Left to our own devices, most of us physicians try our best to provide high-quality care to our patients. But almost none of us provide perfect care to all of our patients all of the time. In fact, many of us get so caught up in our busy clinic schedules we occasionally forget to, say, order mammograms for women overdue for such tests, or we don’t get around to weaning ...

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We have a vaccine crisis in the this country. Not just the one caused by anti-vaxxers like Jenny McCarthy, scaring Americans away from life-saving childhood vaccines with pseudo-scientific claims about autism. Instead, I’m talking about a bigger crisis, one caused by a dangerously thin supply of vaccines. Wise parents who ignore the blatherings of people like McCarthy may soon arrive at their pediatricians’ offices prepared to vaccinate their children, only ...

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I sometimes worry that my wife Paula won’t be able to see me grow old. Not that I expect to outlive her. She is four years my junior and has the blood pressure of a 17-year-old track star. It’s her eyesight I’m worried about, because she is at risk for a form of blindness called macular degeneration. Paula is the youngest in a long line of redheads, several of whom ...

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Prince died of an opioid overdose. A tragic and avoidable fate but, even more tragically, one that is becoming increasingly common in the United States. Some people who overdose live on the edge of society–homeless and with no access to good medical care. Prince, by contrast, had several mansions and a number of physicians actively involved in his care, physicians aware of his problem with opiates. ...

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She drew the life-saving medication into the syringe, just 10 cc of colorless fluid for the everyday low price of, gulp, several hundred dollars. Was that a new chemotherapy, specially designed for her tumor? Was it a “specialty drug,” to treat her multiple sclerosis? Nope. It was insulin, a drug that has been around for decades. The price of many drugs has been on the rise of late, not just new ...

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Sometimes in my research on physician/patient communication, I come across a doctor who is so good with her patients, I have to share their bedside manner with you. The most recent example is a (to remain unnamed) oncologist in the northeastern United States who practically gave a primer on shared decision making when caring for a patient with metastatic cancer. The patient (I’ll call her Jennifer Decker) had stage 4 breast ...

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Aggressive control of blood pressure has saved millions of lives and has prevented millions of people from experiencing heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure, among other things. Admittedly, controlling blood pressure is not the sexy part of medical care, but when primary care doctors like me help people get their blood pressure under control, we do just as much good as any of our colleagues who practice as cardiovascular surgeons. ...

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Just three weeks earlier, she had noticed something strange about one of her breasts. An irregular shape. Her daughter brought her to the doctor, and soon the patient, I’ll call her Amanda, was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage “to be determined.” In fact, she was now in an oncologist’s office, learning what tests she would receive to determine the extent of her tumor. And sitting between her and the doctor ...

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Lena Wright’s best friend was hunched over like a character from a French novel, with spinal bones so thin they would fracture with a fit of sneezing. Determined to avoid that fate, Wright (a pseudonym) asked her primary care doctor to test her for osteoporosis with a DEXA scan, also known as dual energy x-ray absorption. The scan would send two x-ray beams through her bones, one high-energy and the ...

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Health care is often really costly. And with increasing frequency, a significant chunk of those costs is being passed on to patients in the form of high deductibles, copays, or other out-of-pocket expenses. As a result, millions of Americans struggle to pay medical bills each year. What’s a poor patient to do? For starters: They can talk to their doctors about these costs. According to a study my colleagues and ...

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