You have probably read that experience makes for better doctors.
And of course this would be true–in the obvious ways, like with the hand-eye coordination required to do complex procedures, or more importantly, with the judgment of when to do them.
There’s no news here: everyone knows you want a doctor that’s been out of training awhile, but not so long that they have become weary, close-minded or physically diminished. Just the right amount of experience please.
But there’s also potential downsides and struggles that come with experience. Tonight I would like to dwell on three ways in which experience is causing me angst.
But first, as background…
It was the very esteemed physician-turned-authors, Dr. Groopman and his wife, Dr. Hartzland, who wrote this thought-provoking WSJ essay–on how hidden influences may sway our medical decisions–that got me thinking about how I have evolved as a doctor. They were writing from the perspective of the patient. But in the exam room, there are two parties: patient and doctor.
# 1) The sobering view that experience brings: Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*
One-third (33.5%) of female heart attack patients receive surgery or angioplasty compared to nearly half (45.6%) of men, and among heart attack patients receiving an intervention such as coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty, women had a 30% higher death rate compared to men, reports HealthGrades.
The findings are based on an analysis of more than 5 million Medicare patient records from 2007 to 2009 and focused on 16 of the most common procedures and diagnoses among women.
The most noticeable disparities were in cardiovascular care. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America, surpassing all forms of cancer combined, the company said in a press release. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*
Over the long weekend I caught up on some reading. One article* stands out. It’s on informed consent, and the stunning disconnect between physicians’ and patients’ understanding of a procedure’s value.
The study, published in the Sept 7th Annals of Internal Medicine, used survey methods to evaluate 153 cardiology patients’ understanding of the potential benefit of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI or angioplasty). The investigators, at Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts, compared patients’ responses to those of cardiologists who obtained consent and who performed the procedure. As outlined in the article’s introduction, PCI reduces heart attacks in patients with acute coronary syndrome — a more unstable situation than is chronic stable angina, in which case PCI relieves pain and improves quality of life but has no benefit in terms of recurrent myocardial infarction (MI) or survival.
The main result was that, after discussing the procedure with a cardiologist and signing the form, 88 percent of the patients, who almost all had chronic stable angina, believed that PCI would reduce their personal risk for having a heart attack. Only 17 percent of the cardiologists, who completed surveys about these particular patients and the potential benefit of PCI for patients facing similar scenarios, indicated that PCI would reduce the likelihood of MI.
This striking difference in patients’ and doctors’ perceptions is all the more significant because 96 percent of the patients “felt that they knew why they might undergo PCI, and more than half stated that they were actively involved in the decision-making.” Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*
I have a friend who had a blocked cardiac artery. A couple of years ago he had angioplasty on it, and his doctor inserted stents. The stents got rid of his chest pain and other symptoms, but didn’t do anything to get at the underlying cause of the blockage, which had to do with an unhappy combination of genetics and a –- perfectly admirable –- taste for rich, fatty foods. Like steak. (More on that in a moment.)
Before having the procedure, his doctors spent a lot of time with him explaining what the surgery would and wouldn’t do. In particular, the doctors explained that the stents would do their job, but he had to do his. He needed to eat better, exercise more, and take his medications. He’s followed most of that advice, and is doing well.
Unfortunately, his experience is not typical. A recently published study found that more than 80 percent of patients who had gotten angioplasty and stents thought they were alone a cure for their problems.
These patients are wrong. So how can it be that they are coming to this strange conclusion? According to some, it’s the doctors’ fault. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*
Peter Lipson reported Monday about new research suggesting that Multiple Sclerosis may be caused by venous blockage. He correctly characterized some of the hype surrounding this story as “irrational exuberance.”
This is a phenomenon all too common in the media – taking the preliminary research of an individual or group (always presented as a maverick) and declaring it a “stunning breakthrough,” combined with the ubiquitous personal anecdote of someone “saved” by the new treatment.
The medical community, meanwhile, responds with appropriate caution and healthy skepticism. Looks interesting – let’s see some more research. There is a reason for such a response from experts – experience. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*