddling with our phones or reading the newspaper. A few of us are sipping delicious contrast fluid in preparation for a scan, but most of us are waiting to meet with our oncologists for follow-up or monitoring visits. All of us are between the ages of 20 and 70 and all of ...

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Do I value the privacy of my health information? What do you mean? That if I email my doctor about an embarrassing symptom, only my doctor will read it? That only my doctor, my nurse and I have access to the information in my electronic medical record, including notes on our confidential conversations, prescriptions and test results? That my local drug store doesn't sell information about me to pharmaceutical companies? That if I ...

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Twitter -- its functions, benefits, risks and limitations -- has figured prominently in the heated discussion about Emma and Bill Keller's respective editorials in The Guardian (since deleted, though the archived version is still available) and the New York Times about the Twitter feed of Lisa Bonchek Adams. I have followed Lisa for a long time and greatly admire her thoughtful, highly personal tweets about the ups and downs ...

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