In the summer of 2007, then-U.S. Preventive Services Task Force member Russ Harris, MD, MPH approached me about taking on what he suggested would be a fairly quick and straightfoward project: summarizing the small amount of medical literature on the benefits and harms of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test that is commonly used to screen asymptomatic men for prostate cancer. Little did I know that this research and its implications would ...

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The family medicine residency program where I serve as a faculty preceptor "went live" with their new electronic health record. They posted a sign at the front desk that read in part: "Pardon Our Progress," as if we were starting a major construction project -- which in a way, we were. Instead of wading through stacks of unruly paper charts, my colleagues and I logged on to a sleek online portal ...

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Recently, I presented Family Medicine Grand Rounds at Georgetown University School of Medicine on resolving conflicts between screening guidelines. During the question and answer session, Department Chair James Welsh, MD asked how evidence from carefully conducted clinical trials can possibly overcome powerful emotional stories of "saved lives." I answered that evidence-based medicine's supporters must fight anecdotes with anecdotes. For every person who believes his or her life was extended by a ...

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Like many states, Texas is facing a fiscal crisis caused by decreased revenue from the economic recession and skyrocketing health care costs. Even without the expansion of publicly financed health insurance mandated by last year's health reform law, the percentage of the state budget devoted to Medicaid expenses is projected to rise from 28 percent to 46 percent by 2020, even faster if the law withstands current constitutional ...

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Health reform was supposed to have been good news for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Until 2009, this independent panel of federally-appointed experts in primary care and preventive health was not particularly well known, and its evaluations of the effectiveness of clinical preventive services had no binding authority on public or private insurance plans. Within the small circle of physicians and policymakers who were aware of the their ...

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The following deceptive advertisement appeared in my church's bulletin yesterday:

Life Line Screening, the nation's leading provider of preventive health screenings, will offer their affordable, non-invasive, painless health screenings [in the church cafeteria] on April 9th. Five screenings will be offered that scan for potential health problems related to: blocked arteries, which is a leading cause of stroke; abdominal aortic aneurysms, which can lead to a ruptured aorta; hardening of the ...

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One of the ugliest incidents in my career occurred during my faculty development fellowship year, when I spent two days each week seeing patients at several federally qualified community health centers in inner city Washington, DC. Midway through the year, I was transferred from a health center that served an African-American population to one serving a mostly Spanish-speaking clientele. Nearly all of the permanent Read more...

As a family physician, I've found that patients' individual health beliefs often play a big role in important decisions such as starting a new medication or undergoing an invasive test or procedure. Some patients were more willing to endure potentially risky procedures in order to learn their diagnosis quicker, for example, while others preferred "watchful waiting," or monitoring symptoms that were unlikely to be a sign of anything serious. Unfortunately, in ...

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Mr. B, the patient who first stirred my interest in family medicine, was a spry former World War Two fighter pilot who came to the ER complaining of an irregular heart beat. I remember him regaling me with stories about the Battle of Britain while his wife dutifully stood by his side in the chaos of the crowded emergency room at a private hospital affiliated with my medical school. It was ...

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There’s a lot of evidence that to prevent many serious health conditions, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke, making healthy lifestyle changes are just as good, if not better than, taking medications. Lifestyle changes may consist of stopping unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco and excessive alcohol use, or starting healthy behaviors such as moderate daily exercise and eating adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. As anyone who has ever ...

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