A 92-year-old woman with a history of stroke comes to an emergency department and is found to have fractures of her cervical spine. Neurosurgery sees her but doesn't think she needs surgery. The emergency department physician tries to admit her to the hospital as she has a new functional disability due to the fall but the hospitalist refuses as the patient doesn’t meet criteria for inpatient admission. And there she sits ...

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In medicine today diagnostic testing and advanced imaging is readily available and widely utilized in most every clinical setting.  Many physicians have given up the stethoscope and physical exam in favor of an echocardiogram and a CT scan.  Fear of missing something pervades every emergency department and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary testing costing billions of dollars in healthcare expenditures. Of course, the driving causes of increased testing ...

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Cardiologists are causing patients to get cancer. It’s true. Cardiologists routinely perform angiograms on patients who have no heart disease whatsoever. As shown in this Harvard newsletter, each angiogram exposes the patients to about 7 mSv of radiation. Add in the myocardial perfusion imaging at another 25 mSv of radiation and you have enough radiation to cause cancer in an otherwise healthy individual. And cardiologists routinely subject patients with normal coronary arteries ...

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When, a couple times each year, dozens of our county teenagers train to become EMTs, they know they are taking on a challenging, heavy responsibility. But probably none of them are ready for the kind of horrible death our community experienced a week ago, when a 15-year-old-girl walking home from school in Rockville was struck and killed in a crash involving two cars that news reports say may have been ...

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I wonder, sometimes, are physicians valued professionals, or merely problems to be solved?  Are we skilled clinicians vital to the well-being of our patients?  Or are we merely assetts to be managed?  It occurs to me as I walk around hospitals these days, and see the overgrowth of people with clip-boards, people with undue authority over our lives and practices, people trained in business and management but untrained in either ...

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During my internal medicine rotation, the medical students had the opportunity to attend intern morning report, an interactive teaching session where attending physicians walk the interns through a patient’s story, starting from the moment they hit the door of the emergency room to the final stages of diagnosis and treatment. After discussing the patient’s symptoms, complaints and past medical history, the attendings always ask the group to think carefully about the ...

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A middle-aged obese female with a past medical history of diabetes and congestive heart failure is in cardiac arrest after several hours of immobility on an airplane. What is the cause of her condition?

If this were a USMLE exam, my thoughts would race to Virchow’s triad: stasis, endothelial injury, hypercoagulability. But this wasn’t an exam. This was a few rows behind me on an airplane. I sat only ...

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Recently, another installment was published from the research team of the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment. The major finding -- Medicaid coverage results in a 40% increase in emergency department (ER) use. Many of the health care pundits quickly sifted through the scientific results to support their opinions. You can read some of them here: Sarah Kliff reports the facts: Expanding Medicaid doesn’t reduce ER trips. It increases them. Scott Gottlieb claims that 
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I have noticed over the years that physicians who write about medicine, particularly for the general public, are limited to very specific discussions.  For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to write about the plight of the poor and uninsured.  It is always reasonable to advocate for a single payer system. It is perfectly acceptable to discuss how one downsized in order to make less and "give back" more.  And it ...

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A recent article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine analyzed the revenue increases due to emergency physicians for services delivered to currently uninsured individuals when they begin to receive coverage (via either Medicaid or private plans) under the Affordable Care Act. The authors analyzed payments for outpatient emergency department (ED) visits using the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from 2005-2010. They looked into characteristics of charges and payments for the following groups: ...

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