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Medical Board Exams May Be A Bureaucratic Waste Of Time

Here’s my column in this month’s Emergency Medicine News.

In 1994 I was thrilled to become certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. I had worked very hard. I studied and read, I practiced oral board scenarios and even took an oral board preparatory course. It was, I believed, the pinnacle of my medical education. Indeed, if you counted the ACT, the MCAT, the three part board exams along the way and the in-service exams, it was my ultimate test. The one that I had been striving for throughout my higher education experience.

I am now disappointed to find that my certification was inadequate. In fact, all of us who worked so hard for our ABEM certification find ourselves facing ever more stringent rules to maintain that status. And it isn’t only emergency medicine. All medical specialties are facing the same crunch. Our certifying bodies expect more…and more…and more.

And the attitude is all predicated on the subtle but obvious assumption that those of us in practice are not competent to maintain our own knowledge base. Despite spending decades in education that we are not to be trusted. That we are not interested in learning. That we do not attempt to learn and that our practices are not, in fact, the endless learning experiences they actually are. They assume we need more supervision, despite demonstrating (by our continued practice) that we are willing to do hard work, in hard settings, and do the right thing.

Unfortunately, the rank and file Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at edwinleap.com*

Family Practice, Internal Medicine, and General Practice: What’s The Difference?

I get mail, this from a healthy 20-something reader who’s just moved to a new city:

What’s the difference between doctors listed as Family Practice, Internal Medicine, and General Practice?  Also, what are some things I should consider (that I might not already be considering) when finding a primary care physician?

That’s a bit of a loaded question, not because of any bias of mine (perish the thought!) but because each of those terms is used in different ways, by different people, at different times, for different purposes. So here’s the rundown on each of them in turn.

Family Practice

What it’s supposed to mean: Designates a physician who has completed a three-year postgraduate training program in Family Medicine, trained to provide primary care to patients of all ages, presenting with conditions of any organ system, including care of acute conditions and ongoing management of chronic diseases.

What doctors hope people think it means: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Looking For A Surgeon: Board Certification Is Not The First Thing To Consider

Don’t simply look for a surgeon who is board certified.  Make sure they are trained to do the procedure you are having.  Yes, board certification is important, but the training is more so (in my humble opinion).

If you are having a breast augmentation, you don’t want a board certified maxillofacial surgeon or Ob-Gyn or neurosurgeon.  You want someone trained in plastic surgery.  It is a bonus if they are board certified.  By the same token, if you need brain surgery you don’t want a board certified plastic surgeon you want someone trained in neurosurgery.

This rant was prompted by Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Hot Topic: Certification Of ER Doctors

Texas is at the center of a heated national battle over the training emergency physicians need in order to advertise themselves as “board certified.” Via the Houston Chronicle:

At stake is the welfare of patients requiring immediate medical attention. Leaders of the traditional board say allowing physicians without proper training to advertise themselves as board-certified would mislead the public. Leaders of the alternative board say the proposed rule change will undermine the ability of Texas’ rural hospitals to staff their emergency departments with board-certified ER physicians.

A final verdict may only come, given one board’s already delivered threat, in a court of law.

At stake also are the careers of a lot of practicing Emergency Physicians, many of whom I’m proud to call friends and colleagues. (And it’s not just docs at rural hospitals, they’re in nearly every ED in Texas, and your lesser state).  They practice high quality Emergency Medicine, and I have no qualms about the practice of those who are alternately boarded. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

How An Empowered Patient Finds A New Doctor

What if the average patient (person) knew what healthcare insiders, providers and expert patients know?

Take the process of looking for a new personal physician. Conventional wisdom tells people that when looking for a new physician they need to consider things like specialty, board certification, years in practice, and geographic proximity. Online services like Health Grades allow you to see and compare the satisfaction scores for prospective physician candidates.

But industry insiders know different. Consider those patient satisfaction scores for physicians. In reality, “one can assume that the quality of care is actually worse than surveys of patient satisfaction would seem to show,” according to a 1991 lecture by Avedis Donabedian, M.D.:

“Often patients are, in fact, overly patient; they put up with unnecessary discomforts and grant their doctors the benefit of every doubt, until deficiencies in care are too manifest to be overlooked.”

Given the constant drumbeat about the lack of care coordination and medical errors, it would seem that some people (patients) are beginning to reach the breaking point alluded to by Dr. Donabedian. The empowered among us are starting to compare physicians (and the hospitals that employ them) to a higher standard – a higher standard that reflects the nature and quality of the medical services physicians actually provide. Empowered patients today are “being taught to be less patient, more critical, and more assertive.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

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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