Policy, Ethics, Education

Oct 092011
 

Smoking cessation counseling may feel like a waste of the time and effort required, since most smokers don’t quit. But evidence shows that even the <10% success rate of smoking cessation counseling saves millions of lives, compared to doing nothing. According to a recent smoking cessation review in the NEJM: Even those not ready to quit do 8% of the time [… read more]

Oct 072011
 

Zhang et al pooled 20 studies that compared ultrasound, chest X-ray, or both against a reference standard (usually CT scan) for the diagnosis of pneumothorax. Chest X-ray had a pooled sensitivity of 52% and specificity 99% for diagnosis of pneumothorax. Ultrasound’s pooled sensitivity was 88% and specificity, 100%. Unsurprisingly, the accuracy of ultrasonography to diagnose [… read more]

Oct 072011
 

People with asthma have an impressive and frustrating variability in their response to treatment, with corticosteroids and other drugs. As many as 40% of people with asthma don’t respond to inhaled steroids. Asthma’s familial basis is well-known: 60% of the variability in the response to albuterol may be inherited, and more than 80% of the treatment response to [… read more]

Oct 022011
 

It sounds like a doctor must have been pretty rude to Chicago’s Ms. Carolyn Bucksbaum 20+ years ago. She’s giving $42 million of her and her husband’s shopping-mall fortune to the University of Chicago, to create an institute devoted to improving medical students’ bedside mannerisms. Their beloved personal U. of C. physician, Mark Siegler, will [… read more]

Sep 262011
 

Gershon et al used Canadian health administrative databases to identify all new diagnoses of COPD in Ontario from 1996-2010, a cohort of 13 million people. Lifetime risk of COPD (by age 80) was 27.6%. Smoking status was not available/included in the analysis. These were physicians’ diagnoses of COPD (using a validated case definition); there was [… read more]

Sep 222011
 

Observational epidemiologic data on 132 California kids who caught pertussis (of 15,000 in a cohort), presented at the American Society for Microbiology meeting last week, suggested that protection from pertussis vaccination may wane as soon as 3 years after the last dose. Kids age 8-12 were most at risk (the last dose is given at [… read more]

Sep 132011
 

West et al report survey and in-service exam data from 16,394 internal medicine residents nationwide, 2008-2009. Almost 15% reported that their lives “suck” or “profoundly suck” (I’m paraphrasing slightly). About half reported emotional exhaustion or feeling burned-out. Almost 30% were in a disconnected, fugue-like state. The really depressed ones did worse on their in-service exams, [… read more]

Sep 132011
 
Millions of adults quit smoking since 2005 (MMWR)

From 2005 to 2010, the percent of U.S. adults identifying themselves as smokers fell from 20.9% to 19.3% — about 3 million fewer smokers than would be expected. The results come from the CDC’s national telephone health surveys. More remarkably, adults reported smoking far fewer cigarettes: The proportion of adults reporting smoking more than a [… read more]

Aug 142011
 

Accountability for Medical Error: Moving Beyond Blame to Advocacy. CHEST 2011;140:519-526.  Bell et al’s great essay on the dysfunctional mechanics and culture of liability / safety / blame surrounding medical errors in hospitals and our medical care system in general. They propose steps toward “collective accountability,” e.g., we MDs should sit on hospital safety committees. But [… read more]

Jul 252011
 

Under mandate by the FDA to answer lingering questions about long-acting beta agonists’ safety for treatment of asthma, four major pharma firms will launch five large randomized trials comparing inhaled corticosteroid / long-acting beta agonist combination products vs. ICS alone. The trials (4 in adults, 1 in kids) will enroll >50,000 people starting this year, [… read more]

Jul 202011
 

In a great essay, Coller proposes re-engineering the health care system before Obamacare amplifies our skyrocketing cost problem under fee-for-service. Sounds like a twist on accountable care organizations, but more plausible and on its face politically palatable (after the bloody noses heal). JAMA 2011;306:204-205.

Jul 192011
 

Particulate matter causes cardiovascular deaths, and also worsens respiratory illness. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to reduce acceptable levels of PM and ozone, a move that would force industry to pay for new upgrades. NEJM 2011;365:198-201.

Jul 182011
 

The 18,000 clinical trials published each year aren’t doing much to improve human health, argues Peter Pronovost. Health delivery research can, by improving delivery and impact of already-proven interventions. But doing so will require cutting a slice of the funding pie for social scientists and other untouchables in the “omics”-loving academic caste system. JAMA 2011;306:310-311.

Jul 052011
 

Why are big single center trial effects not often replicated in larger multi-center randomized controlled trials? Dechartres et al did a meta-meta-analysis on 48 meta-analyses comprising 421 randomized clinical trials. Across all their sensitivity analyses, reported treatment effects were consistently and substantially larger in single-center trials than in multi-center trials. No one knows why yet. [… read more]