I used to get frustrated when patients, typically at the very end of a long visit for some other serious problem, would utter one-liners like “What can I take for headaches?” “How do I know if I have cancer?” or “Why can’t I lose weight?” Now I have a one-liner, of sorts, myself in response to those types of questions. I usually lean back slightly, widen my eyes, nod and say: “Now, ...

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A primary care resident wrote in one of the journals recently about making the limited time she has with each patient matter the most. How refreshing, I thought when she concluded that time ultimately is an absolute and finite resource. We often feel as if we are battling time as much as we are battling disease, and we sometimes have trouble admitting when we are losing either one of those battles. ...

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Health care in the United States is struggling to redefine itself. We have been spending twice what other countries spend on health care, yet our citizens are less healthy. We now have legislation to create more or less universal insurance coverage, and we are about to embark on a technology-driven quest for quality and uniformity. At the same time, Americans are increasingly turning to alternative health care practitioners, mostly at ...

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In family medicine it has been common to keep a “Problem List” in patients’ paper charts. Usually placed on the left hand side, on top of the Medication List, it has given doctors like me an instant thumbnail sketch before considering the specifics of each patient’s visit for that day. A typical Problem List would include diagnoses like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or rheumatoid arthritis. It would list prior surgeries, like ...

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