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Minute Clinics Fill A Legitimate Need, But Are They A Good Idea?

All of us have been to fast food establishments. We go there because we are in a hurry and it’s cheap. We love the convenience. We expect that the quality of the cuisine will be several rungs lower than fine dining.

We now have a fast medicine option available to us. Across the country, there are over 1000 ‘minute-clinics’ that are being set up in pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail store chains. These clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners who have prescribing authority, under the loose oversight of a physician who is likely off sight. These nurses will see patients with simple medical issues and will adhere to strict guidelines so they will not treat beyond their medical knowledge. For example, if a man comes in clutching his chest and gasping, the nurse will know not to just give him some Rolaids and wish him well. At least, that’s the plan.

Primary care physicians are concerned over the metastases of ‘minute-clinics’ nationwide. Of course, they argue from a patient safety standpoint, but there are powerful parochial issues worrying physicians. They are losing business. They have a point that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

CDC Campaign Hasn’t Slowed Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

issue brief 2011 02 coverHigh rates of inappropriate antibiotic use continued despite a 15-year campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aimed at Michigan physicians and consumers on the dangers of antibiotic overuse.

The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) released an issue brief detailing overall antibiotic prescribing for adult Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) members. (The project is a non-profit partnership between the University of Michigan and BCBSM.)

While antibiotic prescribing in adults decreased 9.3 percent from 2007 to 2009, it increased 4.5 percent for children during the same time period. The studies found significant differences in prescribing patterns between rural southeast Michigan and the rest of the state, particularly for children. Children in rural southeastern Michigan were prescribed an average of .93 antibiotics per year, while elsewhere children were prescribed an average of 1.0 per year.

“The continuing high rate of antibiotic use for viral infections in children and adults — particularly outside of southeast Michigan — is of great concern, as is the increase in the use of broad spectrum antibiotics in children,” said Marianne Udow-Phillips, CHRT’s director. “Using antibiotics when they are unnecessary — or treating simple infections with drugs that should be reserved for the most serious infections — are practices that contribute to antibiotic resistance, making future infections harder to treat.”

Nearly half (49.1 percent) of antibiotic prescriptions in the study population were for broad spectrum antibiotics in 2009, compared to the national rate of 47 percent. Between 2007 and 2009, prescriptions for what the National Committee for Quality Assurance calls “antibiotics of concern” declined slightly in adults, decreasing 0.4 percent during that time period. In the same time period, antibiotics of concern prescribed to children increased 3.4 percent, from 44.9 percent to 46.4 percent.

One possible explanation for the rising rate in children is a rise in resistant pathogens in ear infections, according to the study brief. Other possible reasons are that kids get different infections than adults, and that some drugs that are used in adults are not used for pediatric patients. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Ear Infections: To Treat Or Not To Treat?

Ear infections used to be a devastating problem. In 1932, acute otitis media (AOM) and its suppurative complications accounted for 27 percent of all pediatric admissions to Bellevue Hospital. Since the introduction of antibiotics, it has become a much less serious problem. For decades it was taken for granted that all children with AOM should be given antibiotics, not only to treat the disease itself but to prevent complications like mastoiditis and meningitis.

In the 1980s, that consensus began to change. We realized that as many as 80 percent of uncomplicated ear infections resolve without treatment in three days. Many infections are caused by viruses that don’t respond to antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics leads to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria. Antibiotics cause side effects. A new strategy of watchful waiting was developed.

Current Medical Guidelines

In 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) collaborated to issue evidence-based guidelines based on a review of the published evidence. Something was lost in the transmission: The guidelines have been over-simplified and misrepresented, so it’s useful to look at what they actually said. There were six parts:

1. Criteria were specified for accurate diagnosis.

  • History of acute onset of signs and symptoms
  • Presence of middle ear effusion (ear drum bulging, lack of mobility, air-fluid level)
  • Signs and symptoms of middle ear inflammation: Either red ear drum or ear pain interfering with normal activity or sleep

They stressed that AOM must be distinguished from otitis media with effusion (OME). OME is more common, occurs with the common cold, can be a precursor or a consequence of AOM, and is not an indication for antibiotic treatment. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

How Doctors Treated Ear Infections In 1908: Cocaine And Scalpels

I want to share this section of the old textbook, A Text-Book of Minor Surgery by Edward Milton Foote, MD (1908) mainly because I want to share the photo of the “angular knife for incision of the tympanic membrane” with you.

Otitis Media

This is a common disease of childhood, usually following a cold in the head. The prominent symptom is earache. Every physician ought to be able to recognize the bulging outward of the membranum tympani and to relieve the pressure by incision of the membrane at the most favorable situation – viz., the inferior and posterior portion. The introduction of warm olive oil into the external meatus will sometimes relieve pain, and the application of external heat may also be tried; but the pain of a severe earache, unless relieved by puncture of the membrane, usually demands the internal administration of morphine. Read more »

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

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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