Health care

Physicians and opioids: Part of the solution, but challenges ahead

James S. Gessner, MD

President Massachusetts Medical Society, Guest Contributor

As doctors acknowledge the role that they have played in the current opioid crisis, they, along with hospitals, medical schools, and other members of the medical community have worked to address the issue on several fronts, including instituting prescribing guidelines and offering continuing education to prescribers.

Our planet, ourselves: Climate change and health

Peter Grinspoon, MD

Contributing Editor

Climate change is not merely relevant to human healthcare issue, but in fact, directly affects them. Air pollution, drought, famine and flood are just a few things caused by climate change that have an immediate impact on the health of people all over the world. Though it is an incredibly broad and global issue, individual efforts to reduce personal carbon footprints are important.

How good is my doctor? Awards, acronyms, and anecdotes…Oh my

It’s already hard enough to pick the right doctor for yourself without all these awards and designations to pull apart. Which ones actually mean something and which ones don’t? These awards and the acronyms following a doctor’s name might be easier to interpret than you think. Just make sure not to judge a book by its cover – or a doctor by his or her labels.

Making health social: Friends and family as part of the health care team

Healthy choices can be hard to make, but it becomes much easier when your entire social circle helps you keep up with it. According to a recent study, engaging your friends and family in your lifestyle changes will hold you accountable, and you will be more likely to stick with those changes. Making them a regular part of your “health care team” could go a long way to maintaining your health.

What’s the evidence for evidence-based medicine?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

The history of medicine is filled with remedies that were relied upon for hundreds of years until they were eventually proven ineffective or possibly even dangerous, while legitimate practices and treatments were disregarded or ridiculed until evidence outweighed skepticism. The bottom line is that medical interventions — from tests to treatments — should neither be recommended nor condemned without considering and weighing the evidence. A future post will discuss what physicians look for when evaluating “the evidence.”

White coat syndrome or white coat logo syndrome? The pitfalls of doctor shopping by “brand”

Branding has the power to influence people, but it should not necessarily be a significant, or the only, factor when it comes to health care. Picking a physician based on the name of their hospital does not always correlate with quality of care, and it could even cost you a larger copay.

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A recent study involving over one million Medicare enrollees found that these older patients had more successful outcomes when under the care of a female physician verses a male physician. A thorough reading of the study seems to support that gender made the difference, but the takeaway is that it’s important to understand the differences between how women and men practice medicine and why these might be important. Most likely each gender has something to learn from the other.

Racism and discrimination in health care: Providers and patients

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

It is sadly true that people of color cannot necessarily expect to receive the same quality of medical care in this country as whites. And unfortunately, discrimination by patients toward doctors is another problem that the medical community needs to address. To overcome the racism and discrimination that lead to health care disparities, doctors and patients need to identify and manage our own implicit biases.

Making health decisions in the face of uncertainty: Let your values be your guide

One of the biggest challenges for doctors and their patients is making decisions without complete certainty, so they must work together to determine the point at which the risk of further testing ceases to be acceptable. A patient’s personal values and health goals are important factors in health decisions, especially in the face of uncertainty.

Keeping the human connection in medicine

As the practice of medicine evolves, electronic medical records can simplify care and help make it more thorough, but the tools that help make doctors more efficient, have real consequences for how doctors interact with their patients, and one another. Doctors must work harder to maintain good communication and relationships with their patients and colleagues.