Our health care system makes no sense. But what if it did? The conversation was almost comical, until I thought more deeply about it later.  Apparently I was on "the list."  Insurers make such lists for customers who are  searching for a doctor who accepts their coverage.  Every so often my name comes up on these lists, and I get a smattering of phone calls from perspective patients. Maybe a few times a ...

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A few months ago I assessed a patient with dementia.  I dutifully ordered the appropriate blood testing and MRI.  As I delved further into the history, I was concerned that there may be a component of depression. Pseudodementia (memory disturbance and dementia like symptoms caused by depression) can often mimic classic Alzheimer’s disease, but resolves with proper treatment.  The best way to differentiate these two syndromes is neuropsychological testing.  I decided to send my patient to a colleague ...

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Check. The administrator's voice wavered as I picked up the phone.  He was calling about the nursing home patient that I admitted the day before.  While normally forthright, I could feel the discomfort in his tone as he danced around the issue.  The patient's insurer had called.  Apparently they made an "arrangement" with the mega-ACO owned by the latest consolidation of Goliath health systems.  They wanted my patient transferred to another ...

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I didn't think much of it at the time. Most physicians can trace back and recall their first patient.  For some, it is a clinical encounter the third or fourth year of medical school.  The more creative may point to their cadaver during first year anatomy and nod knowingly.  My first patient was a mouse.   Or shall I say a group of them? My freshman year of college, I volunteered in ...

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When a doctor cries The calls came simultaneously.  One from the hospital and the other from a nursing home.  Two deaths separated by fractions of a second.  My heart swelled.  For a moment.  The pile of papers on the desk softly whispered.  My mobile howled jealously vying for my fragile attention.   I could feel the emotion drain as I turned back to the task ...

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Cheryl loved to dance.  There wasn't a time in our house when the the kids weren't jumping up and down on the furniture, the radio blasting, and her body swaying in rhythm.  Ironically, we were dancing when it happened.  It was her fortieth birthday.  The kids laughed and clapped as I dipped her dramatically and she sprung back into my arms.  And then she crumpled.  Tony, my youngest, giggled hysterically ...

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Years later, I now wonder if I overstepped my boundaries. Nancy was a pleasure to have as a patient.  A physician assistant in her early twenties, we often chatted amiably during visits.  Our conversations randomly ambled between personal and professional topics.  She recently married and was looking forward to having children.  Her gynecologic history was complicated and after a period of months of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, she visited a ...

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Ruth was problematic.  Well into her seventies, her body may have dulled but her tongue was sharper than ever.  And she used it to lash me with complaint after complaint.  If it wasn't her knees, it was her ankles.  If it wasn't her ankles, it was her hips.  I battled the impossible month after month, year after year.  Our interactions left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Nothing makes a ...

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The e-patient movement represents everything that is positive in medicine today.  This grass roots force has introduced shared decision making and empowered both physician and patient.  The quality of health care dialogue has risen meteorically both in the exam room and out.  Today's health care "consumer" is more engaged, more intelligent, and more agile at wending their way through the confusing maze of sickness and health. It's awfully sad that it ...

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There is much to deplore in our medical system.  Atrocities abound in the dark recesses of hospital wards, the overpacked waiting rooms of outpatient offices, and the algorithmic hum of insurance claim denials.  Yet time and again, the most vile of of insults are hurled at one setting in particular.  I'm talking of the place cursed by emergency room physicians when admitting yet another poor soul with a sacral ulcer, ...

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