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10 New Year’s Resolutions For Doctors And Patients

#1 Doctor: Resolve to let patients speak without interruption and describe their symptoms.
Patient: Resolve to focus on the problem I am seeing the doctor about and not come with a list of 10 complaints for a 15-minute office visit.

#2 Doctor: Resolve to keep a pleasant tone of voice when answering night and weekend phone calls from the answering service, patients, or nurses.
Patient: Resolve to get my prescriptions filled during office hours, not forget my medications while traveling, and to use night and weekend phone calls for emergencies only.

#3 Doctor: Resolve to exercise a minimum of four times a week for better health.
Patient: Ditto.

#4 Doctor: Resolve to train my staff and model excellent customer service for patients.
Patient: Resolve to understand that getting an instant referral, prescription, note for jury duty, or letter to my insurance company from my doctor is not my God-given right and I will stop [complaining] if it doesn’t happen the day I request it. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Echinacea For Colds: Does It Really Work?

Does echinacea, the popular natural cold remedy, really work?

It depends on what you mean by “work.” Results [recently] reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that echinacea may reduce the length of a week-long cold by 7 to 10 hours and make symptoms a little less onerous. That can’t be characterized as a major effect, so many people may figure that the trouble and expense of echinacea just isn’t worth it (fortunately, side effects from echinacea don’t seem to be much of an issue.)

But others may decide that some benefit is better than none, and these results do fit with others that have left the door slightly ajar for echinacea having some effect as a cold remedy — a modest effect, but an effect, nonetheless.

A summary for patients published by the Annals summed up the situation nicely:

People who take echinacea to treat colds may experience a decrease in the length and severity of their cold symptoms but to such a small degree that they may not care about the difference. Although many studies of echinacea have been performed, researchers still disagree about its benefits in treating the common cold. This study is unlikely to change minds about whether to take this remedy.

Have you tried echinacea as a cold remedy? Has it worked? How do research findings, pro and con, affect your opinion of so-called alternative medicines?

Many of the echinacea studies, especially early on, were sponsored by companies making or selling the product. This study was supported by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

- Peter Wehrwein, Editor, Harvard Health Letter

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Practice Variation: Essential To e-Patient Awareness

This is the first of the follow-up posts I hope to write from participating in the Salzburg Global Seminar titled “The Greatest Untapped Resource in Healthcare? Informing and Involving Patients in Decisions about Their Medical Care.”

One of our purposes on this site is to help people develop e-patient skills, so they can be more effectively engaged in their care. One aspect is shared decision making, which we wrote about in September. A related topic, from August, is understanding the challenges of pathology and diagnosis. Both posts teach about being better informed partners for our healthcare professionals.

I’ve recently learned of an another topic, which I’m sure many of you know: Practice variation. This is a big subject, and I’ll have several posts about it. It’s complex, the evidence about it is overwhelming, and its cost is truly enormous. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Test Results Delivered To Your Cellphone Via A Disposable Test Strip

GENTAG, Inc. has announced a new diagnostic platform which uses near field communication (NFC) technology to transmit test results from a disposable test strip to a patient’s cellphone. Once results have been sent to a phone, they can then be uploaded to internet-connected EMR systems. The company claims their platform can test for pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, pathogens, and a number of different cancers, and monitor glucose, fever, as well as deliver drugs.

From the press release:

GENTAG started with well-established immunoassay technology and made it wireless and compatible with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which enables consumers to use their cell phones as diagnostic tools to instantly test for pathogens, allergens or common medical conditions at any time, no matter where they are.

NFC is currently being integrated into all major cell phone brands, and GENTAG is working with major OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] worldwide to promote the uses of its disposable wireless sensor platform for consumer markets.

Press release: Cell Phones Are Now Personal Diagnostic Tools That Can Monitor Fertility, Pathogens, AIDS, Drugs, and Allergens…

GENTAG products page…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

What Not To Say To A Parent Of A Kid With Diabetes

I didn’t make this video, but the fact that it quotes questions I’ve heard people ask the parents of children with diabetes time and time again makes me smirk. It’s a little bit sassy. And my goodness, did I laugh when I first watched it. The second time I watched it, I paused it to write down my favorite line:

“There are only two things my daughter cannot eat:  Poison, and cookies…made with poison.”

(Note:  If someone can hook me up with this moss that supposedly cures all things that ail ya, let me know. I’d love some in time for the holidays.)

This video was born on Joanne’s Death of a Pancreas site. Thanks for the laughs, Joanne!

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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