Red Sox Fever

So the series is finally over, and we can get back to our lives.  I was only 4 in 1967 so I don't remember that one .. but I remember 1975 quite well:

October 22, 1975: In game seven, Boston held a 3-0 lead going into the sixth. Pete Rose hit a lead off single; Joe Morgan flew out to right. Johnny Bench grounded to short, but the Red Sox missed a double play opportunity when 2B Denny Doyle threw the ball into the dugout. Bench advanced to second on the mistake. Tony Perez jacked a Bill Lee curve over the Green Monster for his third home run of the Series; Boston's lead was cut to 3-2. 

My favorite player at the time was Doug Griffin – who was always in competition with Doyle for the spot at second base.  So when Doyle blew a double-play that led to a 2 run homer (the Sox eventually lost the game 4-3) .. my dislike for Doyle was enhanced.  The series in 1975 was my first big experience with being a Red Sox fan.  Doyle was my "Bill Buckner."  Nearly 30 years later, I'm happy to have witnessed this historic series .. to wash all of that away.  Congratulations Red Sox Nation. 

Schilling Tendon Procedure

Schilling_ankle.gif So now there's a Wikipedia entry for the Schilling Tendon Procedure.  We'll have to get that added to the medical textbooks real soon now.  The news reports are not so clear about this as I would like .. and I'm still not certain that the wikipedia entry is accurate .. so please edit it if you know more of the details.  It's my first contribution to the wikipedia.  Not too hard, but the editing takes some getting used to.

When to make a referral?

Referrals are a tough topic in primary care.

Two phone calls today reflect some of these issues:

"JMR .. patient on phone .. wants referral to a back doctor .. ok to make the referral?"

"uhh .. put her through please"

I want to talk with the patient so that I can understand why she wants the referral and why she thinks this is something that requires a specialist.  Clearly I am not a back doctor or a front doctor or a foot doctor … but I may be able to help people with problems of these parts.  Turns out that the chiropractor hasn't helped much despite thrice-weekly treatments for 3 months.  She has low back pain.  No symptoms of anything bad.

What to do? 

  • I can require that she come in to the office .. but then I am being the "gatekeeper."
  • I can just refer her to the orthopoaedist .. but then I am making an inappropriate referral.
  • I can refer her to physical therapy (which is what would most likely occur as a result of a visit with me or the orthopoaedist).

    Hmm … which is the right answer?

Ok .. number two is harder.

I care for many physicians in my practice.   Caring for other physicians is tough.   Our office got a phone call a few weeks ago from a specialist about a referral that they needed from us so that they could see a patient who was there for an office visit that day.  The patient never called me .. never asked if I thought that a referral was necessary .. and never asked our office for a referral.  By making the appointment directly with the specialist – a message is sent to the primary care physician that our training and opinion is inferior to the patient's own ability to triage the situation.  For this scenario (I won't go into the details) I am certain that I would have been able to provide the service that the patient was looking for myself.    grrr…

Poll: Tennesseans favor Kerry on Healthcare


 .. and Bush overall … according to this poll


But Tennesseans not all that issue savvy

Despite the impression the above findings might give, a close look at five domestic agenda items suggests that Tennesseans as a group hardly qualify as well-informed, ideologically consistent policy wonks. For example, only about half of Tennessee adults can accurately name Kerry as the candidate who supports rescinding the recent federal income tax cuts for people earning over $200,000 a year. About a quarter (23%) incorrectly attributed the proposal to Bush, and 27% admit they don't know which candidate supports the measure. Similarly, only about half (50%) rightly name Bush as the candidate who favors giving parents tax-funded vouchers to help pay private or religious school tuition. Thirteen percent attribute the plan to Kerry, who actually opposes it. Over a third (37%) admit they don't know.

Knowledge levels are even lower on the other three issues. Well under half (42%) are aware that Bush wants to let younger workers put some of their Social Security withholdings into their own personal retirement accounts. Nineteen percent incorrectly think Kerry supports the measure, and 40% say they don't know one way or the other. Just over a quarter (28%) rightly name Bush as the candidate who supports giving needy people tax breaks that would help buy health insurance from private companies. Thirty percent inaccurately name Kerry as the measure's proponent, and 41% admit not knowing. Finally, just 39% know that Kerry advocates requiring plants and factories to add new pollution control equipment when they make upgrades. Fifteen percent wrongly attribute the policy to Bush, and 45% don't know.

So goes another non-medical post.  My second in as many weeks.   … now back to your regular programming .. already in progress…

OnCalls Scheduling Software now Syncs with PDA

ok .. so it took me about a year to get back to this .. but only a few hours to actually get it functional!  OnCalls, the web-based medical scheduling software that Dave and I developed, will now sync with a Palm OS or PocketPC.  If you really want to try it, you can log in with username: "demo" and password "demo."  There aren't many people on-call in the demo group, so there may not be anything to sync (I just put in a few folks for this week just in case you go look).  Palm sync is certainly in test mode, but it weems to work pretty well, and I've heard from quite a few users that they discovered it and like it very much.  Here's the audience-particpiation question:  how much extra should I charge for Palm Sync?

Medical Weblog Usefulness

A few days ago, I wrote about the (new) flood of medical weblogs and wondered out loud how we could work together to make (or medical weblogs in general) more useful.  There were a few good comments and Nick had some ideas for medblog guidelines. (read the comments of the entry to see Nick's thoughts).  I had sent Nick an e-mail offering to gather the "grand rounds" at one predictable URL .. and I wonder if he worried I was trying to take it over.  Far from it .. I just want to make it possible for readers to find the grand rounds in one predictable place every week .. ok .. back to what I'm thinkin ..

Making (keeping?) medical weblogs useful. 

What do I mean by useful? 

The Usefulness Equation:

To be useful, medical information should be relevant to everyday practice, correct (valid) and easy to obtain.  Slawson and Shaughnessy describe a formula which relates these three factors in a "Usefulness equation": 

Usefulness Equation

I won't repeat the whole discussion of usefulness here. Please review the link above for more detail.  The important idea here is that in the past .. when there were only a handful of medical weblogs … they were truly useful.  I wrote mine as an effort to provide to myself and my colleagues an important and useful source of information .. and .. yes .. an outlet for my thoughts and concerns. 

Nick's commentary describes his appropriate concern for the "outlet" component of weblogs.  I've always thought of medical weblogs as a way to provide transparency into the thoughts and actions of real physicians.  This sort of transparency is rare, and patients who see how we think may understand more about how to interact with their physicians, how to critically assess the news reports, and ultimately how to care for themselves better. 

So the readers of medical weblogs could be:

  • Patients (aka real humans)
  • Physicians
  • Residents
  • Students (medical, pre-med, high school, etc)
  • Health Industry Workers .. (from executives to bench scientists to nurse assistants)
  • and so on ..

And I suppose that the view of the usefulness of a post (or weblog) depends on the perspective of the reader.  When I post a lot about technology or dry medical topics, my wife complains that she misses the reflections of the life of a family physician.  But would Nick complain if I whine too much about life in my practice? 

A good (useful) medical weblog will weave the clinical usefulness with the personal components — just as any good teacher will weave the content they want to convey into an interesting an compelling tapestry.

Sydney and Dr Bob make liberal use of cutting and pasting from the text of important articles in addition to linking to them.  This increases the usefulness of their posts, since it reduces the work.  Fewer clicks for the reader — no need to follow the link .. read read read .. click "back" and then read the bloggers commentary.

So how do we improve to filter the blogs/posts in a way that causes the most useful to bubble up to the top?  It's NOT the most linked-to blogs (like the Daypop top 40)  that are the most useful … and I would agree that it's not likely the most "hits" from the medlogs home page.

This week, Kevin (next week's Grand Rounds editor) posted a request for people to send him suggestions for inclusion in the Grand Rounds.  I would assume that people who think a given post is suitable for consideration means that the post is useful.  Hmm.  But this isn't automatic.  A long-term sustainable solution would not require so much work on the part of Kevin (reading the e-mails, following links, etc) .. nor would it require so much work from those suggesting the posts. 

Would a scoring system work?  Let's say … we had a little hunk of code that would be embedded in everyone's weblog that would create a little form with every post like with radio buttons .. rating the post on its usefulness from 1 – 5.   The forms would submit to medlogs, which would track the ratings and then generate a "most useful" page of the most useful blog posts .. and perhaps another with a list of the recent posts from the most useful blogs.   Hmm ..



George Soros

George Soros made a compelling speech last week at the National Press Club.  This election is too important to remain idle.

Last week, I heard a local commentator on the radio describing his assessment of the Bush Administration's "Compassionate Conservatism."  While he acknowledged that one could argue with the Bush Administration's compassion — his real beef was with their Conservatism.  Dr Leibo's essay is wonderful. 

So when I read essays like Dr Leibo's and Mr Soros — I honestly wonder how anyone could consider voting for Bush.  It just doesn't make sense …