But My White Count…

Excerpt – Consulting medical teams nearly always follow my antibiotic recommendations, no matter how idiosyncratic they may seem, but recommending that they stop checking white-cell counts on stable inpatients seems to strike them as beyond the pale. Much of this trend is driven, I believe, by the quantitative fallacy: the human tendency to attach too much weight to factors that are easy to measure, and not enough weight to more complex, hard-to-quantify variables. This inclination induces doctors and patients alike to obsess over the crisp, objective, but highly nonspecific assessment of leukocytosis, while eschewing the seemingly squishy but highly informative … Read More

The Quest for Scientific Certainty Is Futile

“I had to learn over and over again that extreme conviction requires extraordinary evidence, and the evidence we have is usually far from extraordinary. For instance, our frontline anti-depression drugs are supposed to work by changing serotonin levels in the brain, but a review published last year found that there’s no consistent evidence that serotonin has much to do with depression at all. (Maybe that’s why antidepressants don’t seem to work that well, especially in the long term.) It seems obvious that sunscreen should protect you from skin cancer, but a 2018 meta-analysis could not confirm that this is true … Read More

We Should Have Known So Much About Covid From the Start

[NYT’s David Wallace-Wells]: [..] The way most people think about a virus like, say, RSV, or chickenpox, is that a single exposure, while potentially worrisome, does deliver lifelong protection. Is it really the case that, as babies, we are fighting off those viruses hundreds of times? [Immunologist and epidemiologist Michael Mina]:The short answer is yeah. We start seeing viruses when we’re 2 months old, when we’re a month old. And a lot of these viruses we’ve seen literally tens, if not hundreds of times for some people by the time we’re adults. People tend to think that immunity is binary … Read More

Using Publicly Available Health Plan Pricing Data For Research And App Development

“We used Elevance Health’s in-network pricing data and medical claims data. We focused on in-network prices because these are the prices negotiated by the payer, and out-of-network providers represent a small percentage of use for planned procedures. The formatting of the released data files follows the specifications provided by CMS. We limited our analysis to one state, Colorado, and one month, August 2022, to illustrate the concepts. [..] We split the prices into two components, the professional price and the facility price. Notably, these two components may not be the only costs associated with a procedure as there are often other … Read More

Different Types of Patient Health Information Associated With Physician Decision-making Regarding Cancer Screening Cessation for Older Adults

“Introduction Although cancer screening has been shown to reduce cancer-related mortality and morbidity, there is increasing recognition that it can also be harmful and burdensome, especially for older adults. The benefits of cancer screening typically lag by 10 or more years for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer screenings, whereas the harms and burdens of these screenings—which include complications from screening and follow-up tests, overdiagnosis and overtreatment of clinically unimportant cancers, psychological stress from false-positive results, diverted attention away from other health conditions—occur in the short term. Guidelines recommend against routine cancer screening for older adults for whom the harms outweigh the benefits, … Read More

Proposed rules to protect health data in an era of abortion bans fall short

“A new rulemaking by the Biden administration seeks to lessen the harmful effects of abortion bans by protecting certain health data from being used to prosecute both clinicians and patients. But in the current draft, the rulemaking is designed to reinforce the privacy of reproductive health in states where abortion is legal and does little for those seeking abortion in states where it is illegal. Further, some states, like Idaho, are implementing a law that makes it illegal to travel out of state for an abortion, effectively blocking its citizens from the potential benefits of this rulemaking. The draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, titled … Read More

The Curious Side Effects of Medical Transparency

“Transparency has always been seen as a hallmark of honesty and integrity. The logic is familiar: democracies aspire to be transparent, but dictatorships are opaque; faithful spouses are guileless, while philanderers lie; reputable businesses operate in the open, but shady operations literally draw the shades. Collectively, we’ve embraced Louis Brandeis’s dictum that sunlight is the best disinfectant. We demand transparency in government, charitable institutions, nutrition labels, and middle-school grading rubrics. The medical record should be no different. [..] In 2008, Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, travelled with a team of students to a vast mobile-phone-manufacturing plant … Read More

Corporate Citizenship and Institutional Responses Post-Dobbs — Critical Lessons from Two Restrictive States

“When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, a group of 100 U.S. professors of obstetrics and gynecology predicted that teaching hospitals would emerge as leaders in compassionate abortion care, creating outpatient clinics to meet the demand for legalized abortion. But most hospitals did not embrace abortion provision; many of them in fact adopted policies that were more restrictive than was legally required. Freestanding clinics instead emerged as the primary provider of abortion care, and this siloing was further reinforced by stigma, threats of violence, and the exclusion of abortion coverage by major health care payers. In 2020, hospitals accounted … Read More

Comparing Physician and Artificial Intelligence Chatbot Responses to Patient Questions Posted to a Public Social Media Forum

“Some patient messages are unsolicited questions seeking medical advice, which also take more skill and time to answer than generic messages (eg, scheduling an appointment, accessing test results). Current approaches to decreasing these message burdens include limiting notifications, billing for responses, or delegating responses to less trained support staff. Unfortunately, these strategies can limit access to high-quality health care. For instance, when patients were told they might be billed for messaging, they sent fewer messages and had shorter back-and-forth exchanges with clinicians. Artificial intelligence (AI) assistants are an unexplored resource for addressing the burden of messages. While some proprietary AI assistants show … Read More

Dr. Fauci Looks Back: ‘Something Clearly Went Wrong:’ In his most extensive interview yet, Anthony Fauci wrestles with the hard lessons of the pandemic — and the decisions that will define his legacy.

“Over several hours and multiple Zoom and phone calls in April, I spoke with Fauci about that: how he saw the full story of this historic public-health emergency and the role he played in it. At times, he was defensive, even combative, particularly when it came to episodes in which he felt that his own positions had been misconstrued and on the matter of gain-of-function research and the origins of the pandemic. But on the whole, he was reflective, even humble, especially about the way that Covid-19 exposed the limits of public health and, in his telling, kept surprising him … Read More