I recently read the New York Times article on the ridiculous amount that insurance company executives and hospital administrators make. So the reason that American health care is so expensive is not because doctors earn too much, or drug companies charge too much or device manufacturers are making ever more expensive devices with ever expanded indications. Except that it is all of that and more. Hospital administrators and insurance company executives do ...

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When I first learned to take care of patients in the hospital, as a third-year medical student, we used a mnemonic to help us remember what to order when a patient was first admitted. Patients would come in to the hospital from a doctor's office or from the emergency room and the nurses needed a set of orders to know what to do for the patient. The mnemonic we used ...

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vscan-hellimed-eco For about 2 years now a tiny ultrasound machine has been part of my standard physical exam tools as I take care of patients in the hospital and in the outpatient clinic. In November 2011, I first picked up an ultrasound transducer in a continuing medical education course on bedside ultrasound for emergency physicians. I am an internist, not an emergency physician, ...

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In November of last year the American Heart Association released to recommendations on who should be taking statins (drugs like Lipitor/atorvastatin), the most common medicines we use to control cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are associated with higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, and taking statins, which lower cholesterol, can reduce those risks. The drugs have pretty significant side effects, though, and not everyone with high cholesterol or ...

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The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article by David Reuben, MD and Mary Tinetti, MD, both academic gerontologists, about patients who are unable to stay out of the hospital. The two physicians study the problems of old people, and are of the opinion that most of these "hospital dependent" patients are elderly. Certainly some of them are, but in my experience a surprising number are just chronically ill, ...

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My home hospital is small. In a town of just over 20,000 people, this hospital has 25 beds and is designated "critical access" by Medicare because it is felt to be necessary to the health care of the community. Critical access is a designation which was introduced in 1997 when modernization of Medicare payment systems threatened to close a large proportion of hospitals in small communities which were unable to ...

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The other day at an interdisciplinary rounds meeting at the hospital, one of our nurses who is also an emergency medical technician mentioned that in Britain injured patients receive tranexamic acid before arriving at the hospital because it reduces death from bleeding. "What's that?" I said. I kind of barely remembered hearing this medication's name associated with the treatment of a rare disease, but not treatment of trauma. So I was guessing ...

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I have been doing admitting shifts at a large hospital, as hospitalist. It is flu season, so volumes are large. Even people without the flu are sick. It often happens that way. And they are so very sick! The thing about the very sick patients I see is that they are generally what might be called medical "train wrecks." They are very sick because they have had interventions over the years ...

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Recently, I attended a dinner and lecture at the local dining venue where they served huge hunks of prime rib and sauteed snow peas from some far away place where it's spring, and chocolate mousse and wild rice. Global warming increased just slightly due to our excess consumption, but my portion would have been wasted had I stayed home. Beside the food, I was curious to see what the health care ...

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In 1950 Ernst Wynder, MD and colleagues began to produce convincing data that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer. Over the ensuing many years evidence has arisen linking cigarette smoking to many different cancers, chronic lung disease and heart attacks. In 1964 the surgeon general reported that cigarette smoking was the most important risk factor for development of lung cancer and that quitting smoking reduced that risk. Since that time a concerted ...

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David Blumenthal and others recently published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled "Health Care Spending -- A Giant Slain or Sleeping?" In it they look at the ongoing, and rarely discussed, phenomenon of slowing of health care spending, which has persisted over several years. Health care spending grew remarkably after the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960's, resulting in the fact that health care costs ...

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Rural medicine, I guess, can be defined as health care that happens in places that aren't big cities or referral centers. The vast majority of the populated earth's crust that has any health care at all is served by rural practitioners. I have done a little bit of rural medicine in Haiti, in Mexico and now a bit more in South Sudan. I have also worked in a rural health ...

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The American Heart Association, in collaboration with the American College of Cardiology, recently released recommendations that should change the way we prescribe medications called statins, including drugs like Lipitor and Crestor and their generics, atorvastatin and rosuvastatin. The headlines say stuff like, "More Americans may be Eligible to Receive Cholesterol Lowering Drugs!" I am a bit skeptical of news about statin therapy because Lipitor, before it went generic, was responsible for over ...

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A 100-year-old woman is brought to the emergency room by a concerned friend because she can no longer get out of bed to get food or go to the bathroom. Other than being unwashed and a little confused, she is fine. Her electrolytes are pristine, her electrocardiogram the definition of normal, her blood count and chest x-ray perfectly mirror the expected physiology for her age. Even her urinalysis is normal. ...

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I just got an email from a hospital where I sometimes practice with a picture of two aging but clearly active and vital men standing on a beach with the words "free prostate cancer screening" printed below in an attractive font. The hospital is sponsoring the screening, along with the urology clinic affiliated with the hospital. The advertisement gives guidelines for who should avail themselves of this service, including men ...

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I have been doing locum tenens work as a hospitalist for nearly two years. One of my reasons for doing this is that the practice of medicine in the US is very interesting, and by working in very different places I get to see how things work and don't work, and make up cool theories. I have time to read and listen to people and have become curious about several ...

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In October of 2011, I left my job of 17 years, which I loved, mostly, and started a 2 year sabbatical. Since sabbatical implies that there is one year of rest every 7 years, I have built up at least 2 years since finishing medical school in 1986. Nobody in my office or medical community did sabbaticals, but we discussed that it would be a great idea when we first ...

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I have been spending time at an academic medical center lately and I'm noticing some obvious flaws in our method of shaping the doctors of the future. When I went to medical school I was trained by physicians who were eminent in their areas of specialty and also did some research. They taught in classrooms and as attending physicians when we were working on the wards as doctors in training. I ...

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The Food and Drug Administration was created in 1927 in order to carry out the mission of the Food and Drug Act put into effect by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. In the early 1900's and before, medicines killed and maimed people in gruesome ways and adding chemical substances to foods to mask the fact that they were rotten or substandard was felt to need some sort of legal response. The ...

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To resuscitate or not to resuscitate, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to beat the heck out of a person on his or her way out in the hope of saving his or her one precious life, or to allow death to proceed at its own pace with expectation of a peaceful passing. The United States has come a long way in the last 2 decades since 1991 when the ...

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