I’ll admit it. I’m a medical-TV junkie, addicted to 21st-century doctor and hospital dramas (most of which are now streaming on Netflix and other services). Although some physicians are bothered by sensationalized depictions of their profession, I appreciate these shows for what they deliver: equal parts entertainment and insight. On the one hand, medical dramas are made for our amusement. They’re theatrical escapes from reality, meant to be enjoyed from comforts ...

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The availability of up to the minute information, presented 24/7/365, could assist a democratic society in making the best choices in determining its future. That was the promise of cable news. Unfortunately, cable news has fallen short of its potential and has led to the further polarization of America. More than that, it has changed the way your brain works. Not for the better!

The various cable ...

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There was a time when drug reps fed us lunch and gave us an endless supply of pens, pads, and even umbrellas all emblazoned with their newest drugs. They explained why their drug was better than their competitors’ and what it would offer to our patients. I still have my Zantac umbrella in the trunk of my car for rain emergencies. Although it was somewhat annoying, it did keep us somewhat ...

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Fact-checking has become one of the buzziest buzzwords in journalism. There are more than 100 fact-checking projects around the world. It’s been trotted out to counter alleged “fake” news.  And to monitor the accuracy of political leaders who stretch the boundaries of believability. April 2 has been proclaimed International Fact-Checking Day. Indeed, genuine fact-checking may play an important role in political news coverage. FactCheck.org has been working in this space for 15 years. The ...

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On July 8, 2019, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine wrote a letter to the American Medical Association, asking the organization to create a public campaign to support physician-led care. Noting concerns over the recent media crusade to promote nurse practitioner care to patients, including the American Association of Nurse Practitioners "We Choose NPs" campaign, the letter asks the American Medical Association to combat the ...

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Google that phrase, and you will come up with lots of hits. The following is a partial list of things that have been found to have more germs than a toilet seat: Kitchen cutting boards, sponges and sinks, refrigerators, spatulas, pet food bowls, clean laundry, smartphones, electronic tablets, computer keyboards, carpets, faucet handles, handbags, can openers, ice served in restaurants, menus, reusable shopping bags, TV remotes, ...

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Every week there is another health pronouncement saying what is now good for you and what is going to kill you. Unfortunately, the “what” is often interchangeable -- what was supposed to kill you last week is now suddenly good for you or vice versa. Foods, supplements, and activities, all studied extensively and determined to be either good or bad, then subject to a new study, with the opposite conclusion. How ...

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Spot the word "first" in a headline, and you might assume a major milestone has been reached. Think first person on the moon, first woman on the Supreme Court. But in health care news, things heralded for being first might not amount to a clear advance for patients. Take two recent FDA announcements that made a splash despite weak evidence that they really help people. In March the FDA announced its approval of a “first treatment ...

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Much media attention has been paid to the new guidelines from American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Based on new clinical trial data, ACC/AHA no longer recommends that healthy adults without cardiovascular disease -- emphasis on without cardiovascular disease -- take daily aspirin for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. This change, while significant, is highly nuanced and dependent on ...

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The April 18, 2019 CNN headline was a prime example of clickbait: "Feds charge doctors in 8 states in opioid bust, including ‘Rock Doc’ accused of trading pills for sex." The only problem with this headline? Of the 60 individuals charged, half were not physicians. More importantly, Jeffrey Young, the so-called “Rock Doc” who prescribed nearly 1.5 million pills of opioids and benzos often in exchange for ...

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This notice appeared on a general surgery news website in early February. I don’t know who has been long anticipating this, but I’m pretty sure it’s not people on medical Twitter. My informal, nonscientific Twitter poll garnered 707 votes with 87 percent of those responding saying they would not allow their residents to participate in a reality television show. Many of those who ...

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When I started on my path in medicine, I was an optimistic, wide-eyed, enthusiastic medical student. I had fond memories of rounding on Sundays with my vascular surgeon father as a child, and I remembered the appreciation his patients would express when we would run into them at our local grocery store. My dad never complained about taking call or not having enough time to spend with his patients. The ...

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As all researchers know, science is a grinding parade of failure and dead ends. But as we’ve often written, news release writers sometimes seem hell-bent on making the public believe otherwise. Like expert makeup artists, they can add sparkle to lackluster findings, mask blemishes in study designs, and smooth over unimpressive data. One thing I won’t miss much about my job at HealthNewsReview.org is reading the daily churn of PR ...

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Last summer, I published a post called "Alternative Medicine is Kicking Our Ass." In it, I focused on one particularly slick alt-thyroid site that has done a masterful job of sowing doubt regarding the advice mainstream physicians give to our patients about the thyroid. Not only that, but the site has called into question our competency as doctors, citing "evidence" that supposedly proves (it doesn't) we ...

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A rapidly escalating measles outbreak near Portland, OR has led local health officials to declare a public health emergency, with 44 confirmed cases, almost all in unimmunized children. Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey have been facing a similar crisis over the past few months, with over 200 confirmed cases of the measles tearing through the ultra-orthodox Jewish communities in the area, where individuals ...

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Are you a media whore? Or do you worry you might be labeled one by your colleagues – if not to your face, then behind your back? In the process of delivering hundreds of media engagement workshops, I’ve heard dozens and dozens of you express this fear, using precisely this language. You've made it clear that the mild put-down of "microphone hog" I was familiar with has now been replaced with ...

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An opinion piece published in JAMA suggests the latter: "Protecting the Value of Medical Science in the Age of Social Media and 'Fake News'" The authors argue social media poses a threat to science in several ways:

  • Unfettered publication of unvetted information by sources of unknown reliability.
  • An emerging tactic of decrying disagreeable content as “fake” or part of a “conspiracy.”
  • Opponents of evidence-based research who perpetuate ...

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For several years now, I’ve been the social media curmudgeon in medicine. In a 2011 New York Times op-ed titled “Don’t Quit This Day Job,” I argued that working part-time or leaving medicine goes against our obligation to patients and to the American taxpayers who subsidize graduate medical education to the tune of $15 billion per year. But today, eight years after the passage of the Affordable Care ...

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Effective clickbait doesn’t just happen. It’s carefully crafted. Take this wildly misleading article from CNN: Not exercising worse for your health than smoking, diabetes, and heart disease, study reveals. It’s one example — among many generated daily by various news outlets — of how a mundane observational study can be transformed into viral internet gold. In the days after it was published, this story was liked and shared hundreds ...

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Sanjay Gupta. John Locke. Jill Stein. Charles Krauthammer. What do they all have in common? If you guessed that they are all physicians, then you’re right. Less salient, however, is the fact that all of them pursued passions outside of medicine. (Dr. Gupta is an Emmy Award-winning medical reporter. John Locke was a physician-philosopher. Stein and Krauthammer both made their mark in politics.) In doing so, they avoided an existential trap that ...

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