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Latest Posts

Consumer Health Information: The New Third Party In The Exam Room

It was sometime in the mid-nineties that parents started showing up in my office with reams of paper. Inkjet printouts of independently unearthed information pulled from AltaVista and Excite. Google didn’t exist. In the earliest days of the Web, information was occasionally leveraged by families as a type of newfound control.

A young father and his inkjet printer

One case sticks clearly in my mind. It was that of a toddler with medically unresponsive acid reflux and chronic lung disease. After following the child for some time, the discussion with the family finally moved to the option of a fundoplication (anti-reflux surgery). On a follow-up visit the father had done his diligence and appeared in the office with a banker box brimming with printed information. He had done his homework and his volume of paper was a credible show of force.

At the time in Houston, the Nissen and Thal fundoplication were the accepted fundoplication procedures in children. Deep from the bottom of one of the boxes, the father produced a freshly-reported method of fundoplication from Germany. He had compared the potential complications with other types of fundoplication and this was the procedure he wanted.

What he didn’t understand was that an experimental technique used on a limited numbers of adults didn’t necessarily represent the best option for his toddler. I gave it everything I had but didn’t get very far. The tenor of his argument was slightly antagonistic. Ultimately there was nothing more I could do. I deferred the remainder of the discussion to one of our best “talking” surgeons, but knew the father wouldn’t get the time and consideration that I had offered.

I never saw the child again. As they say, the father voted with his feet. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

How To Energize And Engage The Doctor-Nurse Team

Some patients struggle to communicate effectively with their doctors and some doctors and nurses find it difficult to communicate and collaborate with each other.

Historically, the dynamic symbiotic relationship between doctors and nurses has been a little shaky, evidenced by the lack of engagement and respect for one another.

Hospitals are chaotic and stressful. Working in such an environment can lead to frustration and it can take a toll on the staff. Instead of a good working relationship (which may never have been fostered to its full potential from the start), doctors and nurses become a fractured team. As a result, the fractured team will not effectively communicate and patient care may suffer devastating consequences. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

Physician Burnout: Doctors And Patients Deserve Better

A new patient recently said he was referred to me after his last doctor had left medicine. His old doctor always looked unhappy and burned out, he noted.

Burnout affects more than half of doctors, according to researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Beyond mere job dissatisfaction, these doctors are emotionally exhausted to the point where they lose focus. They tend to be more depressed — perhaps one reason why doctors have a higher suicide rate than the general population.

While burnout can happen in any profession, the performance of stressed-out doctors can hurt someone else: Patients. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Doctor-Patient Communication: Much Room For Improvement

In a surprising report from the Archives of Internal Medicine, we learn that most hospitalized patients (82 percent) could not accurately name the physician responsible for their care and almost half of the patients did not even know their diagnosis or why they were admitted.

If that isn’t enough, when the researchers queried the physicians, 67 percent thought the patients knew their name and 77 percent of doctors thought the patients “understood their diagnoses at least somewhat well.” I would call that a pretty significant communication gap.

Ninety percent of the patients said they received a new medication and didn’t know the side effects. Although 98 percent of physicians thought they discussed their patients’ fears and anxieties with them, only 54 percent of patients thought they did. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Doctors And Social Media: To Interact With Colleagues Or Influence Patient Care?

“Live the questions now. Perhaps then, without hardly noticing, you will live along some distant day into the answers.”   – Rainer Maria Rilke

With the tectonic shifts underway in America’s healthcare delivery model, doctors influence in shaping the forces ahead seems to be dwindling.

It started with the entire healthcare bill drafted by a team of some undisclosed, very influential academics, lawyers and policy wonks adept at social security and tax laws and was morphed by corporate and hospital interests with huge political and financial influence. Before the legislation was even read, the American Medical Association had stamped their seal of approval, worried that “they’d be eaten if they weren’t at the table.” As a result, a significant number, no, I’ll stick my neck out here and say a majority of doctors, had little to do with shaping healthcare in America as we will come to know it.

But I would also bet that most of Americans want doctors with their best interests at heart to be integral participants in shaping our new healthcare system.

So now, as doctors align themselves with a single health system employer so they can beg for a portion of the government’s soon-to-be-implemented “bundled” (bungled?) payment scheme to healthcare systems for episodes of care, how will doctors have any meaningful voice at improving healthcare for our patients and ourselves? Enter social media. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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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