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Latest Posts

Mammography: Why This Test Is Both Imperfect And Recommended

A well-written and balanced article on mammography from USA Today may help move the conversation about this screening test away from hype and a bit closer to reality. The title – “Mammogram is ‘terribly imperfect’, though recommended.”

For women in their 40s, mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by about 15%… But mammograms miss some cancers and raise false alarms about others, causing women to go through unnecessary follow-up tests… “We’re saying, ‘Mammography is a terribly imperfect test, but we’re recommending women get it,’” Brawley says. “The task force was saying, ‘Mammography is a terribly imperfect test, and Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

Avoid Surgeons Without Accredited Training: It Could Save Your Life

Three young mothers under the age of 40 are dead because they wanted to be beautiful. Kellee Lee-Howard wanted a slimmer body. Ditto Maria Shortall and Rohie Kah-Orukatan. Shortall worked as a housekeeper; Lee-Howard was the mother of six kids and Kah-Orukotan died at the same place where she received manicures. What do these women have in common besides being minorities? They had liposuction procedures performed by men who offered a discounted price for an elective surgical procedure. These men professed to be competent in performing the procedures but never had accredited training.

I knew this day was coming. I saw the storm long before the clouds emerged. As the insurance payments for professional medical services decreased and declined, physicians began to look for alternative ways to earn money. But was it ethical? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Looking For A Surgeon: Board Certification Is Not The First Thing To Consider

Don’t simply look for a surgeon who is board certified.  Make sure they are trained to do the procedure you are having.  Yes, board certification is important, but the training is more so (in my humble opinion).

If you are having a breast augmentation, you don’t want a board certified maxillofacial surgeon or Ob-Gyn or neurosurgeon.  You want someone trained in plastic surgery.  It is a bonus if they are board certified.  By the same token, if you need brain surgery you don’t want a board certified plastic surgeon you want someone trained in neurosurgery.

This rant was prompted by Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

TV Doctors Tout IUDs As The Best Contraceptive Option: Why It May Not Be

That’s the opinion of television’s The Doctors, a syndicated TV Show that appears to be giving Dr Oz a run for his money, in USA Today. In fact, that’s the headline – IUDs: The Best Contraceptive Option.

What you know about birth control: Nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended; abstinence is the only sure-fire way to prevent pregnancy (and protect you from STDs); smoking while on the Pill may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke; as long as you are still getting a period, you can get pregnant during menopause. But here’s something you may not know:

We think IUDs work best.

This is contraceptive education at its worst. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

Why Industry Largess Is A Necessary Part Of Good Healthcare

Largesse: (Form thefreedictionary.com):

1. a. Liberality in bestowing gifts, especially in a lofty or condescending manner.
b. Money or gifts bestowed.

2. Generosity of spirit or attitude.

Two days into last week’s Heart Rhythm Society meeting, Propublica, an independent online investigative journalism-in-the-public-interest endeavor published a series of high profile articles as part of their Dollars for Docs series. Their marquee piece, published prominently in the USA Today, chronicled the strong financial ties (the ‘largesse’) that bind medical societies to industry. Reporters Charlie Ornstein and Tracy Weber highlighted the meeting’s ‘mansion’-sized exhibits, intense advertising, and the fact that most of the opinion leaders, officers of medical societies and guideline writers, the experts, have financial ties with medical device companies. More than half of HRS’ revenues came from industry.

Well.

I’ll offer four simple thoughts about all this conflict:

1. Nothing about industry influence at medical meetings is new news. I have been attending medical meetings for nearly twenty years, and industry has always been there. And here’s something you don’t read much about: it was far worse then. That’s all I will say about that. I won’t tell you how cool it was seeing the Charlie Daniels Band play at a medical meeting for free.

You can quibble with the extent of these current-day “cozy” relationships, or the glitz of exhibits at our gatherings, but you should also know that there is progress. The show is now out in the open. There is infinitely more disclosure. Smart people are now watching, tweeting, and reporting. Any doctor who’s been around more than a few years will agree that things have grown increasing more transparent. Which I believe is an improvement. Read more »

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

Latest Interviews

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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How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

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Latest Cartoon

Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

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Latest Book Reviews

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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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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