Cancer is a dreadful disease. Just dreadful. Make no mistake: I have tremendous respect for the awesome doctors who treat patients afflicted with it day after day. Still, paradoxically, I can’t help but notice that some of them have just as hard a time as do other doctors with caring for patients at the end of their lives. I believe a large part of their difficulty stems from the ridiculously dysfunctional either/or approach to palliative care and hospice we’re stuck with in this benighted country.
The problem is that in order to qualify for hospice, patients must not only have a certified life expectancy of less than six months, but they must also not be undergoing any active treatment for their malignancy. When you stop to think about it, though, this is actually quite discriminatory. We don’t require people on hospice with other diagnoses to discontinue their life sustaining medications. Patients with COPD are allowed to continue their bronchodilators; CHF patients don’t have to stop their ACE inhibitors and digoxin. But if a cancer patient wants to qualify for hospice, they have to forgo curative treatments like chemotherapy.
So what if the oncologists call it “palliative” chemo instead? Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*
Irrational exuberance was a term once used to describe the stock market before the last crash. It also seems an apt description for much of the talk these days about empowered health consumers.
To be sure, patients today have unprecedented access to health information. Patient decision-support tool can be found on just about every provider, payer and self-insured employer website. Consumers can go to any number of websites to find quality data about hospitals, physicians and health plans. Personal health records (PHRs) promise to make our personal health data portable for meaning that all our treating physicians will be “singing off the same song sheet.”
That’s what the industry experts tell us. But what’s really going on? Here I will describe what I see as the top 5 myths about empowered health consumers. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*
Physicians recommend treatments with higher survival rates for their patients, but they make more mental mistakes when they are the patient and have to choose for themselves.
Psychologists know that when people make decisions for others, they are dispassionate enough to be less swayed by extraneous factors. Even toddlers make less impulsive decisions for others than they do for themselves.
Researchers surveyed general internists and family medicine specialists about two scenarios, each with two treatment alternatives. Both outcomes involved a choice between surviving a fatal illness but with sometimes crippling outcomes. Physicians were randomized to groups in which they imagined themselves as the patient facing the decision, or in which they were recommending an option to a patient. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*