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How Doctors Feel About Patients Who Google Their Symptoms

Many doctors roll their eyes whenever patients bring in a stack of research they printed out, stemming from a Google search of their symptoms. A piece by Dr. Zachary Meisel on TIME.com describes a familiar scenario:

The medical intern started her presentation with an eye roll. “The patient in Room 3 had some blood in the toilet bowl this morning and is here with a pile of Internet printouts listing all the crazy things she thinks she might have.”

The intern continued, “I think she has a hemorrhoid.”

“Another case of cyberchondria,” added the nurse behind me.

It’s time to stop debating whether patients should research their own symptoms. It’s happening already, and the medical profession would be better served to handle this new reality.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 61 percent of patients turn to the web to research health information. That number is from 2009, so presumably it’s higher today. Health information online is akin to the Wild, Wild West. Stories from questionable sites come up on Google as high — or higher — than information from reputable institutions. Read more »

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

The Rationing Of Healthcare

Do you recall the severe rationing of food and water the Chilean miners had to endure to survive? The rationing was done to stretch their limited resources. I would argue the state of Arizona’s new policy to not cover organ transplants for patients on Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) or their version of Medicaid is a similar form of rationing.

AHCCCS, as many Medicaid programs, is underfunded. They are trying to operate on a limited budget. Something has to give. Sadly in this case, many (NPR reports 98) had already been granted approval for organ transplants which they may not receive.

Francisco Felix, 32, who due to hepatitis-C needs a liver transplant, is reported to have made it to the operating room, prepped and ready for his life-saving liver transplant when doctors told him the state’s Medicaid plan wouldn’t cover the procedure. The liver he was to receive went to someone else. Read more »

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

Book Review: The Mayo Clinic Book Of Home Remedies

I write a lot of critical articles. It’s nice to be able to write a positive one for a change. I received a prepublication proof of The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies: What to Do for the Most Common Health Problems. It is due to be released on October 26 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com. Since “quackademic” medicine is infiltrating our best institutions and organizations, I wasn’t sure I could trust even the prestigious Mayo Clinic. I was expecting some questionable recommendations for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments, but I found nothing in the book that I could seriously object to.

It is organized alphabetically, starting with acne and airplane ear and progressing through bedbugs, boils and bronchitis, dandruff, depression and diabetes to warts, wrinkles and wrist pain. Each entry consists of (1) a description of the problem and its symptoms, (2) treatments you can try at home, and (3) when to seek professional medical help. It concludes with a short section on emergency medicine that covers anaphylaxis, bleeding, burns, CPR, choking, fracture, heart attack, poisoning, seizure, shock and stroke.

Nowhere does it mention acupuncture, chiropractic, energy medicine, or homeopathy. It gives good, clear guidance about when a health problem should not be treated with home remedies. Its recommendations about diet and exercise are solid. It doesn’t recommend anything that can’t be supported by published studies and common sense. When it recommends herbal remedies and dietary supplements, it is cautious about what it claims. For instance, glucosamine and chondroitin are listed for osteoarthritis, but they point out that further study is required and they say “because the supplements may help and appear to be safe, it may not hurt to give them a try.” Not exactly a strong recommendation. Read more »

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

PTSD “Breakthrough?” Real Science Doesn’t Need Endorsement

The PTSD BreakthroughIt infuriates me when someone misappropriates the word “science” to promote treatments that are not actually based on science. I have just read a book entitled The PTSD Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Science-Based Compass RESET Program by Dr. Frank Lawlis, a psychologist who is the chief content advisor for Dr Phil and The Doctors. There is very little science in the book and references are not provided. It amounts to an indiscriminate catalog of everything Dr. Lawlis can imagine that might help post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients. 

He describes recent brain imaging studies suggesting that signs of traumatic brain injury are associated with PTSD.  He thinks PTSD can no longer be considered a psychological condition, but must be approached as a complex biological, physical, psychological, and spiritual condition. He says many of these patients have brain damage. Read more »

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

iStethoscope App Does Not Replace A Doctor’s Stethoscope

An article in The Guardian, the popular British newspaper, on an iPhone medical app that attempts to replicate the stethoscope starts out as:

The stethoscope — medical icon, lifesaver and doctor’s best friend — is disappearing from hospitals across the world as physicians increasingly use their smartphones to monitor patients’ heartbeats.

More than 3 million doctors have downloaded a 59p application — invented by Peter Bentley, a researcher from University College London — which turns an Apple iPhone into a stethoscope.

It’s obvious to those intimate with medicine that “3 million doctors” using this app was a ridiculous number. Unfortunately, it took The Guardian one full week to realize this egregious error — they meant to say “3 million overall downloads” –- but by then the news had been disseminated to hundreds of news websites, blogs, and potentially millions of readers. Leading readers to infer that with “3 million physician downloads” the medical community had signed off on the app.

The story went on to say:

Experts say the software, a major advance in medical technology, has saved lives and enabled doctors in remote areas to access specialist expertise.

Lets be clear what this application does. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

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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