Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Basic Health Education: Not So Basic

The past two weeks I’ve been the “dayfloat” resident on the cardiology inpatient service. With the 30-hour-shift work “restrictions” placed on medical residents, there has been a need for new systems of care to ensure the safety of newly admitted patients and cardiology dayfloat is one of them. My job is to round with the post-call team, help them get out of the hospital on time, and then take care of their patients through the end of the work day. It’s a fairly easy rotation, as they go, though because I “float” from one team to another without patients of my own, it’s also not the most satisfying.

Towards the end of my two week rotation, I was paged by a nurse because a patient’s husband wanted an update on his wife’s condition. Glancing at my “signout” — a one-page synopsis of the patient’s presenting illness and hospital course — I learned that Mrs. FN (as I will call her) was admitted to the hospital for heart failure secondary to “medical noncompliance.” It appeared that she had not had any of her medications for well over a week, which likely precipitated the shortness of breath and fluid overload that led to her admission. On top of this, the patient had a number of “dietary indiscretions” including eating Chinese food, which likely only exacerbated her condition. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BeyondApples.Org*

Patient Safety Video: “Hand Hygiene Saves Lives”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has produced a patient safety video about the importance of handwashing for hospital patients and their healthcare providers. The instructional piece entitled “Hand Hygiene Saves Lives” is available for hospitals to offer their newly-admitted patients. I think everyone should watch and learn:

Source: CDC-TV

Another Law To Ensure Doctors Do Right By Their Patients

Recently the [state of] New York signed a law requiring hospitals and doctors to discuss breast reconstruction options with the patient prior to her undergoing cancer surgery. It troubled me that this law was needed. Is it not the duty of the physicians and surgeons to educate the patient on the options available? 

We need to make sure the patient and their family know of the treatment options which may vary depending on the diagnosis and stage: Radiation, chemotherapy, surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy, axillary dissection) — a combination of treatments.

Even if the patient and her physicians don’t chose to do immediate reconstruction, isn’t the discussion and information part of the discussion? At least inform the patient of the option.

Do we physicians and surgeons need another law to ensure we do right by our patients? Read more »

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

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*

Pay Patients To Take Their Medicine?

The New York Times reported recently on efforts by providers and payers to increase patient medication adherence through the use financial incentives paid to patients. The article cited the use of small financial payments (<$100), awarded via lotteries, to patients that take Warfarin –- an anti-blood clotting medication.

There is certainly nothing wrong with financial incentives. Incentives have been proven successful in changing selected provider (quality and safety improvement) and patient behavior (stop smoking, weight loss and taking health risk surveys). But paying patients to take their medication is different. Actually, the evidence suggests that it is a just plain stupid idea for a whole lot of reasons. Read more »

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

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »