Did you learn about CPR from TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy?

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters 

Before my heart attack, much of what I knew about CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) was learned by watching TV medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy.  Researchers who study how television has impacted public opinion suggest that TV actors following their cardiac arrest scripts are heroically brought back to life by another TV actor pretending to perform CPR over 70 per cent of the time. (1)  Pulse restored, smiles of relief all around, and the cheerful patient and family heading for home while waving in gratitude to the brilliant hospital life-savers.

For real-life heart patients, however, we know that most people whose hearts suddenly stop don’t survive. Only about one-quarter make it out of the hospital alive. Of those survivors, the American Heart Association reports that nearly one-third are seriously disabled.(2) Continue reading “Did you learn about CPR from TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy?”

Do Emergency physicians diagnose? Or not?

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters 

Australian researcher Dr. Mary Dahm and I were emailing back and forth about her recently published study on diagnostic uncertainty in medicine (one of my favourite subjects, I might add – especially when it involves female heart patients).  I mentioned to her that the Emergency physician who had misdiagnosed my heart attack as acid reflux seemed remarkably confident at the time – despite being remarkably wrong. That misplaced confidence is what researchers who study diagnostic error call unwarranted certainty – a contributing risk factor for misdiagnosis.  But Dr. Dahm raised the issue of whether diagnosing is what Emergency physicians actually do:

“The question about whether or not Emergency Department doctors diagnose is highly contested within the specialty. Regardless, they do exclude life-and limb-threatening conditions.”          .
Continue reading “Do Emergency physicians diagnose? Or not?”

Financial toxicity: can you afford to have a heart attack?

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters 

Here in the Lotus Land that is Canada’s beautiful west coast, my total hospital bill after my heart attack was ZERO. The costs of my Emergency Department visits, all cardiac diagnostic tests/procedures/treatments, my hospital bed, physician/nursing care – plus all follow-up appointments with a cardiologist – are entirely funded by our provincial government health plan. Unlike so many of the American heart patients I’ve encountered since my own heart attack, I left the hospital without ever worrying how I was going to pay for my medical care.

Yet I’m highly aware that cardiac patients far less fortunate than I am often leave their hospitals not only worried about their hearts, but now worried about paying catastrophic bills.  Medical researchers call this financial toxicity.     .   Continue reading “Financial toxicity: can you afford to have a heart attack?”

Will asking good questions in med school help doctors ask good questions of patients?

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters 

“When I was in medical school, I was always told to question what was taught – even by the teachers who taught it to me. That was amazing!”   

Amazing, indeed! Questioning everything your teachers tell you may seem risky, but that observation from veteran cardiologist Dr. Milton Packer about his own med school experience feels oddly encouraging even to non-students like me. I’m naturally curious, skeptical, eager to learn, and sometimes a pain in the neck to physicians who may not be as open to questioning as Dr. Packer is!         .    Continue reading “Will asking good questions in med school help doctors ask good questions of patients?”