A Comedian Learns That He Has Sleep Apnea (Video)

Sleep Apnea is a serious condition that afflicts millions of people. The condition leads to reduced breathing during sleep which causes reduced oxygen to be delivered to the heart and brain. The condition may increase the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and depression. The reduced sleep quality can also lead to daytime sleepiness which can cause traffic and workplace accidents. In the video above comedian Jo Koy relates how he learned about the diagnosis of sleep apnea (he later got treated). Learn more about the disease and how you can get tested at SleepEducation.com.

Dear Physicians: You Are Far More Wealthy Than You Know.

-By A. Joseph Layon, MD, FACP.

This article was written in response to Doctor Moeller’s Post: An Open Letter to Washington, D.C. From a Physician on the Front Lines

With interest, I read and re-read Matthew Moeller’s Open Letter.  My son, a first year medical student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, commented that this missive was being discussed by his colleagues in a tone of moral righteousness.  Interesting.

I know, I remember, what it was like to realize that the way to live an authentic life was to engage in providing health care for our people.  I remember debt, struggle, and 120 work-weeks. All of this, I remember.

And I remember being a third year medical student at The University of California, Davis – Sacramento Medical Center.  My professors, between patients on rounds, arguing how disastrous the health care system was becoming, how it was better in the “old days”, how they / we were suffering, how no one really understood what we had to go through.  Well, you get the idea.

While I understand, empathize and remember much of what Doctor Moeller says in his piece, and while he is – in my view on the mark in much of what he writes – I think he misses several points that are worth comment:

1. Medical School Debt: As a member of the Faculty Senate at the University of Florida I once got into a running argument related to the lack of breadth our undergraduates exhibited prior to their entry into professional school; lack of knowledge of history, language, and cultures other than their own.  Medical training is expensive.  In the not so distant past, a huge portion of this expense – certainly in the State of California where I was both an undergraduate and graduate student – was funded through tax revenue.  This was done not to be nice to our medical students, but because education was considered a social investment.  Proportionally, the monies in education have decreased (see Christopher Newfield, Unmaking the Public University – The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class, 2008, Harvard University Press), resulting in a grand portion of the debt saddling Doctor Moeller.  Nowhere in Doctor Moeller’s missive do I find any comment upon this.  The very policies that many in our profession cling to – physicians being, oddly to my mind given our work, frequently conservative and in the Republican or Libertarian camps – i.e., anti-taxation policies, put our medical students – and undergraduates, and graduates – at risk.  These policies put our future at risk.  Doctor Moeller rightly notes his difficulties; but Matt, what about the broader picture ?  This isn’t just a medical student issue. Continue reading “Dear Physicians: You Are Far More Wealthy Than You Know.”

How to Attend a Medical Conference Without Actually Being There.

Well, I’ve done it again. It seems that every time I try to make the early registration deadline for a conference, something seems to come up. One of the kids gets sick, a transmission breaks, I have a crazy week at work, you know, life.

Unlike previous years however, I’m very excited to say that I will be making it to the American College of Chest Physician’s annual scientific meeting  at the end of October.

While I wasn’t able to make it to the conference every year, it turns out that I didn’t have to miss everything because I had a new and unique tool at my disposal. A tool that allowed me to catch a surprising amount of the action and actually obtain some of the benefits of the conference without actually being there: social media. Continue reading “How to Attend a Medical Conference Without Actually Being There.”

Infographic: 10 Revolutionary Medical Advancements on the Horizon.

I’ve said it never and I’ll say it again: Ya gotta love infographics! How else could you turn an otherwise random and often sleep-inducing jumble of important looking illustrations and maybe facts into an eye catching array that draws you in like a fly to a plasma screen? So compelling, their like the pop-up books of science.  Such an obvious idea, right? Yet their still new enough to set off your spell check. (Go ahead, open up Word. I’ll wait. See?)

So I was joyed to accept an invitation to post Caduceusblog’s first-ever infographic. Thanks to the graphic smiths at Master’s in Health Administration Degrees for submitting this post (even if they are a bit numerically challenged;). You can see the original post here

Continue reading “Infographic: 10 Revolutionary Medical Advancements on the Horizon.”

Flash Mob Medical Research

It was my second day of residency, and something was afoot. As I made my way around my first rotation on the cardiac floor, my medical senses were tingling. There was something strange happening to all of my patients, I saw. As I peaked over my cohort’s shoulders, I secretly saw that it was happening to their patients too, though they hadn’t seemed to  notice. Only I did, and I was going to report it to my senior. Together we were going to report it to the New England Journal of Medicine, and I was going to win the Nobel Prize of Awesome Doctor. Yes, I alone noticed that all of the patients on the floor were somehow inexplicably breathing at the exact same respiratory rate. Not only this, but they were breathing fast, at a rate of 20, clearly something must be causing all of them to do this. Surely this could not have been due to documentation error, since all the of the other vital signs seemed to vary, it was only the respiratory rates which seemed to stay the same among all the patients.

 That day was more than 10 years distant, I still don’t have my nobel prize, and New England Journal isn’t returning my calls. The answer to the question that I posed back then about a phenomenon I now see daily is only too easy to find. It sits in every hospital ward, at the end of the hallway. There a  bank of mobile machines that is wheeled around the ward to check vital signs sits recharging in wall outlets. As nurses and assistants scramble to administer medications, change bedsheets, turn patients, answer call lights, help patients around the halls, answer the phones, answer family questions, speak with clinicians, and pass food trays, they wheel these devices to their patients’ bedside. They quickly first attach a blood pressure cuff and press the cycle button. As the cuff inflates, they attach a finger sat monitor from the same machine  which takes a few seconds to get a reading. As this is taking a reading, they ask the patient to open their mouth and insert a temperature probe to get a temperature. Around this time, the BP cuff says “error”, so they cycle it once more. While this cycles, they now have a reading for temperature, and the finger monitor gives them readings for oxygen saturation and heart rate.

They have a few paper towels left over from feeding the patient in the next bed, so they start jotting down numbers in it, and just as they finish this, they get a reading from the BP cuff, which they write down as well. They would like to put this in the computer right away, but in the hallway call light buzzers are sounding, somebody wants to get up. Another person wants their pain medications, the radiology suite wants the patient in the next bed sent for their ultrasound immediately.  But wait aren’t they supposed to be fasting for that test? And there’s 4 more patients who need to have their vital signs checked.

So several moments later, as the nurse finally sits down to enter all the vital signs into the chart, values will be entered for heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation. But since no respiratory rate was checked, the default number of 18 or 20 is often entered. Why is the respiratory rate not checked?

Because the Mr. Vital Signs machine does not check respiratory rate. Continue reading “Flash Mob Medical Research”

Motorcycle Accident Medical Claims Increase After Michigan Rescinds Helmet Law.

I wrote last year about the Michigan Legislature’s bold move to help improve the chances of people waiting to receive an organ transplant (see article here). As I discussed in that article, motorcycle riders are among the best organ donors, because they tend to be young and otherwise healthy.  A recent insurance industry study found that after only one year, the push to increase organ donation may be paying off.

A recent study reported by the Detroit News shows that the average motorcycle claim since the motorcycle helmet law was rescinded increased from $5,410 to $7,257. After adjusting for confounders and data from surrounding states, the increase was 22 percent. An increase in claims of course does not translate to an increase in the number of donor organs. Perhaps we need another law asking that motorcycle riders also indicate their organ donor status. . .

Should EMR’s Be Able To Talk to Each Other?

I’ve written several times before about my love/hate status with my EMR. While I enjoy using mine, I long for it’s usefulness to get to the next level. While the EMR is useful at tracking data, it’s greatest handicap right now, is that it can’t talk to other systems. Data is still locked in individual systems and can’t be shared across platforms. This lack of inter-operability has thus far been the EMR’s greatest handicap, and I have longed for the time when EMRs are able to share data.

But as I see more and more systems being employed in my area and talk with other physicians about their experiences, I am becoming increasingly concerned that  the inexorable march forward is going too quickly.

Shouldn’t we get these systems right before introducing interoperability into the equation?

The administration and the public are now clamoring that the information in these systems should be able to be shared among providers. In effect, that the information should not be “held hostage” by each providers respective system. These are fair and reasonable requests that should be expected in the long run. To that end, some EHR vendors have agreed in principle to begin writing standards that would allow inter-operability between systems.

The unfortunate problem here, and one that the public does not understand, is that these systems are not like the  computer operating systems that they accustomed to using. It’s easy to forget that Microsoft, Word, Windows, Powerpoint, and Macs are more than 20 years old.  They’ve gone through several generations and hundreds of billions of dollars in development by the worlds most talented programmers. All to now finally be at a point where the program does not routinely stop working for some unknown reason. Continue reading “Should EMR’s Be Able To Talk to Each Other?”

Why Medical Education Should Embrace Social Media

Social Media and Medical Education: Access Denied.

-By Rebecca Hastings, D.O.

I have never been very computer or tech savvy.  I’m not up-to-date on the latest technology, but I do have a smart phone and a laptop which I use for their very basic purposes; and I do admit I have a Facebook account, mostly for keeping in touch with friends and family and, you know, the daily grind.  Up until recently, I had no idea how to “Tweet” or what Twitter was really all about.  A physician mentor of mine suggested that I start a Twitter account and take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge floating around in Twitter world.  I was hesitant at first since my free time is limited and I didn’t really need any additional distractions from my fellowship.  Plus, I definitely didn’t need to join another social media network to share pictures and read about everyone’s daily happenings.  But, I trust my mentor and appreciate his guidance, so I signed up.  And WOW!  Information overload at my fingertips!!  Within a few minutes, I became a “follower” of JAMA, Chest, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine and numerous other large medical journals and institutions.  Granted, I may have also become a “follower” of a couple fitness magazines and my beloved Kansas Jayhawks, but the majority of my Twitter thread consists of these professional organizations.  I had immediate access to hundreds of tweets from these prestigious institutions across the world.  These world-renowned entities were “tweeting” about medical information, both past and present.  They were sharing everything from major review articles to personal reflections and comic strips.  Not only were the major institutions sharing these, but other physicians were sharing their professional opinions and other articles that they found important and interesting.  By signing up for Twitter, I had opened my eyes to a whole new world of medical education.

At first, I mostly just browsed articles and topics that were posted.  But the more I read, the more I wanted to share.  I felt like others were helping me, so why not share the knowledge.   One afternoon, I sat down in the fellow call room on a break.  I had been browsing my Twitter feed on my phone and there were a couple of interesting articles and commentaries I wanted to read.  But low and behold, when signing in, a big red box comes across the screen stating “Access Denied.”  Ok, so I know Twitter is technically considered social media, but why can’t social media be used as an educational tool?  Large renowned institutions and organizations are tweeting valuable information pertaining to my livelihood and I can’t access it “on the job” where I’m supposed to be gaining an education. Continue reading “Why Medical Education Should Embrace Social Media”

An Open Letter to Washington, D.C. From a Physician on the Front Lines.

-by Matthew Moeller M.D.

I am writing this letter because I feel that our leaders and lawmakers do not have an accurate picture of what it actually entails to become a physician today; specifically, the financial, intellectual, social, mental, and physical demands of the profession. This is an opinion that is shared amongst many of my colleagues. Because of these concerns, I would like to personally relate my own story. My story discusses what it took to mold, educate, and train a young Midwestern boy from modest roots to become an outstanding physician, who is capable of taking care of any medical issues that may plague your own family, friends, or colleagues.

I grew up in the suburbs of southeast Michigan in a middle class family.  My father is an engineer at General Motors and my mother is a Catholic school administrator in my hometown. My family worked hard and sacrificed much to enroll me in a private Catholic elementary school in a small town in Michigan.  I thought I wanted to be a doctor in 5th grade based on my love of science and the idea of wanting to help others despite no extended family members involved in medicine.  Winning a science fair project about the circulatory system in 6th grade really piqued my interest in the field. Throughout high school, I took several science courses that again reinforced my interest and enthusiasm towards the field of medicine.  I then enrolled at Saint Louis University to advance my training for a total of eight years of intense education, including undergraduate and medical school.  The goal was to prepare myself to take care of sick patients and to save the lives of others (four years of undergraduate premedical studies and four years of medical school).  After graduation from medical school at age 26, I then pursued training in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, which was a three year program where I learned to manage complex problems associated with internal organs, including the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys and others.  I then went on to pursue an additional 3 years of specialty medical training (fellowship) in the field of gastroenterology. The completion of that program culminated 14 years of post-high school education. It was as that point, at the tender age of 32 and searching for my first job, that I could say that my career in medicine began.

Over that 14 year time period of training, I, and many others like me, made tremendous sacrifices.  Only now as I sit with my laptop in the dead of night, with the sounds of my children sleeping, can I look back and see where my journey began.

For me, it began in college, taking rigorous pre-medical courses against a large yearly burden of tuition:  $27,000 of debt yearly for 4 years.  I was one of the fortunate ones. Because I excelled in a competitive academic environment in high school and was able to maintain a position in the top tier of my class, I obtained an academic scholarship, covering 70% of this tuition.  I was fortunate to have graduated from college with “only” $25,000 in student debt. Two weeks after finishing my undergraduate education, I began medical school.  After including books, various exams that would typically cost $1000-$3000 per test, and medical school tuition, my yearly education costs amounted to $45,000 per year. Unlike most other fields of study, the demands of medical school education, with daytime classes and night time studying, make it nearly impossible to hold down an extra source of income. I spent an additional $5000 in my final year for application fees and interview travel as I sought a residency position in Internal Medicine.  After being “matched” into a residency position in Michigan, I took out yet another $10,000 loan to relocate and pay for my final expenses in medical school, as moving expenses are not paid for by training programs.

At that point, with medical school completed, I was only halfway through my journey to becoming a doctor.  I recall a moment then, sitting with a group of students in a room with a financial adviser who was saying something about how to consolidate loans. I stared meekly at numbers on  a piece of paper listing what I owed for the 2 degrees that I had earned , knowing full well that I didn’t yet have the ability to earn a dime. I didn’t know whether to cry at the number or be happy that mine was lower than most of my friends. My number was $196,000. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Washington, D.C. From a Physician on the Front Lines.”

Why Physicians Should Learn to Pronounce Patient Names Properly

I have it on good authority that it’s not easy being green. But I’m willing to wager that it’s a whole lot easier when you have a lovable name like “Kermit”. Imagine being green (or brown) with a name like “Ramachandran”? Growing up with a name like mine certainly had its disadvantages. While most neighborhoods have a local bully who kicks ass and takes names, in my case, he would typically kick ass, but didn’t bother with the name part because he couldn’t pronounce it. Somehow I found that last part more insulting.

 I’ve long since outgrown the sensitivities about my name (although I still make any telemarketer pronounce it properly before talking with them). For most patients and those with whom I only occasionally associate, I go by “Dr. Ram”, which works fine by me. But perhaps those early experiences left me with an impression about how people can be affected in positive ways by getting the pronunciation of their name right, or at least trying to get it right. As well as the negative ways in which people can be affected by getting the pronunciation wrong, or by not even bothering to try.

So I would like to direct a message to those care providers out there with easy to pronounce names, because this  is something that you probably don’t  know. Getting the pronunciation of somebody’s name correctly (or at least trying to) is important. These people often wave you through that initial awkward part of an encounter, simply because they’ve given up hope that people are going to get it right. They tell you it does not matter only because they have already spent too much time in trying to get the name pronounced properly, only to have it reduced to a few letters. They wave away the mispronunciations because they’ve learned to accept that no one is going to invest the few seconds that it will take to pronounce it correctly. But they do care, and make no mistake, it is very important to them. Not taking the time to learn the pronunciation of someone’s name sends a powerful message. It says “We don’t know you, you’re a stranger here” And doing it repeatedly says “I still don’t know you, and I’m too busy to bother to try”. The subconscious message that the patient takes from these encounters is “these people don’t know who I am”. Conversely, taking the time to try to learn the proper pronunciation of a name  says “I’m listening to you” and “I want to know who you are”. Continue reading “Why Physicians Should Learn to Pronounce Patient Names Properly”