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Do Foreign Medical Graduates “Doctor” Better?

Yes, according to a study in today’s Health Affairs. (The full text of the study is available only to subscribers, but Kaiser Health News Daily has a good summary of its findings and links to other news reports.)

The study compares inpatient death rates and lengths of stay for patients with congestive heart failure or acute myocardial infarction when provided by U.S. citizens trained abroad, citizens trained in the United States, and non-citizens trained abroad. Treatment was provided by internists, family physicians, or cardiologists. The differences were striking, according to the authors:

“Our analysis of 244,153 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania found that patients of doctors who graduated from international medical schools and were not U.S. citizens at the time they entered medical school had significantly lower mortality rates than patients cared for by doctors who graduated from U.S. medical schools or who were U.S. citizens and received their degrees abroad.”

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*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

U.S. Healthcare: When Is Enough Enough?

A new survey in the journal Health Affairs synthesizes nearly everything I believe is wrong with the U.S. healthcare system. The survey found that patients believe that more care is better, that the latest and most expensive treatments are the best, that none of their doctors provide substandard care, and that evidence-based guidelines are a pretext for denying them the care they need and deserve.

Sigh.

Until we can retrain consumers (that would be all of us) to understand that in medicine more is NOT better, that evidence-based guidelines may translate in some instances into less but better care, that doctors are falliable and should be questioned, and that the cost of a treatment has nothing to do with the quality, we will never get out of the healthcare quagmire in which we find ourselves.

Your thoughts?

*This blog post was originally published at A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life*

Evidence-Based Medicine: Do Patients Understand It?

Doctors trying to help patients understand a course of treatment must teach them new terms such as “medical evidence,” “quality guidelines” and “quality standards.” Patients might not be willing to accept that language lesson.

A study in Health Affairs concluded that 41 percent of patients didn’t ask questions or tell doctors about problems. The main barriers were that patients didn’t know how to talk to doctors, or their physicians seemed rushed. Only 34 percent of patients recalled physicians discussing medical research in relation to care management.

But, physicians say, that’s only half the problem. Sometimes, patients demand to see specialists when they don’t really need to. Or, they don’t accept it when evidence shows that highly-desired treatments aren’t the best ones for care. One reason may be that one in three patients believe that more expensive treatments work better than less expensive ones, according to the study in Health Affairs. Once the evidence is laid out, it can be a delicate negotiation to get patients to accept that. (American Medical News, Health Affairs, RangelMD, KevinMD)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

A Team Approach To Primary Care: Why Some Doctors May Resist

What if some physicians actually like the way primary care is currently practiced? It’s hard to believe, considering the majority of studies suggest marked dissatisfaction among primary care doctors, and an increasing prevalence of physician burnout.

The ACP’s Bob Doherty recently summarized an epic Health Affairs article devoted to fixing primary care. The bottom line was that paying primary care doctors better isn’t enough. The whole field needs to be re-invented. Read more »

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

Saving Primary Care: What Will It Take?

“Bold changes are needed in how the United States delivers and pays for primary care if the key goals of national health reform are to be achieved,” according to the health policy journal Health Affairs, which has released a thematic issue devoted entirely to the crisis in primary care.

(The complete articles are available only to subscribers, but Health Affairs’ blog has a good summary.)

I have spent much of the day reading the journal — 47 articles, and a combined 300 pages of text. Here are my “take-home” messages from the articles. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

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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