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Showing posts from December, 2011

How does Canada do it?

When I was at my marathon internal medicine update course at Harvard earlier this month, I sat next to a very bright physician from Tanzania who works as an internist in Canada. I am so glad I talked to her. I was really confused about the health care system in Canada, especially the meaning of "socialized medicine."

Canada has a publicly funded insurance program that pays for basic health services and covers about 99% of outpatient visits. Doctors, though, are not all on a salary through the government, which I thought they were. Most physicians receive fee for service, just like they do in the US.

What happens is that their "medicare" is much like ours, and pays doctors for seeing patients. I am not at all clear as to what a doctor can bill medicare for, whether Canada pays for things like management services not involving face to face contacts or that sort of thing, which would be really interesting to know. Some doctors are on salary through community health cl…

Being a hospitalist and watching our hospital get digital

Since quitting my primary care job 2 months ago I have been working at our local hospital as a "hospitalist". I take 24 hour shifts, several in a row, and during those shifts I am responsible for taking care of all of the patients admitted to the hospital whose doctors can't care for them in that setting. This ends up with me being a consultant for some patients who are particularly complex and time consuming and being the primary doctor for patients whose doctors don't have hospital privileges or are out of town or who don't have a doctor at all. I meet lots of interesting people and get to know them and do the diagnosing, communicating and treating that they need until I go off duty. For many of these people I miss being able to see the whole illness through, like I used to do. It is freeing, though, to know that my responsibility ends at a certain time.

My days vary from extremely busy, where I can't even answer a phone call from my family and have to keep…

Blog maintenance issues

This month the stats for this site showed that there have been over 10,000 views since its inception about 2 years ago. I was bragging about this to my 17 year old son, a computer whisperer, who has very little patience for my relative ignorance of the digital world. He gave me some advice, sort of the "queer eye for the straight guy" variety of advice. ( Reference: "Queer Eye" is a reality TV show where gay men give advice on fashion and lifestyle to clueless straight men.) Apparently it is amazing that anyone visits this site at all, for a number of reasons. The first is "TL;DR"--too long, didn't read. All anyone sees when they visit this site is a wall of words which is probably quite overwhelming unless the visitor is pretty darn determined.

The second is that there is hardly anything to grab the eye. I went with the packaged blogspot formatting and haven't changed it at all the whole time I've been writing. It is really quite attractive, …

How to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, have better cholesterol and live longer, all without me nagging about it

There are various things that appear to be good for people. These include maintaining a normal weight, or losing weight if a person is fat, drinking some alcohol, but not too much, quitting smoking and exercising. Doctors as a whole also believe that lowering cholesterol levels is good, and at my recent update in internal medicine course there was some good data that suggested that drinking coffee is a good thing! Controlling blood pressure is also very important.

Being obese is bad in a number on ways, increasing risk of getting cancer, increasing osteoarthritis of the knees, which in turn is responsible for quite a bit of suffering and death, and increasing blood pressure and heart disease. Diet changes can help, but unlike much of what I have believed, there is no particular diet that is better than other diets for everybody. One study looked at people attempting to lose weight using either a low fat or a low carbohydrate diet. The low carb diets are exemplified by the Atkins  and …

Harvard Medical School Internal Medicine Update--Deepak Chopra and more

Having now attended 4 of the 6.5 days of the Harvard Internal Medicine Update CME I am now more grateful for being here. The first day of talks was disappointing, with some of the presenters actually pretty much reading their notes word for word, which I could have done in the comfort of my own home. But many of the speakers since then have been more confident and have been speaking from their hearts and their experience and there has been more to think about.

Yesterday Deepak Chopra gave a special 2 hour lecture about the meaning of life which was quite moving. He is a physician turned writer, though reading his biography it looks like he was always destined to do things that didn't fit comfortably into the medical profession. He started as a medical student in India, went on to become an endocrinologist, was involved in Transcendental Meditation and was a follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, learned Ayurvedic medicine and now is able to span the gap between alternative medicine, e…

Ranting about continuing medical education, evidence based medicine and cost ignorance

I am attending Harvard Medical School's yearly internal medicine update this week. In a little over 6 days we experience 62 hours of medical education, sitting for 12 hours each day in the conference room of a shiny glass and steel hotel in downtown Boston. We hear world authorities on diseases of all of the major organ systems tell us what they think we ought to know. I am two days into it and still pretty excited, but losing a bit of my enthusiasm.

Most of the presenters follow a set of power point slides, sometimes word for word, that are reproduced in our course syllabus in a size that is nearly entirely unreadable. The form of the talks is to present the scope of the problem, then the recommended testing and treatment, interspersed with the research that is the basis for the recommendations, with an occasional cartoon or anecdote. There are also brief question and answer sessions and cases presented with recommendations on management. There are audience response handsets so w…