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How Good Is Your Doctor At Diagnosing You?

We’ve all been there. It often starts with some kind of recurring pain or dull ache. We don’t know what’s causing the pain or ache. During the light of day we tell ourselves that it’s nothing. But at 3:00am when the pain wakes you, worry sets in: “Maybe I have cancer or heart disease or some other life-ending ailment.” The next day you make an appointment to see your doctor.

So now you’re sitting in the exam room explaining this scenario to your doctor. Based on your previous experience, what’s the first thing your doctor would do?

A. Order a battery of tests and schedule a follow-up appointment.

B. Put you in a patient gown and conduct a thorough physical examination, including asking you detailed questions about your complaint before ordering any tests.

If you answered “A,” you have a lot of company. A recent post by Robert Centor, M.D., reminded me of yet another disturbing trend in the doctor-patient interaction. The post, entitled “Many doctors order tests rather than do a history and physical,” talks about how physicians today rely more on technology for diagnosing patients than their own “hands-on” diagnostic skills — a good patient history and physical exam, for example.

Prior to the technology revolution in medicine over the last 20 years, physician training taught doctors how to diagnose patients using with a comprehensive history and physical exam. More physicians today are practicing “test-centered medicine rather than patient-centered medicine.” Medical schools focus on teaching doctors to “click as many buttons on the computer order set as we possibly can in order to cover every life-threatening diagnosis.” The problem is that medicine is still an imperfect science, and technology is not a good substitute for an experienced, hands-on diagnostician. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

What If All Patients Were This Engaged In Their Health?

This video is an excellent testimony of what a truly engaged and knowledgable patient with diabetes looks and sounds like. Kudos to the Mayo Clinic for sharing this wonderful piece about shared decision making.

Pay particular attention to the fact that the patient in the video was treated for diabetes by her primary care physician for eight years before being referred to a clearly “patient-centered” endocrinologist. Also note her belief that a patient-centered approach to chronic disease management probably results in shorter, more productive visits in the long run.

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

First Report From The Society of Participatory Medicine’s Newly-Appointed Public Policy Committee Chair, David Harlow

In December, the Society for Participatory Medicine’s executive committee appointed health law attorney David Harlow to represent the Society in public policy matters. Regular readers of HealthBlawg::David Harlow’s Health Care Law Blog know what a patient-centered, participatory thinker David is. This is his first report.

David HarlowI am delighted to offer my first report as Public Policy Committee Chair for the Society of Participatory Medicine. I encourage all of you who are not yet Society members to join, and I encourage new and old members to consider volunteering to help with the wide range of public policy issues facing us today.

Over the past couple of months, the Public Policy Committee has gotten its sea legs. We are beginning to add the Society’s voice to the national discourse on patient engagement in a formal manner. As planning for health reform and related initiatives becomes more concrete, it is clear that patient engagement and patient-centeredness are key issues to be considered. For example, it was encouraging to hear Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Don Berwick speak about the “Triple Aim” at the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) workshop this fall, and explicitly link the achievement of the triple aim — better care for individuals, better health for populations, and reduced per-capita costs — to patient engagement and empowerment.

There will be many opportunities for the Society to engage with policymakers, payors and provider organizations as this work continues. CMS and its many related organizations, as well as many provider and private sector payor organizations recognize that without maintaining a focus on the patient at the core, health reform and related health IT initiatives cannot be successful. We’ve kicked things off on two fronts — ACOs and Stage 2 Meaningful Use rules. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at e-Patients.net*

When Patients And Doctors Disagree

A 69-year-old woman who swims in my master program came back to the pool after a total knee replacement. I asked her how she was doing. She said she is still in a lot of pain because of her physical therapy. She said that her physical therapist was disappointed that she still was still unable to achieve full flexion of 120 degrees. Why 120 degrees? Did you set that goal I asked her? ”No,” she said, “the therapist did.”

She went on to tell how she already had more range of motion in her knee than she did before the surgery. My friend was quite satisfied with her progress and wanted to stop physical therapy. The pain from the PT was worse than anything she had experienced before the knee replacement. I knew she and her 80-year-old boy friend were going on a cruise and she didn’t want to still be hobbling around.

It turns out that patients and physicians disagree on quite a few things. We hear a lot about patient-centered care. You know, that’s where the provider is supposed to consider the patient’s needs, preferences, and perspective when diagnosing and treating health problems. But medicine is still very provider-centered. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

Integrating Wellness Into A Primary Care Practice

I often am asked how I incorporate wellness in our family medical practice, and I must admit that I’ve mixed feelings when it comes to the question because it implies that I’m not already trying to practice wellness simply by practicing medicine. I feel that the two are synonymous.

To those who want to know more about wellness and primary care, here’s my approach:

• I never try to sell anyone on a “wellness” program.
• I follow specific guidelines on certain chronic illnesses, mostly adhering to evidence-based guidelines and not expert opinion or opinion by committee.
• I offer the best advice I can to patients and try to guide them in the right direction when I feel they are taking pathways that worry me and that could be harmful (e.g. like using megavitamin and nutrient therapies or colonics, to name a few). 
• I try to be as cost effective as possible when it comes to treatment.
• I see our patients once a year to comply with the legal definition of “face-to-face visits,” but not because scientific evidence substantiates this time honored ritual as “wellness.”
• I use calendar reminders in our electronic health record, MD-HQ to set up needed labs like cholesterol or Hgba1C or to schedule flu shots based on guidelines.

Read more »

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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