t’s been a fascinating week or so listening to everyone weigh in on which response they thought I sent to my patient. The general consensus, unsurprisingly, was that the first was far too cheeky -- not to mention insulting -- to effectively convey the necessary information.  The second, of course, was the one I send every day, day in and day out. Just this once, circumstances conspired to allow me to send ...

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Two patient result letters: Which one did this physician send? Middle-aged lady, twenty pounds overweight.

Doing everything I can, doctor. Everything imaginable. Diet: I eat practically nothing. Exercise: all the time! Weight Watchers doesn’t work. Jenny Craig, South Beach, the Zone; I’ve tried it all. Nothing works. Have to lose weight. Have to lose weight.
Yada, yada, yada. Oh look: A few years back I diagnosed you as hypothyroid and gave you some Synthroid. ...

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I have a patient who is a full blown sufferer of health anxiety. He firmly believes he has full-blown AIDS after a single extramarital sexual contact (non-genital) one month prior with a woman not known to have HIV. (Reality check: The other person didn’t have HIV, the specific contact as described was ridiculously unlikely to have transmitted the virus had it been present, and AIDS takes months to years to develop ...

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“Am I a hypochondriac?” It’s a question I hear with quite some regularity, almost never from people who suffer from bona fide anxiety disorders related to their health. No, the fact that all you have is a simple upper respiratory infection -- the common cold -- instead of a potentially lethal strain of H1N1 avian flu does not qualify. Not when your response to my reassurance is relief. That’s completely appropriate, and ...

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A frustrating patient, and how that affects her physician There’s a patient I don’t like very much. I’ll call her Mrs. X. Mrs. X has definite medical problems, though she doesn’t seem to think so. Her lipids and blood pressure really are much higher than they should be. She could stand to lose a couple of pounds, and she really should be more active. She does not concur. Every time she makes an appointment, ...

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Applying the anti vaccine mentality to car seats What if a big TV station came out with a blockbuster story claiming that infant car seats were implicated in cerebral palsy (CP)? After all, something like 99.7% of babies diagnosed with cerebral palsy had been brought home from the hospital in a car seat. In fact, every single time they went anywhere in a car, they were strapped into them. That’s ...

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I just realized what all these new insurance intermediaries, programs and organizations remind me of: derivatives. And we all remember how well that worked out for stocks a few years back. Let me explain. A few years back, a bunch of Wall Street financiers came up with a bunch of new ways to package various stocks and securities that were intended to be too convoluted for anyone to figure out that they were nothing ...

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I had a silver-and-gold Passover. Hearkening back to the old Girl Scout song I learned from my mother:

Make new friends, but keep the old; One is silver and the other’s gold.
With no space or equipment to have a seder myself, I was nevertheless the lucky recipient of not just one, but two invitations. The gold was thanks to a quarter-century-plus friendship; the silver was from a family we met the week before ...

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Round and round and round we go yet again. The system is broken. Do something. Health care reform! “Pay for performance” morphs into “measure (and pay) for quality.” The big problem is that no one has bothered to actually define the term, maybe because everyone assumes they know what it means -- and that everyone else agrees with them. Wrong. Quality is very much in the eye of the beholder, and ...

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I do not provide health care. What we physicians do is practice medicine, and what we do for patients is called medical care. No one says, “I want some health care.” What they think is, “I don’t feel well. I want to see a doctor.” People get sick and they get hurt. It’s true that many these conditions occur as a result of things they do (smoke, eat junk food, drink too much alcohol, ...

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