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Experience In Medicine Has Its Downsides

You have probably read that experience makes for better doctors.

And of course this would be true–in the obvious ways, like with the hand-eye coordination required to do complex procedures, or more importantly, with the judgment of when to do them.

There’s no news here: everyone knows you want a doctor that’s been out of training awhile, but not so long that they have become weary, close-minded or physically diminished. Just the right amount of experience please.

But there’s also potential downsides and struggles that come with experience. Tonight I would like to dwell on three ways in which experience is causing me angst.

But first, as background…

It was the very esteemed physician-turned-authors, Dr. Groopman and his wife, Dr. Hartzland, who wrote this thought-provoking WSJ essay–on how hidden influences may sway our medical decisions–that got me thinking about how I have evolved as a doctor. They were writing from the perspective of the patient. But in the exam room, there are two parties: patient and doctor.

# 1) The sobering view that experience brings: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

“Your Medical Mind” Explores Factors That Influence A Patient’s Medical Decisions

Recently, I had a conversation with Shannon Brownlee (the widely respected science journalist and acting director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation) about whether men should continue to have access to the PSA test for prostate cancer screening, despite the overwhelming evidence that it extends few, if any, lives and harms many more men than it benefits. She felt that if patients could be provided with truly unbiased information and appropriate decision aids, they should still be able to choose to have the test (and have it covered by medical insurance). Believing that one of the most important roles of doctors is to prevent patients from making bad decisions, I disagreed.

After reading Your Medical Mind, the new book by Harvard oncologist and New Yorker columnist Jerome Groopman, I think he would probably side with Brownlee’s point of view. Groopman, whose authoring credits include the 2007 bestseller How Doctors Think, and wife Pamela Hartzband, MD have written a kind of sequel to that book that could have easily been titled How Patients Think. Drawing on interviews with dozens of patients about a wide variety of medical decisions – from starting a cholesterol-lowering drug, to having knee surgery, to accepting or refusing heroic end-of-life interventions – the authors Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Common Sense Family Doctor*

Misdiagnosis Happens All The Time: Tips To Avoid It

Billionaire Teddy Forstmann has apparently been diagnosed with a serious form of brain cancer.  There’s a tragic twist to the story: according to Fox Business News, Forstmann believes that for more than a year, he had been misdiagnosed with meningitis.

ABC News wonders:

How could such a misfortune befall a billionaire —- a man able to afford the best doctors, best technology and the most sophisticated diagnostic tests?

They’re missing the point.  Misdiagnosis happens with shocking regularity – as much as Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

How Doctors Think Vs. How Patients Think

How Doctors ThinkIf you want to see the difference between how doctors and patients think, read Jerome Groopman’s “How Doctors Think” and Thomas Goetz’s “The Decision Tree.” The contrast is striking.

“How Doctors Think,” while offering a comprehensive review of the cognitive missteps made by physicians, is terminally physician-centric in its analysis of the relationship we share with patients. ”The Decision Tree,” while offering a novel blueprint for self-reliance in health, seems almost sheepish in its recognition that physicians are even really that important. The muted physician cameos of “The Decision Tree” stand in stark contrast to Groopman’s Harvard-trained masters of the universe. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

The Value Of Social Media For Patients, Doctors And Nurses

A patient apologized to me for asking so many questions. “There’s no need to apologize,” I said to the patient, “It’s wonderful that you have so many questions concerning your healthcare.” I mentioned to her that she is an “empowered and engaged patient,” and that’s a good thing.

It’s no secret that health consumers are turning to the Internet for health information.

In a recent article from MediaPost News, Gavin O’Malley writes that, according to new a study by Epsilon Strategic & Analytic Consulting Group, “40% of online consumers use social media for health information — reading or posting content — while the frequency of engagement varies widely. According to the study, individuals who use healthcare social media fall into two broad groups: the 80% who are highly engaged patients, and take active roles in health management; and the 20% who lack confidence to play an active role in their own health.” Read more »

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

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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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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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