Can I change my mind about docs on social media?

As regular readers already know, I’ve told some embarrassingly cringe-worthy tales about how some health care professionals are using social media (here, here and here, for example).  In Doctors Behaving Badly Online, I cited studies by Washington, DC researcher Dr. Katherine Chretien and her findings of physicians’ unprofessional” posts on Twitter featuring “very naughty words, potential violations of patients’ privacy, and discriminatory statements.”

Two years ago, when the British Medical Association warned U.K. docs and med students NOT to make “informal, personal or derogatory comments” online about their patients, I became even more alarmed. Why, I wondered at the time, is it even necessary to issue this warning to intelligent, educated brainiacs with the letters MD (or rather, in the U.K., the letters MBBS) after their names?

There are still regrettable cases coming to light about Doctors Behaving Badly Online, but lately, I’ve been rethinking my former suspicion that many health care providers simply have no business wading into social media. And the reason for the rethink is this: physicians are, in essence, abdicating their role as our medical educators. Continue reading

Can statins prevent my head from exploding?

I’m exhausted. My hair hurts. My head’s about to explode, singed by the firestorm of media coverage about new cardiovascular disease treatment guidelines – specifically, the newly-expanded recommendations to prescribe the cholesterol drugs called statins to just about every middle-aged person who still has a detectable pulse.

Five years ago, I was told by my cardiologist that, as a freshly-diagnosed heart attack survivor, I was most definitely in the right demographic to benefit from taking a statin every day for the rest of my natural life (along with a fistful of other cardiac meds).  Statins, he explained, would help prevent another heart attack by controlling my specific target levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly known as LDL, or ‘bad cholesterol’.  Lots of studies (at least, those paid for by the folks who make statins) seemed to indicate that lower LDL numbers would decrease both my risk of suffering a future cardiac event as well as death.

But now, these new treatment guidelines are essentially telling us and our doctors not to obsess at all on those target LDL numbers in favour of expanding the pool of potential statin-users out there.

Continue reading

The cardiac polypill: why are we still talking about this?

I have a bone to pick about multi-purpose cleaners. Although the product I bought claims to work on all washable household surfaces including dirty windows, kitchen counters, greasy stovetops or hubcap grime, the truth is that, generally speaking, the product does a mediocre job addressing any one task, and a good job at none of them. As convenient as a multi-purpose product sounds, it simply makes better sense to tailor one’s tools for the task at hand.

Which reminds me: why we are we still talking about this cardiac polypill idea? Granted, I am merely a dull-witted heart attack survivor, but I can’t possibly be the only one feeling ever-so-slightly squirmy about the resurgence of  the polypill. It’s a single pill made up of a combination of other pills to reduce heart disease risk, designed for widespread use by all adults over 55 years of age as well as everyone with existing cardiovascular disease.  And it  just might be the multi-purpose cleaner of cardiology. Continue reading