Every so often you have a patient in your practice that you sort of know, but really don’t. You’ve seen the name somewhere, but your mind draws a blank when asked about him. You may even have a vague idea of what he looks like, but if he were to bump into you on the street, you won’t even recognize him, despite the fact that you’ve been inside his heart ...

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A friend of mine, a diabetic who has been pretty passive about his medical care, suddenly learned the importance of patient engagement a few weeks ago when a matter affecting his pocketbook grabbed his attention. A bill arrived from Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) for Emblem Health, a Medigap plan offered to former New York City employees. For years my friend had been taking the drug gemfibrozil that diabetics ...

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He had called the other day to update me up on his condition.  He did not sound upset, but resolute.  "They offered me peritoneal dialysis," he said, "but I decided against it and figured I'd just let nature take its course.  The hospice people are so wonderful -- I've got things all set here at home, but I have two questions.  What should I do about my warfarin?  You know, ...

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The ALS wave has finished sweeping the nation, resulting in a flood of over $100 million raised to fight a devastating disease which is actually quite rare. Now that gallons of ice water have drenched American’s bikinis and trunks, we should be asking ourselves two questions. First, does everyone really understand more about the disease now that the challenge is over? Second, and more importantly, what lessons can we learn ...

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Twenty-five years ago, the New England Journal of Medicine issued a report on a stunning new medical discovery: Aspirin helps prevent heart attacks. Yes, good ol’ aspirin. Known since the time of Hippocrates for its magical abilities to quell fever and pain, it took only 2,000 years for us to understand the science of it well enough to design a ‘sufficiently powered’ double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial on aspirin’s efficacy in preventing heart attacks. The Physicians’ ...

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The dark underbelly of health care is becoming all too visible now. Fresh faces in neatly pressed white coats are in the halls.  Eager.  Enthusiastic.  Clearly very bright.  All hoping for a moment, an experience, an encounter that makes all their hard work worth it.  Surely they'll have one, but not before the thousands of keyboard clicks, the mandatory lectures, rounds and lots of lengthy, lonely call nights. He was a doctor ...

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Searching for health and fitness apps on the iTunes app store turns up approximately 2,200 results. There are calorie counters, activity trackers, heart rate monitors, virtual fitness coaches and every other conceivable permutation. The quantity should grow even larger thanks to Apple’s latest product release, the Apple Watch, a wrist wearable computer that tracks health and fitness information. One question, though: Are the users of these apps any healthier as a ...

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As a recently retired physician, I still maintain an interest in medical research, though I have to ask myself: Why? Surely not just from the point of view of a potential future patient. But not from the point of view of a practicing physician either. Perhaps I keep up just from a lifetime of habit?  Or is there something I miss about my old job? These thoughts came to mind as ...

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Doctors need more quiet time After you've written on a blog for a long time, you begin to ask yourself why.  Oh sure, there are the great opportunities for a single person to make a point, to act as a tiny tugboat trying to push a corporate mothership in a slightly different direction, but you begin to realize that there are very few times that actually ...

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“He’d feel okay about not replacing the pacemaker’s battery when it ran down, he said. But turning it off, he said, would be 'too active.' Later he would tell me that it would have been “like putting a pillow over your father’s head.” These are the words of Katy Butler in her book Knocking on Heaven’s Door – The Path to a Better Way of Death in which she writes about her ...

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