Consumers & PatientsMedical Decision-MakingResearch
August 8, 2018

Why Randomized Clinical Trials Are Essential to Informed Medical Decisions

I am not a card-carrying philosopher, although I did study philosophy as my undergraduate major. What I enjoyed most was epistemology, the theory of knowledge. We debated, hotly, from the standpoints of social interaction and humanism, “What is knowledge? What constitutes knowing?” But such philosophical debates are not relevant in medical care. Medicine is not a philosophical province. By that I mean that when we are ill, we are philosophically the same; debating differences is a waste of time. We have equal value; have the same rights to the same efforts and same actions to get us better. The essential…
Read More
Consumers & PatientsMedical Decision-MakingResearch
June 20, 2018

Deciphering Outcomes: Thirty Percent More of Nothing Is Still Nothing

Trying to pass a Bill through a legislature demands a hardy disposition. I have been involved in three attempts on different issues—one bill passed, one is still in limbo, and a third, the most salient for me, failed. In the latter case, I was the sole proposer of the Bill. My idea captured the imagination of a state representative who said she would sponsor it, but, first, she wanted to get some other views. Eleven lobbyist conversations later, my Bill was dead. Something about the legislator being worried that my Bill would be taking on the First Amendment, which allows…
Read More
Consumers & PatientsFuture of Health CareMedical Decision-MakingValue-Based Health Care
May 30, 2018

Why Patients Should Ask Questions—and Physicians Should Listen

For health care providers and payers, Value-Based Health Care (VBHC) is a hot topic, with most all payers pressing a shift toward financial risk contracts and ACOs based on quality and cost performance. But if you ask consumers about the trend, chances are you’ll get a blank stare. Why? They’re not really part of the conversation. That’s a major problem, because consumer involvement is essential for VBHC success. When outcomes fall short, providers may complain about poor “patient compliance” with physician orders, and ACOs may bemoan lack of “patient engagement.” But they are minimizing patients’ preferences and concerns, or perhaps…
Read More
Future of Health CareMedical Decision-MakingResearch
May 16, 2018

“Just the Facts, Ma’am”

Communication, according to Webster’s: “exchange of information” You and I talk all the time. We are constantly “communicating.” Communication is a huge idea that encompasses and displays our views of the world. But communication is more than just the sum of the words used to communicate; the words are contextual. Raymond Carver wrote with simple, universally understood words, but I could not communicate like him even if I used the same words and labored intensively. Communication, in a sense, is a five-syllable word that is nearly elevated to a sixth sense, like taste, sight, touch, smell and sound. But here’s the rub. I don’t…
Read More
Consumers & PatientsMedical Decision-MakingResearch
May 2, 2018

Patients Deserve Truth-based Medicine—But Most Aren’t Getting It

“I have breast cancer; I read that I should not drink wine because it may cause my cancer to return. I always wanted to be a sommelier, but that dream is dashed!” People, sensibly, read about their medical conditions, searching for things that might help or hurt them. However, patients are vulnerable. Their vulnerability may cause them to overestimate concerns, or, alternatively, hopes after learning of a medical advance. Physicians and medical reporters have a daunting, yet crucial obligation to give people information that is credible; strategically, we also need to thwart information that is useless. Giving poor, non-science information…
Read More
Future of Health CareMedical Decision-MakingPatient Empowerment
December 20, 2017

The Crux of Shared Decision-Making: Who Is Actually Deciding?

Shared Decision-Making is an emotionally charged topic for both physicians and patients. Physicians believe they have their patients’ best interests at heart by guiding them into better health through therapies to improve their conditions. Physicians may believe, in fact, that by explaining health status and treatment alternatives (followed by asking the patient to decide), they are already using a Shared Decision-Making process. Patients, in turn, are facing a higher share of costs, yet an ever-worsening health status that requires improvement to avoid financial disaster. Imagine a typical physician-patient discussion about an important medical decision or the path for improving outcomes…
Read More
Medical Decision-MakingPatient EmpowermentResearch
December 6, 2017

For Tough Medical Decisions, Hard Choices Require Hard Facts—Not Conventional “Wisdom”

What matters in medical decisions is what we know, not what we think. In the late 1980’s I cared for a pregnant woman with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in pregnancy, but uncommon in frequency, occurring in about 1 in 3,000 pregnant women. Providing and receiving treatment is certainly a complex emotional experience; at that time, uncertainty about how to treat was the norm. The woman had a mastectomy but did not take chemotherapy based on concern for her baby. Three months after her delivery, now receiving chemotherapy for her aggressive breast cancer, the…
Read More
Future of Health CarePatient EmpowermentResearch
August 9, 2017

How to Recognize “Fake” Medical News — And Why It Matters

Is coffee good for you? A recent headline suggested that people who drink coffee live longer. Sounds great to me. I drink a lot of coffee, so maybe I will be immortal. But, wait, another report links coffee to cancer. Dang. Estrogens were once touted as a life saving elixir for women of elegant ages, until these hormone supplements were linked to increased cancer risk. Wine will either add to your life expectancy or increase chances of breast cancer. But if you are married and have cancer, your outcome is better; you live longer (and can drink more wine?). Eggs…
Read More
Future of Health CareMedical Decision-MakingPatient Empowerment
July 26, 2017

It’s Not What We Don’t Know That Hurts Us: It‘s What We “Know” That Isn’t So

Making a decision is a—or really—“the” fundamental activity of life. The decisions we make, the consequences of those decisions, our feelings about the consequences, our interpretation of whether we made a good or bad decision based on those consequences, in total, form the basis of our life’s experiences, and, often, how we decide the next time. My children used to say, “Duh,” to my muttering an obvious observance like, “It sure is hot today,” because the temperature just hit 100 degrees. The opening sentence of this blog may seem so obvious that it may trigger a similar response. Making a…
Read More
Future of Health CareMedical Decision-MakingPatient Empowerment
May 10, 2017

Can Consumers Get Essential Information to Make Good Health Care Decisions?

In the rancorous public debate about how to provide health care to Americans—and especially to vulnerable people with higher risks, lower income, or both—there is a common explanation for rising costs: it’s the patients’ fault. According to this argument, we need to stop the “overuse” of health care services by consumers that are causing our costs to skyrocket. But what if consumers really wanted to be excellent, cost-effective purchasers of health care. Could they actually do it? Could they legitimately question their physicians about recommended treatments? There is little argument that the system of financing health care has immunized both…
Read More