Mea sententia...

Mea Sententia (which translates roughly as 'My Opinion') has been my intermittent blog since 2011. Much of my writing is about medical issues, but my topics range through philosophy, behavioral and decision making, management, humor, and persona/family anecdotes.
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Thanks for 44 years

Forty four good years, with more to come.  I’ll honor it with the words we started with…

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Thoughts for Labor Day

I don’t consider myself a laborer, though I surely work very hard. I work because I love to.

 

“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

 

“Each morning sees some task begin,

Each evening sees it close;

Something attempted, some done,

Has earned a night’s repose.”

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

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Some thoughts about the medical history

'Taking a history’ is one of the first clinical tasks medical students are taught. The logic behind this is inescapable: without the history, attempts at diagnosis and treatment are doomed to failure. We start our training with the history, when we present patients for discussion with other doctors (in training or later, in practice) we start with the history. And except in rare emergencies, we start every patient interaction with the history.  The history: it always starts there but it doesn’t end there.

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Insomnia cured by Aristophanes

The appointment was for his annual physical, and to review his well controlled hypertension and gout. After we had addressed these issues, I asked if there was anything else he was concerned about.

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Problems are not the problm

Having problems is not a problem. Believing or pretending there are no problems, and then punishing or marginalizing those who want to fix the problems - THAT is a problem.


 

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Questions that patients should be asked

In a previous post I talked about some important questions I ask myself in my attempt to avoid missing the correct diagnosis.

There is also a set of questions I like to ask the patient, usually at the conclusion of the visit while I am typing our collaborative assessment and plan into the EHR, to ensure that the patient and I are literally on the same page. 

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Don't 'due-due' on patients

I have a serious problem with the ubiquitous use of 'due' when talking with patients about what their medical options are. This came up recently when I was given a list of my patients who were ‘due’ for certain services, required if my institution is to receive a financial quality incentive. Typically, ‘due’ shows up in EHR alerts (the diabetic patient is 'due' for their A1c or microalbumin) and quality programs (patients are 'due' for a mammogram every 2 years, a DXA at 65, a pneumovax at 65, even well child visits at set intervals).

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Narcotic contracts: a terrible idea

Treating patients with chronic pain is one of the more challenging tasks in primary care:

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Urine drug screens (UDS) in primary care

Ordering periodic urine drug screens (UDS) on patients being treated with opiates for chronic pain has become so common it is now the de facto standard of care. That doesn’t mean it benefits patients. 

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The sale (a metaphor involving chaps)

Every year when I brought my chain saw in to be serviced and have the blade sharpened, Reggie tried to get me to buy a set of chaps. They weren’t cheap, and, while I was not the least bit sanguine about the destructive power of the saw, I used it infrequently, only in good conditions, and with care. The chaps were a garish orange, and I always declined.  Reggie always shrugged, looked disgusted, and rang up my bill.

A few years ago, when he made his usual offer and I declined, he looked at me for a very long moment, and then said:

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