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Medical Errors: Should Doctors Always Fess Up?

From the Medscape Medical Ethics article entitled “‘Some Worms Are Best Left In The Can’: Should You Hide Medical Errors?“:

Consequences aside, from a strictly ethical perspective, if a patient doesn’t realize that his physician made a mistake, should the physician fess up?

Before you jump to conclusions (as I did), look at the article’s three parts. It’s about a survey. The title is on the inflammatory side; the article is a window into physicians’ views. The introduction continues:

Evidence of the complex prisms through which physicians view these issues was apparent in the replies to four questions asked in Medscape’s exclusive ethics survey. More than 10,000 physicians responded to the survey in 2010.


– Mistakes that don’t harm patients. “Are there times when it’s acceptable to cover up or avoid revealing a mistake if that mistake would not cause harm to the patient?” Sixty percent said “no;” the others split between “yes” and “it depends.”

  • I personally can understand this note from a survey respondent: “If there is a mistake that would have no medical effect but would cause extreme, uncalled-for anxiety, then yes,” especially since I know people (some elders, some young) who would indeed freak out, out of proportion. But, that’s a big judgment call.
  • I have a harder time accepting this comment: “Why shake the patient’s trust in the doctor for something that is irrelevant?” Irrelevant is a big judgment call, and I’d be really concerned about the natural human tendency to minimize the probable impact of a mistake — especially if a provider thinks it’s all about maintaining a patient’s trust, even when the topic is their own error.

– Mistakes that might harm patients. Ninety five percent said “no;” some still said “yes!” One commented: “If the mistake has not progressed to harmfulness, then it’s essentially a non-issue. Treatment correction takes place and you move on.” Another says if there hasn’t been harm yet, “I think a ‘wait and see’ approach is okay.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Can Mobile Phones Improve Health In Developing Countries?

Screen-shot-2010-11-05-at-10.16.57-AM.pngThe potential of mobile phones to improve health is most acutely visible in developing countries. iMedicalApps covered the recent mHealth Summit, where there were many inspiring demonstrations of how voice and simple text messages can have a profound effect on the health of those countries’ citizens. Jhpiego has successfully worked on these problems for three decades and was recently awarded a $100m grant. James Bon Tempo has extensive experience in this field and we are thrilled that he is sharing his insights with the readers of iMedicalApps.

This is a guest post from James BonTempo.


Mobile Health In Developing Countries

I am a user and an implementer of technology, not an inventor or developer, so my constraints, challenges and requirements are different than those of many attendees of the recent mHealth Summit. And for others like me who work in international aid and development, mobile technology is simply a tool, and one of many in a large toolbox that includes various best practices and proven approaches. At Jhpiego (an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University), we have piloted a number of different mobile interventions — from simple SMS to Java & smartphone-based applications — but the challenge for us is to identify the most appropriate technologies, the tools that will help us to strengthen health systems in limited resource settings most effectively and most efficiently. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

The Musician’s Brain On MRI

Dr. Charles Limb is an otolaryngologist, and he’s also on the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Wanting to study creativity on the neurological level, he used fMRI to scan the brains of musicians while improvising along with them. Here he describes the experiment, including the building of an MRI-compatible electronic keyboard:

Link @ TED…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Schizophrenia Caused By The Cat?

CatFrom the front page of [the August 1st] Baltimore Sun: Researchers Explore Link Between Schizophrenia, Cat Parasite. Frank D. Roylance writes:

Johns Hopkins University scientists trying to determine why people develop serious mental illness are focusing on an unlikely factor: a common parasite spread by cats. The researchers say the microbes, called Toxoplasma gondii, invade the human brain and appear to upset its chemistry — creating, in some people, the psychotic behaviors recognized as schizophrenia. If tackling the parasite can help solve the mystery of schizophrenia, “it’s a pretty good opportunity … to relieve a pretty large burden of disease,” said Dr. Robert H. Yolken, director of developmental neurobiology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Can Pre-Term Labor Be Detected Earlier?

a7nqvlgy.jpgA team of biomedical engineering masters students at Johns Hopkins have developed a device that they hope will be able to spot oncoming pre-term labor in pregnant women earlier than by using an external tocodynamometer.

The CervoCheck device is meant to be inserted into the vaginal canal/cervical opening where it then can measure electrical signals characteristic of contractions. Prototypes of the device are currently being tested in animals. We sympathize with those who have to insert them into pigs(?). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

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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