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Deceptive Health Websites Are All Too Plentiful

By Lisa Neal Gualtieri. (Her earlier much-commented post on this subject is here.)

The Boston Globe reported this month on the sentencing of a former US Airways Express pilot, Stephen Sharp, “for selling a powdered drink mix over the Internet that he claimed was ‘100 percent’ effective in helping drug-using truck drivers, pilots, and train engineers pass federally mandated drug tests.” The ungrammatically-named “” no longer seems to exist.

Mindful of ongoing debate by Gilles Frydman and others about indicators of health website credibility, I searched for other sites selling similar products (there is no shortage) and looked on sites like Craigslist where people post questions about how to pass drug tests and how to detoxify. Based on a quick perusal, I found answers ranging from product advice that I suspect is similar to what “” sold to more than I ever want to know about urine temperature to what seemed like common sense advice. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

3 Things That Make A Better Doctor

On Monday, NPR’s Scott Hensley posted:

“Between the Internet and all the data insurance companies and the government collect on doctors, you’d think it would be a lot easier than it used to be to find a good one. But it’s not.”

Sound familiar around here? See his thoughts: “3 Tips For Picking A Slightly Better Doctor.”

(Thanks to friend Cindy Johnson for the tip.)

*This blog post was originally published at*

Dealing With Medical Error Together

The “Running A Hospital” blog has another discussion of dealing with medical error. This time, the hospital has opened up an error of its own (a “wrong side” surgery) for examination by the Open School of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

Sample comments:

— From IHI’s Jim Conway: “Our systems are too complex to expect merely extraordinary people to perform perfectly 100 percent of the time. We as leaders must put in place systems that support great practice by people who suffer from being human and will make mistakes.”

— From a patient who had two surgical errors in ten months: “After years of suffering through our incredibly brutal tort(ure) system I finally had the chance to talk to the surgeon. The most meaningful words he spoke were the descriptions of how badly he suffered also from the event we shared in that OR. Finally I was not alone!”

As we’ve often said, participatory medicine brings a new kind of partnership between patient and caregiver. Neither denial nor a Wall of Silence (famous book) has any place in a healthy relationship. It breaks my heart to think of the good lives that are ruined by our cultural inability to deal with honest errors in complex situations.

Yes, as Linda Kenney of MITSS mentions in a comment, some employees (in any industry) are reckless and must be weeded out. That too can be a denial issue. But first, we need open discussion.

*This blog post was originally published at*

Patient Safety: “Are You Safe?” Awareness Video

Today [Aug 28] I’m participating in the workshop “Engaging Minority Communities in Safer Healthcare” organized by MITSS (Medically Induced Trauma Support Services), a Boston non-profit I’ve written about before.

The current speaker is Lisa O’Connor, VP of Nursing at Boston Medical Center. She just showed this four-minute safety awareness video, produced by Quantros. Much of its content will be familiar to our readers here (the frequency of medical errors and hospital acquired infections), but I’m posting it because of its good, concrete, specific actions every patient should know.

The part with specific actions for patients starts around 2:30. (My highlights are below.) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

“Medical Self-Care” And The Doc Tom Interview

Next in our series of posts about our founder Doc Tom. Previous time capsules: 1980 and 1985.

Come, ye economics buffs and algebra fans: Get out your pencils and solve for x, n, and XX:

Whatever else the year 19XX is remembered for, it will — without a doubt — go down in history as a record year for medical expenses here in the United States. All indications are that before the calendar year is out, Americans will have spent $x (n% of the Gross National Product) on drugs, X-rays, surgery, physicians’ fees, laboratory tests, hospital overhead, health insurance, etc. That’s up from the [$0.3x] ([.7n%] of GNP) just 13 years ago.

Clearly, the medical establishment has become a threat to the average American’s budget (if not his health).

Ready? That was…1978. Check the tiny numbers:

Whatever else 1978 is remembered for, it will—without a doubt—go down in history as a record year for medical expenses here in the United States. All indications are that before the calendar year is out, 216 million Americans will have spent $139 billion (8.6% of the Gross National Product) on drugs, X-rays, surgery, physicians’ fees, laboratory tests, hospital overhead, health insurance, etc. That’s up from the $39 billion (5.9% of GNP) medical care cost in 1965 . . . just 13 years ago.

Tom Ferguson was a medical student, and in the self-reliant era of the Whole Earth Catalog, he saw that patients could help heal healthcare by taking better care of themselves. In 1976 he’d started a magazine called Medical Self-Care. The text above appeared in Mother Earth News in May 1978, as the introduction to an 8,000-word interview with Tom. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

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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