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Dr. Abraham Verghese: The “Top Gun” Of American Medicine

The first-year medical students I precept were too young to see Tom Cruise’s alter ego Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell grace the big screen in the 1986 blockbuster film “Top Gun.” Yet, the story has a relevant analogy to medicine. 

According to the film, during the Vietnam war American pilots were relying too much on technology to bring enemy fighters down. They weren’t as skilled in taking out the opposition. They fired their technologically advanced missiles to try and get the job done. They didn’t think. It didn’t work. They forgot the art of dogfighting.

The military discovered that technology alone wasn’t going to get the job done. The best fighter pilots needed the skills, insight, and wisdom on when to use technology and when not to. As a result, the Navy Fighter Weapons School, known simply as Top Gun, was created to retrain the military pilots on this vital lost skill. The goal of the program was specifically to make the best of the best even better.

Like the military, the country is discovering that the healthcare system enabled with dazzling technology isn’t getting the job done either. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

When Diagnosing, Doctors Often Ignore Patients’ Social Factors

A recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine found that doctors often discounted a patient’s social situation when making a medical diagnosis.

Lead researcher Saul Weiner “arranged to send actors playing patients into physicians’ offices and discovered that errors occurred in 78 percent of cases when socioeconomic concerns were a significant factor.”

Evan Falchuk, commenting on the results, provides some context:

It’s hard to expect even the most gifted clinician, trying to make it through yet another week of a hundred or more patient encounters, to get these difficult decisions right. Too much of the context of a patient’s care gets lost in the endless churn of patient visits that the health care system imposes on doctors.I suspect this is enormously frustrating for doctors, although it’s worse for patients. What the researchers call a failure to “individualize care,” a patient might call “not being paid attention to.” It’s a dynamic that anyone who’s been ill has probably seen firsthand.

These findings are entirely unsurprising. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

No Medical School Debt = More Primary Care Doctors?

There’s little question that medical school debt is rising rapidly, affecting the career choice of medical students.

It’s one of the main reasons why the disparity between the number of specialists and primary care doctors is widening. There have been a variety of proposed solutions — most recent of which are medical schools completely subsidizing their tuition. I think that’s a good step forward, but so far has only been limited to a few schools nationwide. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Why Primary Care Doctors Leave

There’s little question that the workplace environment for doctors is deteriorating. Especially in primary care, where physicians are arguably needed the most.

That’s why is so disheartening to read this Newsweek essay from pediatrician Karen Li, explaining why she left the field. Much of her piece can be attributed to the bad old days of managed care, where doctors were frustrated by the bureaucratic impediments placed before them. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Too Much Testing And Treatment? Try Superb Primary Care

The Associated Press has been running a fantastic series of must reads with the latest article highlighting the consequence of too many imaging studies, like X-rays and CT scans, which are the biggest contributor to an individual’s total radiation exposure in a lifetime. Americans get more imaging radiation exposure and testing than people from other industrialized countries.

Reasons for doing too many tests include malpractice fear, patient demands for imaging, the difficulty in obtaining imaging results from other doctors or hospitals, as well as advanced technologies, like coronary angioplasty, which have increased radiation but avoid a far more invasive surgery like heart bypass. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

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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