Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Healthcare Reform: Why I’m Scared

I’m scared because I’m reading articles about people threatening to kill — note that word “kill” — elected officials because of their vote on healthcare reform.

A man was arrested last week for his threats against Nancy Pelosi. Another man was arrested for threatening the two senators from Washington state, saying, “I do pack, and I will not blink when I’m confronted. It’s not a threat, it’s a guarantee.”

One congressman’s campaign received an email that read, “If our tea parties had hoods, we would burn your (expletive) on a cross on the White House front lawn,” while another had bricks thrown through the windows of his brother’s house (which was listed as his official address) and the propane line to his gas grill was cut.

The Associated Press reported that the Senate’s Sargent-At-Arms, who monitors security in both houses, reported 42 incidents in the first three months of 2010 — nearly three times the 15 cases that occurred during the same timeframe in 2009, and all related to healthcare reform. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life*

Democracy, Tyranny, And The Online Revolution

Image by pomarc via Flickr

When status quos collapse, for whatever reasons, are their replacements necessarily better? Does the demise of traditional media powers mean that new media powers will lead to more Democracy? Will cultivated professions which require years of training and mistakes and experience – such as Medicine – give way to amateurs who can succeed in creating appearances of Authenticity?

Last century, not everybody could publish their thoughts without expending some form of considerable energy. Now, with Twitter, anyone can tell the world what s/he thinks at virtually zero expense (save the time value of their tweets). This is no doubt a radical shift in communications and publishing and connecting.

It’s easy to call this democratizing. But is it? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at phil baumann online*

The Importance Of Medical Blogging

I was looking through an article in Time Magazine recently and came across an article about healthcare reform.  It spoke of the daunting task ahead and went through a list of the people at the table in the process of creating change.  The list included politicians, hospital corporations, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and lobbyists from certain large special-interest groups.  Notably absent from the list was physicians and “normal” patients.  I commented about this in a conversation with Val Jones, MD, and she said: “If you aren’t at the table, then you’re on the menu.”

She’s right.  Up to now, the interests of the people who matter most – the doctor and patient in the exam room – were largely unheard.  Folks said they knew our needs, but they all had their own agendas and so often got it wrong (either out of ignorance or out of self-interest).  Even the organizations that are supposed to represent my needs, the AMA and the specialty societies to which I belong, are not composed of folks who spend most of their time in the exam room; they are people who have either retired to spend their time in Washington, or are full-time smart people (they know lots about other people’s business).  There are very few people at the table who regularly see patients.  There are also very few who represent patients without a particular axe to grind (elderly, people with chronic disease or disabilities).

But healthcare is about what goes on in the exam room.  The entire point of healthcare is health care; it is about the care of the patient.  It isn’t about the business, the drugs, the delivery system, or the insurance industry; it’s about optimizing how the system makes sick people better and keeps better people from becoming sick.  Everything else is a means, not an end.

But those of use who are in the exam room are soon to be served up on the menu for the sake of political gain and special interest clout.  They may or may not have a good plan, and they may or may not have good intentions.  But they definitely do not have an understanding of what really goes on and won’t be affected much by the decisions they make.  They are serving up a dinner of food they don’t know about and they won’t have to eat what they cook.  How can they make good decisions?

A step in the right direction would be to listen to bloggers.  As opposed to the lobbyists and pundits inundating Washington, we actually do healthcare.  The doctor and patient blogs on the web represent the interests of the people who are in the middle of the healthcare universe.  This universe doesn’t have Washington DC at its center, it has the patient and those who care for him or her.

A good parallel is the crisis in Iran.  There are reporters and politicians who say they know what it’s all about – and in some ways they do – but the voice of the people living in Iran are crucial to understanding what is going on.  Why are there riots?  Ask a rioter.  Was there rigging of the election?  Ask someone who was there to witness the process.  The people who are on the ground should always be listened to.  They don’t give the entire perspective, but getting a true perspective is impossible without talking to them.

Don’t just listen to me; I represent a specific point of view, and don’t represent that of patients or specialists fully.  Don’t just listen to patient blogs, as they often don’t have a clear understanding of the business of medicine or the complex medical realities (although I know some of them do know an awful lot).  We need to force ourselves to the table.  We need to give perspective that has previously been invisible.

Blogging matters because it gives perspective that could never come from anywhere else.  Blogging is the journalistic equivalent of democracy, giving the average person a chance to make their voice heard.

In July, a group of us medical bloggers will be going to Washington to do what we can to make our voice heard (thanks to Val Jones’ hard work).  Maybe it won’t make a difference; but at least we won’t be invisible any more.

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »