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Showing posts from August, 2010

Hospital Medicine: Out of Order

Physicans in Reverse Gear! Here is some inside dope on the medical profession for patients to ponder. We are all reading these days about improving the process of delivering medical care. This effort aims to raise the level of medical quality, and to minimize errors of omission and commission. This is why all surgeries and medical procedures begin with a ‘time out’, when there is a brief huddle confirming the identity of the patient and the intended operation. This is to prevent scenarios, such as: “Mr. Patella, we replaced the wrong knee, but you would have needed a new one at some point. No need to get out of joint over this – the rehab is on us.” Numerous medical specialties are now using checklists for medical procedures that include a series of steps. For example, if every heart bypass patient needs to proceed through 24 pre-operative steps, including laboratory studies, diagnostic tests, specialty consultations and an informed consent discussion, then a checklist is an e

Stop Medical Malpractice: The White Coat Wall of Silence

Photo Credit Leisure Guy, one of my most faithful commenters, opines that I am omitting an important aspect of the tort reform argument. He has implored me repeatedly to read a particular book that I suspect buttresses his views, but this worthy pursuit is simply not near the top of my priority pyramid. Since he’s retired, he enjoys the luxury of burrowing deeply into the base of his priority pyramid. With 4 tuitions to go, retirement is a distant mirage for me. I’m can be a ‘leisure guy’, but only in my dreams. I have written throughout this blog and elsewhere that there are too many frivolous lawsuits against physicians. I have admitted that caps on non-economic damages are not ideal, because they deny some worthy plaintiffs of complete compensation, but I support them because I believe they serve the greater good. I have ranted that there is no effective filter to screen out physicians who should never be invited to the litigation party in the first place. I believe that the cur

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity: Annals of Internal Medicine Caves

We have a classroom in our home. It’s called the dinner table. This is the locale where over the years, my wife and I have tried to teach 5 kids right from wrong. As we parents ourselves still struggle with these issues, it is clear that integrity remains an indefinite element of life’s curriculum. There was a time when this table was an actual classroom, when my wife and I home schooled 2 of our youngsters for about 3 years. I could devote an entire blog to this adventure. Many of our family dinners were seasoned with discussions about integrity. We have discussed and debated the lapse in integrity that has seeped into our educational culture, as well as into society at large. We have reviewed dozens of news accounts detailing ever more resourceful methods of cheating and stealing ideas without attribution. This phenomenon has no boundary and has permeated the medical profession. Euphemisms like ghostwriting cannot camouflage the practice for what it often is – cheating. Yes, I

Health Care Reform: The Worst is Yet to Come

Do you see or do you observe? Most readers have likely given just a glancing glimpse of the photograph to the left, which I took during recent vacation in Costa Rica. Most, including me, would have recognized that the photograph is a tree, and then moved onto the riveting text. While this identification would be correct, it would not be the whole story. Look more carefully, and see if you overlooked a finding on the photo during your cursory review of it. The health care reform plan, now law, also has many camouflaged elements that were not visible, even to the informed public. In the coming years, as the layers are peeled back, there will be many surprises for the public and for the medical profession, which I hope and pray will remain a profession. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010. No, it won’t be repealed, despite some shrill populist campaigning to do so from the political right. I also doubt that the judiciary will turn it back,

Evidence-based Medicine in Disguise: Beware the Surrogate!

In this post, I will give ordinary folks a ‘peek behind the academic curtain’. I am not an academic physician, but a mere practicing gastroenterologist who spends my days ‘enlightening’ Cleveland colons. Why do some medical studies, which achieve breaking news status, often fall so short of our expectations? Physicians are cynical about these medical milestones, since they are often short-lived. Today’s cure may become tomorrow’s disease. A common practice and serious flaw in medical research is to rely upon a surrogate marker when studying a disease. Let me explain. If you endure the following few paragraphs of literary driftwood, you will understand press reporting of medical studies on a deeper level.  This could directly affect your medical care and generate some interesting conversations during your next doctor visit. A surrogate marker is an event or a laboratory value that researchers hope can serve as a reliable substitute for an actual disease. A common example of this is