Much has been made about physicians’ tendencies to interrupt patients. Studies have shown that patients are permitted 12 to 18 seconds of talk time before they are redirected (or interrupted) by their doctor. This leads to patients feeling that the physician didn’t listen or didn’t care. I believe that there is a way to solve the problem without wasting time or being rude. I have used this technique with great ...

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Top stories in health and medicine, November 25, 2014From MedPage Today:

  1. FDA Advisers Tackle Epidural Steroid Shots. An FDA advisory committee is meeting Monday and Tuesday to discuss adverse neurologic effects following the use of epidural steroid injections for pain management.
  2. FDA Stiffens Warning on Power Morcellators. The FDA has warned against using power morcellators during hysterectomy or treatment of ...

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Since the first day of medical school, I was in breathless anticipation of my third year. I came to Harvard with a background in creative writing and the big draw of medicine for me lay in its compendium of human stories. In college, I volunteered at local hospitals where my primary responsibility was to go knock on patients’ doors and keep them company for a little while. This was awesome. Few ...

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What we are trying to do is create a system that gets rid of the human factor. - an internal medicine physician I heard this statement in a patient safety seminar designed for medical residents. I paused, shuddered even, as a resident who writes poems and reads novels in my free time. To my surprise no else blinked an eye. And why should they? The concept that physicians’ humanity and empathy shape health ...

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I have spent many blog hours bemoaning the inadequate communication going on in hospitals today. Thanks to authors of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, I have more objective data for my ranting. A prospective intervention study conducted at 9 academic children’s hospitals (and involving 10,740 patients over 18 months) revealed that requiring resident physicians to adopt a formal handoff process at shift ...

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Last year the New York Times reported that the aviation industry had become so safe that one could fly every day for 123,000 years before dying in an aviation crash. I wish we could say the same for the U.S. health care system. Nationally, problems with health care quality (doing too much, doing the wrong things, and doing too little when indicated) are pretty clear. The bigger problem is that the progress has ...

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In my administrative role, I have the great pleasure of signing thank you letters to patients and family members who have acknowledged the great care they have received by one of our physicians or other caregivers. It is a nice way to tell the patient “we got your note” and to simultaneously recognize the provider by copying her or him. The best part is that I get to read the ...

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Money has always been and will always be a big part of medicine Medicine is not about money, except when it is. When I was in my residency training, pharmaceutical reps still roamed the land. Vast herds of gorgeous young women in tight skirts and stilettos traveled through doctor's offices, clinics, hospitals and residencies all over creation. Their appearance was always a thing of joy, especially for sleepy, hungry physicians-in-training. Someone would run to the ...

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Another day, another pacemaker, at least so it seemed at first. The usual greeting the patient, answering the last questions, consent signing, placement of the IV, EKG leads, prepping of the surgical site and initiation of the preoperative antibiotics were all recent memories.  He laid there, smiling, knowing he'd made the right decision after years of struggling with his arrhythmia in other ways.  His heart was showing signs of slight weakening and ...

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Glory days: Is a golden age of medicine on our doorstep? The practice of medicine is changing faster than anyone can keep pace with. As a hospital physician at a relatively early stage of my career, I’d say that a sizeable number of physicians that I work with are towards the latter end of the spectrum. I find that these doctors, typically over the age of 50, are struggling the most to keep ...

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