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Doctors: Don’t Mix Medicine & Politics

Health care reform has become a deeply political subject.  And like other subjects that have become political, wading into them can be perilous.

Take two recent examples from the world of business to see what can happen.

In August, John Mackey, the CEO of the Whole Foods supermarket wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on against the proposed health care reforms.  From a policy perspective his views were within the mainstream.  But from a political perspective he was sharply to the right of his customer base.  The result?  Whole Foods was hit with organized protests and boycotts.  Mackey had greatly tarnished his personal “brand,” if not that if his company.

Another CEO did something similar just a few days ago. Read more »

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

Contest: Guess Who’ll Win The Nobel Prize In The Sciences?

Next Monday, the Nobel Foundation will announce the winner(s) of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In the following two days, two more Nobels will be revealed: in Physics and in Chemistry. Because of the success of last year’s inaugural Guess-A-Nobel Contest, we decided we’ll repeat this event annually until there is no more science worthy of the prize. This year we’re giving out three 8GB Apple iPod Touch devices to those who correctly guess in each of the three science categories. Because we profile a good deal of apps for the iPhone/Touch platform, we thought this might be a useful tool beside all the fun it can provide on the off time. Furthermore, if someone does manage to guess all three correctly, he or she will be getting the souped-up 64 GB version of the iPod device with all the trimmings.


Here are the rules of the game: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Don’t Trust The Huffington Post On Medical Matters

The Huffington Post is one of the most prominent, and fastest growing, news sites, and as pediatrician Rahul Parikh puts it, “one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on the Internet these days.”

They have a prominent health and wellness section, but as you can read from Dr. Parikh’s piece, The Huffington Post is crazy about your health, readers be warned.

As with their approach to other topics, The Huffington Post accepts submissions from a wide variety of bloggers, some of whom, “mirror [founder Arianna Huffington’s] own advocacy of alternative medicine.”

With such influence, that can be problematic. Well documented are numerous pieces advocating against childhood vaccines, and perpetuating its mythical link with autism. And by accepting factually suspect pieces on the subject by celebrities, such as actor Jim Carrey for instance, it’s a powerfully dangerous platform for misinformation.

What Dr. Parikh simply asks for is fairness and accuracy from such an influential site, but in his words, they “take a back seat to sensationalism and self-promotion on the Huffington Post.”

Indeed.

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

Medicine & Information Overload

index medicusImage by Nuevo Anden via Flickr

The growth of medical knowledge is difficult to visualize. One classic representation is the Index Medicus — a comprehensive index of medical journal articles — whose bound copies filled the shelves of medical libraries for 125 years. In 2004, however, the National Library of Medicine decided to stop publishing the Index. The first reason was practical: the Index Medicus had grown from 82 pounds in 1985 to an estimated 152 pounds in 2004. The second and more important reason was the widespread availability of the search engine PubMed — an electronic database of medical literature available for free via the Internet — which made the printed index obsolete. Compared to the Index Medicus, PubMed was more convenient, could be searched more easily, could be updated more quickly, and certainly weighed less. Copies of the Index Medicus are now a historical curiosity; many physicians now search the medical literature exclusively through PubMed.

The story of the Index Medicus and its successor, PubMed, illustrates three ideas.

First, the quantity of new medical information is more than any single physician can absorb, and keeping up to date with this expanding body of knowledge is challenging. As of April 2009, for example, PubMed contained information on 18,782,970 citations in the medical literature and was adding over 670,000 new entries per year. Doctors must not only absorb this flood of new ideas about treating, diagnosing, preventing, and understanding disease — deciding which information is relevant and which is not — but also learn how to apply and explain this knowledge to the patient sitting with them in the exam room or laying ill in a hospital bed.

Second, in parallel with this unprecedented expansion in medical knowledge, new media and technologies have emerged — of which PubMed is one example — which has made the task of searching, organizing, and retrieving relevant information easier. Potential sources of information for physicians include not only printed journal articles like those indexed in PubMed, but lectures, case conferences, and newer Internet resources such as reference tools (e.g., UpToDate), discussion groups, online expert systems, clinical resource tools, and podcasts.

Third, the expansion of medical information and proliferation of new technologies has required physicians to develop new skills and strategies to keep their knowledge current. Often, the availability of new knowledge overwhelms physicians’ ability to process it, a condition known as information overload. In physician’s offices, one symptom of information overload is the common spectacle of unread piles of medical journals stacked up on every available horizontal space.

While many medical schools now require classes on searching the medical literature and evidence-based medicine, few resources have been available designed to teach physicians how to learn and practice medicine more efficiently. (That’s why, over two years ago, I started writing The Efficient MD blog.)

Since then, I’m glad to report that online resources for physicians have proliferated. Ways of improving efficiency and reducing information overload are now common topics on medical blogs. For example, see recents posts in Life in the Fast Lane, Clinical Cases and Images, and Musings of a Distractible Mind.

Thanks for reading!

(Much appreciation to Jacque-Lynne Schulman, Stephen Greenberg, Margaret Vugrin, and Dean Giustini for helping me with an updated estimate of the weight of the Index Medicus. Any inaccuracies in this post are, of course, my own.)

(This post is also published on The Efficient MD blog.)

This post, Medicine & Information Overload, was originally published on Healthine.com by Joshua Schwimmer, M.D..

What Will It Take To Make Online Health Work?

“Internet 2.0” emphasizes social networking over simply downloading and reading “content”. The world of Twitter, blogging, facebook, e mail, and text messaging is revolutioning our society and rapidly becoming a major force in the way we work and play. It remains to be seen, however, how it will impact health care. There are many, many issues that are no where near resolution.

Although, at eDoc, we have been involved in online health for over a decade, we still run up against innumerable barriers and resistance factors that prevent this modality from truly becoming mainstream.

In order for this to occur, I believe the following needs to happen:

1. The team providing the service must be of high quality. This is difficult to determine in the best of circumstances and almost impossible in the often murky, even sleazy, world of internet
2.0. Until there is a better system for this, the user must be careful to scrutinize the credentials of the professionals involved and understand the business model behind the product. Check to make sure that the physicians are board certified. Beware of industry supported sites that are, essentially, using their web site to sell another product and “giving away” medical content or advice. If possible, find someone else who has used the service and ask whether the service is reputable. If you decide to try the service, dip your foot in the water and assess the quality of what you get back. If you like what you get, try again. If not, run in the other direction!

2. There has to be a widely available method for professional reimbursement. At eDoc, we developed a business model in which sponsoring corporations purchase the service on behalf of their employees or members. Most insurance companies do not cover on line visits with a physician but this is likely to be the case in the future; and, until that occurs, most docs won’t or can’t afford to, get on line to provide feedback or information to their patients.

3. Better tools are needeed. Although there are a lot of good web sites with good medical content, web tools are just starting to be designed to take advantage of the Web 2.0 world. Good, user-friendly, secure patient and provider portals will need to be connected to eprescribing hubs, will need to readily switch to search for internet sites to attach, will need to accept and view video footage, will need capability to connect through digital cameras for real time viewing and communication, and need easy to use, menu driven drop downs that guide the patient and provider through an online encounter.

For now, eDoc has a high quality team that uses a free form communication model and offers medical, dental, pharmaceutical and mental health professional advice. We are watching with eager anticipation to see what the future brings and, hopefully, we can stay ahead of the curve and continue to offer the highest quality online heath professional experience.

Your comments and dissenting opinions are welcome…

**This blog post was originally published by Dr. Charlie Smith at eDocAmerica’s blog**

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

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