This is my 12th year as a physician in the United States. I was born in London, grew up in Berkshire, and decided to become a doctor when I was a teenager. I remember being asked what I thought about the National Health Service (or NHS, the UK’s government-run health system) during my medical school interview. That question is almost a rite of passage for anyone applying to medical school in ...

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As an American medical student doing an elective in Thailand, I was initially troubled when I saw how Thai patients were treated. I'm not speaking of the way Thai physicians apply medical science, mind you -- they rely on UpToDate and sundry U.S. guidelines just as we do -- but that was mostly where the similarities ended. Morning rounds with the team of residents (sans attending, but apparently there was one ...

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary has many definitions for the term system, but the most straightforward, and arguably the most applicable to our health care conversation is “a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole.” The common wisdom is that our health care system is broken, and hence, our government is vigorously attempting to fix it for us through legislation, reformation, and transformation. We usually work ourselves into ...

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Most industrialized nations have long supported the idea that access to health care is a fundamental right, and have built centrally planned systems to accomplish that goal. The result has been universal coverage that delivers excellent-quality outcomes at lower costs than the United States. In some countries, such as England and Canada, the government controls both financing and certain aspects of health care delivery, while in others, including Australia, Sweden, and ...

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I am forced to attend one of these mandatory continuing medical education (CME) events. My malpractice insurance provider has a deal with the state medical association. To get lower rates, I have to be a member of the association and every 2 or 3 years attend a risk management training session. I make it on time, despite the traffic. As I walk into the lobby of this rather nice building, looking for ...

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United Healthcare announced that it plans on exiting most of the Obamacare insurance plans by 2017. Not their traditional commercial insurance plans or Medicare supplements, but specifically the insurance plans offered through the state exchanges of Obamacare. Didn’t President Obama tell Americans that if they liked their insurance plan, they would be able to keep it under Obamacare? Actually he did, at least 36 times. So what happened? In ...

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As physicians, we are charged with extending empathy to our patients. In addition to a professional responsibility, empathy is also a mechanism for improving patient care and professional satisfaction. It has been associated with better patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes, fewer medical errors and lawsuits, as well as provider happiness. However, while physicians can be expected to pursue the ideal of empathy towards individual patients, that of empathizing with populations is ...

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The changes to health care -- not just in policy, regulation, and payment but also the tectonic shifts in how we define, evaluate, report and are paid for care -- can make us all feel like we’re on a runaway train. Alongside the runaway train are the significant improvement opportunities in health care we must somehow address -- less variance, improved patient engagement, coordination of care, adherence to evidence, waste reduction ...

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I dialed the number to return the call of the nursing home. The nurse who answered the phone was relieved to hear my voice on the other line: “Dr. Mass, thank God you called back! She has been pacing since she woke up, and she refuses to take her meds. We’ve kept her away from Catherine, so they don’t get into another fistfight. But we can’t handle her here anymore. ...

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My dad was recently diagnosed with cancer. Overnight, he found himself faced with tough care decisions, small insurance crises, and the overwhelming bureaucracy of cancer. He was also about to become tasked with managing a daily care routine far outside the scope of his usual morning ritual. Since his diagnosis, he has returned to the hospital twice with pneumonia. While many cancer patients become prone to bacterial infections due to a ...

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