I have a new favorite doctor show, “The Knick” on Cinemax, airing on Friday nights.   The show stars Clive Owen as the charismatic cocaine-addicted chief of surgery Dr. John Thackery at a fictitious New York City hospital called The Kickerbocker at a time when surgery was one foot out of the barbershop.  The tagline is, as they say, priceless: “Modern medicine had to start somewhere.” On the third episode, last Friday ...

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Deciphering hospital bills is not for the faint of heartDeciphering hospital bills is not for the faint of heart An excerpt from The Cost of Cutting: A Surgeon Reveals the Truth Behind a Multibillion-Dollar Industry. Deciphering the hieroglyphics of hospital bills, especially when it involves surgery, is not a job for the faint of heart. As Mr. Wilkes discovered when comparing notes with a friend, there’s another puzzle: the huge ...

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Several months ago, a post called, "Everything's my fault: How a surgeon says I'm sorry," appeared here on KevinMD.com. It was written by a plastic surgeon who feels that no matter goes wrong with a patient, surgeons should never blame anyone else. She gave some examples such as the lab losing a specimen, a chest x-ray that was ordered and not done, a patient eating something when he was not to ...

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There are many reasons why the costs of delivering simple, uncomplicated health care in this country keep increasing while quality lags and value fails to keep pace with that of most major industrialized countries. But as a surgeon, I have a one-word answer for all that is wrong with health care: “robots.” Surgical robots, costing an estimated 1.2 to 2.5 million dollars each with matching maintenance fees of $125,000 per year, ...

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In case you haven't noticed, a hot new topic in education is "grit." In order to reduce the long-standing 20% attrition rate of surgical residents, some say we should select applicants who have more grit or conscientiousness. A recent paper in Surgery reported residents who dropped out of programs had decreased levels of grit as measured by a short-form survey. But due to unexpectedly low attrition rates in the surgical programs ...

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Not too long after setting up shop in this town, I shared a tough case with one of my favorite intensivists. (By way of diversion, I'll add there were only two of them at the time, and they were both my favorites. Practical and canny, surgical-patient-wise, they were a pleasure to work with. Over the years we developed great mutual respect and affection; to the extent that caring for critically ill and deeply ...

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A primer on the anesthesia care team modelA guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to KevinMD.com. Daily, and often several times a day, I am asked by patients about my role as a physician anesthesiologist.  Occasionally the answer involves reiterating to patients that an anesthesiologist is a physician.  Once we get into the discussion, patients are also surprised to learn that ...

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She seemed awfully angry and at the very least dubious that I couldn’t do more for her father. After 7 hours of surgery trying to salvage her father’s leg, I tried patiently to explain that this new (third) bypass we had just successfully completed was unlikely to provide her dad with a long-term solution. Ultimately, he would lose the leg, if we were lucky he’d have it for another year ...

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3 ways to master the art of teaming in medicine A guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to KevinMD.com. As a physician anesthesiologist in a community hospital setting for more than 25 years, the quest for mastery keeps my practice from getting stale or boring. I relish the technological innovations in the past decade: the video laryngoscopes and ultrasound-guided nerve blocks that allow my ...

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In another entry for the communication category, here’s a little play I wrote: Scene: Pre-op area.  Patient arrives for surgery exactly at the scheduled start time, that is, 90-minutes late. Anesthesiologist (me): Good morning Mrs. Jones.  I’m Dr. so-and-so.  How are you this morning? Patient: Oh, doctor, I have the most terrible headache.  They told me my surgery was at 11 so here I am at 11, and now they tell me I’m late. Me: ...

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