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Scans and X-ray requests convey something to the patient

Respondents

Carly Flumer

BJ Miller

Eric Last

Mike Rabow

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The questions you ask in a doctor’s room matter

Respondents

Carly Flumer

David Rakel

Eric Last

Kimberly Richardson

Dana Deighton

Special mention Michael Bungay Stanier

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The biggest challenge is sustainability

My interview with Marie DeLuca is here.

Also Andrew Goldstein was interviewed here.

Health advocacy is being formalized as a professional activity for physicians across North America, but the accommodation of this activity into conceptions of daily practice has been controversial and confusing. There appears to be a lack of clarity around what a physician should do as a health advocate and how this should manifest in daily practice. In this article, the authors explore how the medical community has characterized the health advocate role and the roots of the debates regarding its place within training and practice, using the example of the CanMEDS Health Advocate Role. They argue that the confusion might be a result of subsuming two distinct activities, agency and activism, under the rubric of health advocacy. They propose that these activities and their associated skills are sufficiently distinct as to merit separate discussions. Agency involves advancing the health of individual patients (“working the system”), and activism involves advancing the health of communities and populations (“changing the system”). The authors suggest that distinguishing between agency and activism within health advocacy provides opportunities to explore their distinct goals and skill sets in a manner that will advance the debate about health advocacy, a conversation that remains critically important to the medical profession.

Dobson et al

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It’s not the symptoms, it’s the context.

More on the Art of Doctoring in my conversation with the one and only Baktash Ahadi

Objective. People with RA have episodes of worsening disease activity (flares) that prompt them to seek clinical review or medication change. This study explored patients’ perspectives of flare that prompts them to seek medication review.

Methods. Fourteen focus groups across five countries comprised 67 RA patients. Transcripts were analysed by several researchers and a patient, using inductive thematic analysis.

Results. Patients use flare for five different scenarios, including flare that prompts medical help-seeking, where six themes were identified. In ‘Symptoms and early warnings’, pain is intense (wanting to die), constant and persistent and considered a key feature. Systemic features predominate, including fatigue, feeling generally ill (flu-like), physical and cognitive shut-down and social withdrawal. Warning signs (prodrome) comprise fatigue and flu-like symptoms. ‘Self-management of intensifying symptoms’ includes pacing, heat/cold, rest and increasing medication, often without medical advice. Patients ‘Define this as uncontrollable flare’ when clusters of unprovoked, persistent symptoms halt their ability to run daily life, until prompted into ‘Seeking help when symptoms can’t be contained’. Underpinning themes are ‘Individual context’ (e.g. different symptom clusters) and ‘Uncertainty’ (e.g. when to seek help). Patients report that the current patient global visual analogue scale (VAS) does not capture flare.

Conclusion. Patients use flare for multiple events and seek help for complex clusterings of intense, unprovoked symptoms that defy self-management, not necessarily captured in joint counts or global VAS. Flare terminology and definition have implications for clinical practice and trials, therefore further research should establish a professional/patient consensus.

Hewlett et al

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Playing Tennis With Snow Boots On

Medical students and doctors use narrative skills on a daily basis. Taking a history from a patient, summarising a case for senior colleagues, and recording or reading a patient’s notes all require the construction of a meaningful chronological sequence, with important events included and less important ones omitted. Similarly, when doctors compare and contrast clinical presentations and cases from their own experiences, write up case reports, or document patients’ own accounts, they rely on narrative to structure their thoughts and conclusions

Hurwitz et al. BMJ 2012

My interview with Barbara Hirsch on Narrative Medicine.

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Frailty begins in the forties

Background: There is little known about pre-frailty attributes or when changes which contribute to frailty might be detectable and amenable to change. This study explores pre-frailty and frailty in independent community-dwelling adults aged 40–75 years.

Methods: Participants were recruited through local council networks, a national bank and one university in Adelaide, Australia. Fried frailty phenotype scores were calculated from measures of unintentional weight loss, exhaustion, low physical activity levels, poor hand grip strength and slow walking speed. Participants were identified as not frail (no phenotypes), pre- frail (one or two phenotypes) or frail (three or more phenotypes). Factor analysis was applied to binary forms of 25 published frailty measures Differences were tested in mean factor scores between the three Fried frailty phenotypes and ROC curves estimated predictive capacity of factors.

Results: Of 656 participants (67% female; mean age 59.9 years, SD 10.6) 59.2% were classified as not frail, 39.0% pre-frail and 1.8% frail. There were no gender or age differences. Seven frailty factors were identified, incorporating all 25 frailty measures. Factors 1 and 7 significantly predicted progression from not-frail to pre-frail (Factor 1 AUC 0.64 (95%CI 0.60–0.68, combined dynamic trunk stability and lower limb functional strength, balance, foot sensation, hearing, lean muscle mass and low BMI; Factor 7 AUC 0.55 (95%CI 0.52–0.59) comprising continence and nutrition. Factors 3 and 4 significantly predicted progression from pre-frail to frail (Factor 3 AUC 0.65 (95% CI 0.59–0.70)), combining living alone, sleep quality, depression and anxiety, and lung function; Factor 4 AUC 0.60 (95%CI 0.54–0.66) comprising perceived exertion on exercise, and falls history.

Conclusions: This research identified pre-frailty and frailty states in people aged in their 40s and 50s. Pre-frailty in body systems performance can be detected by a range of mutable measures, and interventions to prevent progression to frailty could be commenced from the fourth decade of life.

Gordon et al BMC Geriatrics.

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COVID-19 will impact more than those with the virus

The December, 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak has seen many countries ask people who have potentially come into contact with the infection to isolate themselves at home or in a dedicated quarantine facility. Decisions on how to apply quarantine should be based on the best available evidence. We did a Review of the psychological impact of quarantine using three electronic databases. Of 3166 papers found, 24 are included in this Review. Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma. Some researchers have suggested long-lasting effects. In situations where quarantine is deemed necessary, officials should quarantine individuals for no longer than required, provide clear rationale for quarantine and information about protocols, and ensure sufficient supplies are provided. Appeals to altruism by reminding the public about the benefits of quarantine to wider society can be favourable.

Brookes et al The Lancet Volume 395, Issue 10227, 14–20 March 2020, Pages 912-920

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Tame Your Advice Monster Doctor

Giving advice without considering the context or the receptivity to that advice may be akin to prescribing drugs without checking for potential drug interactions or allergies. At best it may be unhelpful and at worst it can cause harm.

In his book on ‘The Advice Trap’, Bungay Stanier asks us to consider the circumstances in which we are tempted to issue advice. There is a very helpful table on page 43 in which he outlines the type of person and the type of situation in which we are tempted. Doctor’s reading the book would clearly recognise the risk: Someone apparently seeking advice and time is short; someone who doesn’t ask for advice when there is a lot at stake; and someone who challenges you and ‘that thing’ keeps recurring.

What is the evidence that doctor’s advice to lose weight achieves any results? A startling conclusion from a recent study:

There were no significant interactions between Health Care Professional’s (HCP) advice and attempts to lose weight. Obese adult’s attempt to lose weight, and not HCP’s advice to lose weight, was a predictor for healthy eating behaviors. Interventions in medical practices should train HCPs on effective strategies for motivating obese patients to adopt healthier lifestyle

Preventive Medicine

The issue of health promotion needs to take account of the circumstances of people’s lives and the complexity of the aetiology of many such problems:

Social ecological models that describe the interactive characteristics of individuals and environments that underlie health outcomes have long been recommended to guide public health practice. The extent to which such recommendations have been applied in health promotion interventions, however, is unclear. The authors developed a coding system to identify the ecological levels that health promotion programs target and then applied this system to 157 intervention articles from the past 20 years of Health Education & Behavior. Overall, articles were more likely to describe interventions focused on individual and interpersonal characteristics, rather than institutional, community, or policy factors. Interventions that focused on certain topics (nutrition and physical activity) or occurred in particular settings (schools) more successfully adopted a social ecological approach. Health education theory, research, and training may need to be enhanced to better foster successful efforts to modify social and political environments to improve health.

Shelley D. Golden, MPH and Jo Anne L. Earp, ScD

You may enjoy my podcast with Michael Bungay Stanier

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If you’re feeling grumpy, try this trick

Click here to view your video

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Your choices in medicine make the greatest difference

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