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Latest Posts

A 3-Point Solution To Long Waits At The Doctor’s Office

I have an easy solution to a vexing problem in today’s healthcare crisis. A problem so widespread that it’s worth hundreds of words in the Wall Street Journal: Long wait times at the doctor’s office.

But first, before I give my simple, pragmatic, master-of-the-obvious solution, let me say something truthful: I try. I try really hard — to run on time, that is.

I’ve been there myself — a patient in a gown, in a cold room with only big pharma-sponsored propaganda on the walls to stare at.

At the risk of a sounding like a…blogger, let it be said that practicing quality medicine in the current luxury of technology is much more complicated than it used to be. Such complexity devours our most precious treasure: Time with the patient. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Public Health Should Be Apolitical

You can be for freedom. You can be for smaller government that intrudes less. You can be for lower taxes. You can be for most anything, but if you’re interested in improving the sagging health of American citizens, get on Michael Bloomberg’s wheel.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bar city residents from using food stamps to buy sugary soft drinks. It turns out that last year $135 million in food stamp money was used for the consumption of these obesity-fostering beverages in NYC alone.

Mr Bloomberg is morphing into a real-world public health super star. Previously, he was a pioneer in banning smoking in restaurants and bars. They said it could not be done, or that it wouldn’t work. Well, the naysayers were dead wrong. Now public smoking bans our commonplace and, backed by objective data, are accepted as having prevented thousands of heart attacks. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

When The Body Rights Itself

It’s been a very busy few weeks. Medicine is like that — seldom is “business” steady. Like rainy weeks in the southeast when you think it will never be sunny again, there are weeks when you think everyone’s atria are fibrillating. So there were shocks, and burns, and wires installed. The heart rhythm was rocking, and so were we.

But in all this fury two cases stand out as a reminder that in spite of, not always because of, what we doctors do, the human body can right itself — like it did before their were drugs, procedures, and surgery. (Keep this quiet, though.)

Case 1: A semi-emergent consultation for atrial flutter (AF’s crazy sister) came in. “Something has to be done, Dr. M,” was the message. She was symptomatic and scared (not necessarily in that order), but after a bit of simple doctoring (a pill), the heart rate had slowed and the symptoms abated somewhat. Then after a heavy dose of an AF doctor’s greatest weapon, reassurance and education, we mutually decided on one of my secret treatments for acute AF/AFlutter: A deep breath, a chair, a book, and time. Just in case, though, a cardioversion (shock) was set up for the next morning. I knew that since this was a first episode, that given some time the heart may right itself, without any fury.

Bingo. The text message came the next morning: “Cardioversion cancelled. Patient converted to sinus rhythm right after you saw her yesterday.”  (Grin.) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

The PPACA: Does It Pass The Playground Test?

Could understanding the tacit rules which govern play on a neighborhood playground help us explain why some aspects of implementing healthcare reform are unlikely to succeed? Recent news involving McDonald’s Corporation suggests so.

On the playground, there are some simple precepts — like the fact that older and stronger kids get to make up the game, and the rules. That’s understood and mostly okay. As if these leaders are considered modestly benevolent and the rules are workable, the game is good and all benefit. And all players on the playground know this basic tenet of fairness: That the rules of the game shouldn’t change in the midst of the competition, and, taking it one step further, if the rules have to be changed they weren’t very good in the first place. Soon, if those in power become too controlling, too conflicted, or too self-serving, kids stop showing up, and the games cease.

In enacting this, our government gave us a very complicated game, with oodles of rules. (For the record, the PPACA of 2010 is 475 pages and 393,000 words.) But then, on further consideration of the rules, important players (McDonald’s) decided that they could not play. They were pulling out of the game, and they had many friends (Home Depot, CVS, Staples, etc.) who may not have spoke outwardly, but surely felt the same way. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

In Front Of The Mirror Of Middle Age

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

An intermission, the curtain has closed on youth, but the next act awaits.

Caring for hiccups of the heart, like atrial fibrillation for example, often throws me in front of the mirror, of middle age that is, and sadly the reflections show imperfections. Since I am middle aged myself, there are my own experiences. But everyday at work, on my job site, I see the effects of these same middle-age experiences on the atrium of my patients. The results are often profound. So must be the pressures.

I read a passage in the wee hours of the quiet morning, in the dark, with a flickering book light. It grabbed me. It is from Elisabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, Olive Kitteridge. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Latest Interviews

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

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How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

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Latest Book Reviews

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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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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