I am beginning to think that we should not see chronic care patients between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It just makes us look bad. Our quality metrics make the last blood pressure and the previous diabetic lab test of the year for each of our patients our final report card. We should quit while we’re ahead, in mid-November. So here we are: The office has Christmas decorations up. There are trays ...

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“Red” McDougall had terrible leg pains soon after going to bed. He did have a bad back, and some mild spinal stenosis, but I hadn’t heard much about that in the past few years. He was dealing with the ache in his legs when he was on his feet too long. A few months ago he saw his vascular surgeon for a routine followup. He’d had a femoral-popliteal bypass to restore ...

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I guess I should take it as a compliment when patients come to see me after visiting a specialist and ask me a bunch of difficult specialty-related questions. “Did you ask the specialist that?” I typically ask, and the answer will be a plain “no.” I’ve seen it in action. Some doctors speak quickly, say a lot, and exude so much authority that it’s hard to stop and question them. There is ...

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“Admission diagnosis: causa socialis” In my training in Sweden, it was not unusual to admit patients to the hospital for social reasons: an elderly person who could no longer manage at home, a person whose social network fell apart, and so on. “Social reasons,” causa socialis, was a legitimate diagnosis (Swedes used more Latin than Americans, at least back then). And it was used with only mild grumbling. There was a clear ...

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Health care is on a different trajectory from most other businesses today. It’s a little hard to understand why. In business, mass market products and services have always competed on price or perceived quality. Think Walmart or Mercedes-Benz, even the Model T Ford. But the real money and the real excitement in business is moving away from price and measurable cookie-cutter quality to the intangibles of authority, influence, and trust. This, ...

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Many patients who end up in Suboxone treatment have chronic pain. They were originally prescribed other opiates and ended up addicted to them. Skeptics argue that is just substituting one opiate for another. But that isn’t quite accurate. More on that in a bit. In my seven years of prescribing Suboxone for opiate addiction, I have often observed how potent a pain reliever this medication is, even in fairly low doses. More ...

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Back when cholesterol target numbers ruled unopposed (before 2013), we all checked fasting lipids every three months. Before 2012, we also checked liver function quarterly in hapless riders on the cholesterol pill merry-go-round. That year the FDA announced there had not been enough reports of statin-induced liver problems to recommend routine monitoring. I have many colleagues who still do this, and who also routinely monitor routine labs quarterly ...

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I don’t know how many times a patient has told me, “I was in therapy once, and it didn’t help.” My response is always: “That’s like saying 'I saw a movie once and I didn’t like it'.” That usually breaks the ice just a little. In primary care, we certainly run into a few patients with chronic mental health problems that could use some long-term, in-depth counseling. But usually, patients in my practice ...

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I learned a new word recently: transdiagnostic, which refers to something that is applicable across a spectrum of conditions. It seems that this is becoming an increasingly popular concept in treating anxiety disorders. No wonder. As I researched this word, I read this:

As of 2013, there are twelve anxiety-disorder diagnoses and over twenty-five subtypes and categories of these disorders, with specific treatments for about half of them. Research has ...

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Today I had a followup appointment with a young adult male with severe intellectual disabilities. He is barely verbal. Several weeks ago his caregiver told me that this young man often pointed to his chest and would say “hurt” or “heart,” they weren’t sure which. He also seemed to have gotten pickier about his food, and would literally pick at the food on his plate as if examining it. His ...

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