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Latest Posts

How Contagion Shows Us The Importance Of Science In Today’s World

Contagion is a thriller about a virus that rapidly spreads to become a global epidemic. There aren’t enough coffins. Gangs roam neighborhoods like ours because police have abandoned their posts, fearful of exposure. Garbage fills the streets because sanitation workers are dying. As scientists work feverishly to understand the virus and develop a vaccine, public panic unravels the fabric of civil society, fueled by terror and rattled by false claims of a homeopathic cure promoted by a charismatic charlatan.
The movie has grossed $76 million worldwide since it opened on September 9th.  It has all the elements a successful movie needs: a just-believable dystopian vision of the future, flawed good guys, an evil schemer, suspense, heroic action…the works.

And while it’s an action-thriller first and foremost, you don’t have to concentrate hard to notice that it also shows:

  1. Why the Federal government is necessary: its authority to communicate, negotiate and work with other nations to solve a global problem; its ability to exert authority across state lines and to marshal resources immediately to protect its citizens from peril with no expectation of profit.
  2. How scientific research is iterative and complicated, not bumbling or malicious. Research is conducted by scientists—normal people with normal lives—who are Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

High Value Care: Getting The Maximum Health Benefit

The past few months have offered encouraging signs that physicians and physician organizations are belatedly recognizing the need to take an active role in controlling health care costs by emphasizing “high-value” care and minimizing the use of low-value interventions with high costs and few clinical benefits. On the heels of a best practice guideline issued by his organization, American College of Physicians Executive VP Steven Weinberger, MD recently called for making cost-consciousness and stewardship of health resources a required general competency for graduate medical education.

In light of a recently published estimate that the top 5 overused clinical activities in primary care specialties led to $6.7 billion in wasted health spending in 2009, Dr. Weinberger’s call comes none to soon. Below is an excerpt from my post on this topic from April 13, 2010. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Common Sense Family Doctor*

The House-Call: Physician Laments The Passing Of The Good Old Days

Nostalgia for the house-call

Not too long ago, I made a house call. As a physician accustomed to working in the emergency department of a hospital, this was quite a change of pace. But it involved dear friends and their sick child, and it was a joy. We had spoken on the phone and I had some concerns about their infant, who was stricken with a high fever. When I went to their home I took only my stethoscope. That and my experience as a physician and parent of four.

When I walked through the door on Friday evening there were candles burning as dinner was prepared. There were no florescent lights. There was none of the chaos of a waiting room. No ambulances idled outside. No bloody, angry drunk screamed profanities. No one was stood by their exam room door, arms crossed in annoyance with waiting. It was a quiet place to be; and the child, on his worried mother’s hip, was quiet as well. He was in a place where he felt safe and was thus able to tolerate my poking and prodding.

I examined him and decided that he was not seriously ill. Because his mother had described him as lethargic when we spoke, I had been concerned that he might have meningitis. This was not actually the case. His parents and I were obviously relieved.

After he was dosed with ibuprofen and put to bed, I chatted a while with his mom and dad, then left for home. As I drove home I realized that Read more »

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

What Medical Condition Is The Most Costly To Employers?

Ok…here’s a brain teaser.  What medical condition is the most costly to employers?  I’ll give you a hint.  It is also a medical condition that is likely to go unrecognized and undiagnosed by primary care physicians.

If you guessed depression you are correct. If you mentioned obesity you get a gold star since that comes in right behind depression for both criteria…at least in terms of cost and the undiagnosed part.

Four out of every ten people at work or sitting in the doctor’s waiting room suffer from moderate to severe depression.  Prevalence rates for depression are highest among women and older patients with chronic conditions.  Yet despite its high prevalence and costly nature, depression is significantly under-diagnosed (<50%) and under-treated by physicians.

For employers, the cost of depression cost far exceeds the direct costs associated with its diagnosis and treatment    As the graphic above indicates, the cost of lost productivity for on the job depressed workers (Presenteeism) and lost time for depressed workers that are absent from the job (Absenteeism) far exceed the cost of cost of treatment (medical and medication cost).

Read more »

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

Medicine Is A Human Thing

If there is a central theme to this blog, it is this: Medicine is a human thing.

On the Facebook page of my podcast, I recently asked for readers to tell me some of the “war stories” they have from the doctor’s office. What are some of the bad things doctors do wrong? I quickly followed this with the flip side, asking readers to comment on the best interactions that they’ve had with their doctors.

The response was overwhelming, and equally quick to both rant and rave. They told stories about doctors who didn’t listen, explain, or even talk with them. They told about arrogance and disconnectedness from the people from whom they were seeking help. They also told about doctors who took extra effort to listen and to reach out in communication. They talked about doctors who genuinely seemed to value them as humans. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

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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