Ironically, it seems the health products with the least evidence are coming with the greatest assurances. A few years ago, a package holiday company advertised guaranteed sunny holidays in Queensland (Australia). The deal went something like this: if it rained on a certain percentage of your holiday days, you received a trip refund. An attractive drawcard indeed, but what the company failed to grasp was that the “Sunshine State” is very often anything but sunny.
This is especially so where I live, on the somewhat ironically named Sunshine Coast. We had 200 rainy days last year and well over 2 metres of rain, and that was before big floods in January. Unsurprisingly, the guaranteed sunny holiday offer was short-lived.
There are some things that really shouldn’t come with guarantees. The weather is one, health is another. Or so I thought…
“Those capsules you started me on last month for my nerve pain didn’t work. I tried them for a couple of weeks, but they didn’t do nothin'.”
“Perhaps you’d do better on a higher dose.”
“Nah, they made me feel kinda dizzy. I’d prefer to get my money back on these ones an’ try somethin’ different.”
“I can try you on something else, but there are no refunds available on the ones you’ve already used, I’m afraid.”
“But they cost me over 80 dollars!”
“Yes, I explained at the time that they are not subsidised by the government.”
“But they didn’t work! If I bought a toaster that didn’t work, I’d take it back and get me money back, no problem.”
“Medications are not appliances. They don’t work every time, but that doesn’t mean they’re faulty.”
“But what about natural products? I order herbs for me prostate and me heart every month and they come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. You doctors say those things don’t really work so how come the sellers are willing to put their money where their mouths are?”
He decided to try a “natural” treatment next, confident of its likely effectiveness thanks to the satisfaction guarantee offered.
Last week I had a 38-year-old female requesting a medical certificate stating that her back pain was no better. The reason? She planned to take it to her physiotherapist and request a refund because the treatment hadn’t helped. Like the afflicted patient above, she didn’t accept that health-related products and services weren’t “cure guaranteed”.
“My thigh sculptor machine promised visible results in 60 days or my money back. Why aren’t physios held accountable too?”
Upon a quick Google search, I found that many “natural health” companies offer money-back guarantees, as do companies peddling skin products and gimmicky home exercise equipment. I even found a site offering guaranteed homeopathic immunisation. Hmmm…
In an information-rich, high-tech world, we are becoming less and less tolerant of uncertainty. Society wants perfect, predictable results — now! For all its advances, modern medicine cannot provide this and we don’t pretend otherwise. Ironically, it seems the health products with the least evidence are coming with the greatest assurances. A clever marketing ploy that patients seem to be buying into — literally and figuratively.
I think we all need to be reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s famous words: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” We can’t really put guarantees on whether it will rain down on our holidays or on our health, and should retain a healthy scepticism towards those who attempt to do so.
This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/articles/11/0c070a11.asp
Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at http://genevieveyates.com/
“You’re a boring whore! Fix it.” The barked criticism came like a slap in the face. The director of Les Miserables was right, though. I was a boring whore.
Actors need to immerse themselves in their roles, shed inhibitions and squelch embarrassment. I was not managing to do this while rehearsing the Lovely Ladies prostitute scene. My performance was overly self-conscious and restrained.
Three days later I found myself at a medical education conference, attending a session discussing learning plans. A popular tool in adult education generally, and a training requirement for all GP registrars, learning plans are actively disliked by many. Done purposely and thoughtfully, they can be of great benefit; completed hastily or reluctantly because they are compulsory, they are next to useless.
I have to confess that, as a registrar, my own learning plans were dashed off with little thought, submitted and then promptly forgotten. I’d never thought this technique would work for me.
At the conference, the attending educators were instructed to each write a learning plan that addressed an aspect of their non-medical lives. We were asked to choose something that we genuinely wanted to improve. I instantly knew what I’d write about, and completed the task with seriousness and sincerity.
The facilitator randomly picked a few participants to read out their learning plans. The topics were predictable: “I want to exercise each morning”, “I want to get at least seven hours of sleep a night” and the like. Yes, you can see where this is leading ...
I should have anticipated being called upon, but when the “We have time for one more, how about you?” came, along with direct eye contact and a kindly smile, I momentarily panicked.
Surveying the room of mostly middle-aged, male faces, many of whom I didn’t know, I considered making something up on the spot. Instead, I stood up, took a deep breath and read out: “I want to be a more exciting whore.”
I then outlined my proposed methods for achieving this objective and how I intended to measure my progress. Without explanation, I then sat down.
Silence. Not a sound. Most eyes were glued to me, the others looking anywhere but. The atmosphere was thick with shock, amusement, confusion, suspense and fascination.
I didn’t leave them hanging for too long. After my disclosure as to why I chose the topic and the context in which I was “whoring”, there were audible sighs of relief and a sprinkling of laughter throughout the room.
It was memorable for those present. Four years later, I still get the occasional question about my “whoring” when I run into certain educators at conferences.
I am pleased to report that my learning plan well and truly achieved its aim. I enacted my plan exactly as written and practised diligently. I knew I had been successful when the director instructed me to “Tone it down a bit. This is a family show, you know!”
I now feel a lot more comfortable extolling the benefits of learning plans to unconvinced registrars. I tell them: “I used to think that I wasn’t a learning plan-type person either but I’ve discovered that if you choose a relevant and important objective and spend time and effort working out how to achieve it, the technique can really work.”
I tend to leave out: “It didn’t do much for my medicine, but it turned me into a fabulous whore.”
This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor.
Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at http://genevieveyates.com/
Our most popular tweet this week comes from Forbes contributor, Robert Glatter. Robert discusses how medicine and art are a complementary skill set.
EMBED TWEET: https://twitter.com/Meducation/status/394399394210263040
As universities look to improve the selection process for medical school, they are giving increased focus to natural traits that encompass the ideal candidate. In his article Robert looks at how typically “right brain” characteristics, such as artistic flair, are highly valued selection criteria and in some cases rank more favourably than “left brain” thinking. Dr. Mangione, a master of artistic expression and physical diagnosis, agrees that medical students with creative thinking as part of their skillset are likely to excel. Do you agree that this is an important factor to consider when predicting an individual's potential for success in medicine? If not, what traits do you believe are important?
The full article can be seen here - it's a very thought provoking read.
Well I think they do. In 2012 I attended the #digidoc2012 conference in London. This was a conference aimed at bringing clinicians and technology enthusiasts together to learn how better to use technology to help in a clinical setting. Part of the day included tutorials and lectures, but my favourite part was the ‘hack’ session. In groups, we pitched ideas about potential apps which could be created to help different groups i.e. clinicians, patients, providers etc. From this session the initial concept of PhotoConsent was formed.
Medical photography in a hospital setting can be relatively straight forward. A clinician can call up the medical photography department, get them to sort out the forms and details, patient consented, picture taken...done. The main issue with this is the time taken to access the medical photography department.
Medical photography in a moderately acute setting or primary care is considerably less straight forward. Issues on how you document the consent, what methods used (verbal or written) and how this is stored need to be considered. There exists some guidance on the matter (see Good Medical Practice: Making and using visual and audio recordings of patients), however actual practice is variable. The added issue of social media and the ease of which images can now be shared can add to the confusion.
The solution - PhotoConsent:
I am involved in several on-line forums and governance groups. With seeing interactions about patient images in social media and various online clinical groups, I felt a more complete solution was needed which gave better protection and governance for both patients and clinicians. Following the #digidoc12 conference (https://thedigitaldoc.co.uk/), I met some innovative colleagues including Ed Wallit (@podmedicsed). We took this brainstormed idea further and now we have a finished product- PhotoConsent app.
PhotoConsent is a new application designed to help you as a clinician to safely and easily take photos of a patient and then obtain the relevant consent for that photo quickly and efficiently. It is currently available on iOS.
How does it work?
Upon opening the app you can take a photo from the home screen. Once you have confirmed you have the best possible image, you and the patient are shown the consent options. Using PhotoConsent you can choose to obtain consent to use the photo for assessment, second opinion or referral, educational use or publication. In real time with the patient you can then select each consent option to explore in more detail to allow informed consent. This consent can then be digitally signed and emailed to the patient instantly. The image and consent can then be used by the clinician in accordance with GMC guidance. This can be via the app, email or via the online portal: PhotoConsent.co.uk. What makes PhotoConsent unique is that the consent is digitally secure in the metadata of the image. So proof of consent is always with the image.
Why should I use PhotoConsent?
It is important if taking a medical image of a patient, that consent is obtained and recorded. Written consent is considered the best option. PhotoConsent allows you to take consent with the patient in real-time, forward the patient a copy of the consent so they can stay informed, and be safe in the knowledge that consent is secure within the image metadata. All this is possible through your own iOS device making it convenient and effective for all involved.
What is next for PhotoConsent?
The first release of PhotoConsent is out, but there can always be progression. In the future I hope to bring the app to the Android platform to make it more accessible to a wider audience. We are also working on expanding the app to include consent for non-medical use. We have a few other ideas but time will tell if these are possible.
About the owner:
Dr Hussain Gandhi (@drgandalf52) is a GP and GP trainer working in the Nottingham area. He is a RCGP First5 lead, Treasurer of RCGP Vale of Trent faculty, co-author of The New GPs Handbook, owner of PhotoConsent and egplearning.co.uk – an e-learning portal; and a member of Tiko’s GP group on Facebook (@TheVoiceofTGG).
All Images taken via PhotoConsent.
I’m a klutz. Always have been. Probably always will be. I blame my clumsiness on the fact that I didn’t crawl. Apparently I was sitting around one day and toddling on two feet the next. Whatever the cause, it’s a well-tested fact that I’m not good on icy footpaths. Various parts of my anatomy have gotten up close and personal with frozen ground on many an occasion. Not usually an issue for a born-and-bred Australian, except when said Australian goes to visit her Canadian family during the northern winter.
During one such visit, I found myself unceremoniously plopped onto slick ice while my two-year-old niece frolicked around me with sure-footed abandon. I thought, “There has to be an easier way.” As freezing water seeped through my jeans, providing a useful cold pack for my screaming coccyx, my memory was jogged.
I recalled that a lateral-thinking group of New Zealand researchers had won the Ignoble Prize for Physics for demonstrating that wearing socks on the outsides of shoes reduces the incidence of falls on icy footpaths. To the amusement of my niece, I tried out the theory for myself on the walk home. I don’t know if I had a more secure foothold or not, but I did manage to get blisters from wearing sneakers without socks.
I love socks. They cover my large, ungainly clod-hoppers and keep my toes toasty warm almost all year round. You know the song ‘You can leave your hat on.’? Well for me, it is more a case of ‘You can leave your socks on, especially in winter. There’s nothing unromantic about that… is there?
I’m not, however, as attached to my socks as a patient I once treated. As an intern doing a psychiatry rotation, one of my tasks was to do physical examinations on all admissions. Being a dot-the-i’s kinda girl, when an old homeless man declined to remove his socks so that I could examine his feet, I didn’t let it slide.
“I haven’t taken off my socks for thirty years,” he pronounced.
“It can’t be that long. Your socks aren’t thirty years old. In fact, they look quite new,” I countered.
“When the old ones wear out, I just slip a new pair over the top.”
I didn’t believe him. From his odour, I would have believed that he hadn’t showered in thirty years, but the sock story didn’t add up.
He eventually agreed to let me take them off. The top two sock layers weren’t a problem but then I ran into trouble. Black remains of what used to be socks clung firmly to his feet, and my gentle attempts at their removal resulted in screams of agony. I tried soaking his feet. Still no luck. His skin had grown up into the fibres, and it was impossible to extract the old sock remnants without ripping off skin.
In retrospect I probably should have left the old man alone, but instead got the psych registrar to have a peek, who then involved the emergency registrar, who called the surgeon and soon enough the patient and his socks were off to theatre.
The ‘surgical removal of socks’ was not a commonly performed procedure, and it provided much staff amusement. It wasn’t so funny for Mr. Sock Man, who required several skin grafts!
From my perspective here in Canada, while I thoroughly commend the Kiwis for their ground-breaking sock research, I think I’ll stick to the more traditional socks-in-shoes approach, change my socks regularly and work a bit on my coordination skills.
PHYSICS PRIZE: Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes. "Preventing Winter Falls: A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Novel Intervention," Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest, New Zealand Medical Journal. vol. 122, no, 1298, July 3, 2009, pp. 31-8.
(This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/articles/58/0c06f058.asp)
Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at http://genevieveyates.com/
“There is nothing new under the sun” - Ecclesiastes 1:4-11.
If any of you have read one of my blogs before you will have realised that I am a huge fan of books.
The blog I am writing today is also about a book, but more than that, it is about an idea. The idea is simple, practical and nothing especially new. It is an idea that many call common sense but few call common practice. It is an idea that has been used in every sort of organisation for over 20 years. It is an idea that needs to be applied on a greater scale to the health service.
The idea is not new. How the book is written is not new. But how the book explains the idea and applies it to healthcare is new and it will change how you view the health service. It is a revolutionary book.
The book is called “Pride and Joy” by Alex Knight view here.
How I came to read this book is a classic story of a Brownian motion (a chance encounter), leading to an altered life trajectory. The summer before starting medical school I was working as a labourer cleaning out a chaps guttering. During a tea break in the hot summer sun he asked me what I was going to study at Uni. As soon as I said “Medicine”, he said “then you need to come see this”.
He took me into his office and showed me a presentation he had given the year before about a hospital in Ireland. He was a management consultant and had been applying a management theory he had learned while working in industry. With his help the hospital had managed to reduce waiting times by a huge amount. The management theory he was applying is called "The Theory of Constraints" (TOC).
I thought that his presentation was fascinating and I could not understand why it was not more widely applied. I went away and read the books he suggested and promised that I would stay in touch.
Four years later and I had been exposed to enough of the clinical environment to realise that something needs to change in how the health service is run. To this end, a couple of colleagues and myself founded the Birmingham Medical Leadership society (BMLS) with help from the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM). The aim of which is to help healthcare students and professionals understand the systems they are working in.
The first thing I did after founding the society was contact that friendly management consultant and ask him for his advice on what we should cover. He immediately put me in contact with QFI consulting, @QFIConsulting.
This small firm has been working with hospitals all over the world to implement this simple theory called the Theory of Constraints. They were absolutely fantastic and within 2 emails had promised to come to Birmingham to run a completely free workshop for our society’s members.
The workshop was on March 8th at Birmingham Medical School. Through our society’s contacts we managed to encourage 15 local students to take a revision break to attend the workshop on a sunny Saturday. We were also able to find 11 local registrars/ consultants who wanted to improve their management knowledge. It just so happens that the chap leading this workshop was Mr Alex Knight. The workshop sparked all of our interests and when he mentioned that he had just written a book, pretty much the whole crowd asked for a copy.
When I got my copy, I thought I would leave it to read for after my end of year exams. However, I got very bored a few days before the first written paper and needed a revision break – so I decided that reading a few pages here and there wouldn't hurt. Trouble was that this book was a page turner and I soon couldn't put it down.
I won’t spoil the book for all of you out there, who I hope will read it. I shall just say that if you are interested in healthcare, training to work in healthcare, already work in healthcare or just want a riveting book to read by the pool then you really should read it. The basic premise is that healthcare is getting more expensive and yet there appears to be an increase in the number of healthcare crises'. So if more money isn't making healthcare better, then maybe it is time to try a different approach.
“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” – Edward Land, inventor of the Polaroid Camera.
Mr Land was a wise man and I can happily say that I have no conflict of interest in writing this blog. I have not been promised anything in return for this glowing review. The only reason that I have written this is because I believe it is important for people to have a greater understanding of how the health service works and what we can do to make it even better!
As a very junior healthcare professional, there is not much that we can do on a practical level but that does not mean we are impotent. We can still share best practice and show our enthusiasm for new approaches.
Healthcare students and professionals, if you care about how your service works and you want to help make it better. Please find a copy of this book and read it. It won’t take you long and I promise that it will have an impact on you.
NB - Note all of the folded down corners. These pages have something insightful that I want to read again... there are a lot of folded pages!
The registrar's face was taking on a testy look. So enduring was the silence our furtive glances had developed a nystagmic quality. “Galactosaemia” came her peremptory reply. Right on queue the disjointed chorus of ahs and head nods did little to hide our mental whiteboard of differentials being wiped clean. At the time conjugated bilirubinaemia in children only meant one thing: biliary atresia. A fair assumption; we were sitting in one of three specialist centres in the country equipped to treat these patients. Ironically the condition has become the unwieldy yardstick I now measure the incidence of paediatric disease.
Biliary atresia is the most common surgical cause of neonatal jaundice with a reported incidence of 1 in 14-16ooo live births in the West. It is described as a progressive inflammatory obliteration of the extrahapatic bile duct. And Dr Charles West, the founder of Great Ormond Street Hospital, offers an eloquent description of the presenting triad of prolonged jaundice, pale acholic stools and dark yellow urine:
‘Case 18...It was born at full term, though small, apparently healthy. At 3 days however, it began to get yellow and at the end of 3 weeks was very yellow. Her motions at no time after the second day appeared natural on examination, but were white, like cream, and her urine was very high coloured.’
1855 was the year of Dr West's hospital note. An almost universally fatal diagnosis and it would remain so for the next 100 years. The time's primordial classification of biliary atresia afforded children with the 'noncorrectable' type, a complete absence of patent extrahepatic bile duct, an unfortunate label; they were beyond saving. Having discovered the extent of disease at laparatomy, the surgeons would normally close the wound. The venerable Harvardian surgeon, Robert E. Gross saved an enigmatic observation: “In most instances death followed a downhill course…”
K-A-S-A-I read the ward’s board. It was scrawled under half the children's names. I dismissed it as just another devilishly hard acronym to forget. The thought of an eponymous procedure had escaped me and in biliary atresia circles, it's the name everyone should know: Dr Morio Kasai.
Originating from Aomori prefecture, Honshu, Japan, Dr Kasai graduated from the National Tohoku University School of Medicine in 1947. His ascension was rapid, having joined the 2nd department of Surgery as a general surgeon, he would assume the role of Assistant Professor in 1953. The department, under the tenure of Professor Shigetsugu Katsura, shared a healthy interest in research.
1955 was the landmark year. Katsura and Kasai operated on their first case: a 72 day old infant. Due to bleeding at the incised porta hepatis, Katsura is said to have 'placed' the duodenum over the site in order to staunch the flow. She made a spectacular postoperative recovery, the jaundice had faded and there was bile pigment in her stool. During the second case, Katsura elected to join the unopened duodenum to the porta hepatis. Sadly the patient's jaundice did not recover, but the post-mortem conducted by Kasai confirmed the development of a spontaneous internal biliary fistula connecting the internal hepatic ducts to the duodenum. Histological inspection of removed extrahepatic duct showed the existence of microscopic biliary channels, hundreds of microns in diameter. Kasai made a pivotal assertion: the transection of the fibrous cord of the obliterated duct must contain these channels before anastomosis with the jejunal limb Roux-en-Y loop. This would ensure communication between the porta hepatis and the intrahepatic biliary system. The operation, entitled hepatic portoenterostomy, was first performed as a planned procedure for the third case at Tohoku. Bile flow was restored and Kasai published the details of the new technique in the Japanese journal Shujutsu in 1959. However, news of this development did not dawn on the West until 1968 in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery. The success of the operation and its refined iterations were eventually recognized and adopted in the 1970s. The operation was and is not without its dangers. Cholangitis, portal hypertension, malnutrition and hepatopulmonary syndrome are the cardinal complications. While diagnosing and operating early (<8 weeks) are essential to the outcome, antibiotic prophylaxis and nutritional support are invaluable prognostic factors.
Post operatively, the early clearance of jaundice (within 3 months) and absence of liver cirrhosis on biopsy, are promising signs. At UK centres the survival after a successful procedure is 80%. The concurrent development of liver transplantation boosts this percentage to 90%. Among children, biliary atresia is the commonest indication for transplantation; by five years post-Kasai, 45% will have undergone the procedure.
On the 6th December 2008, Dr Kasai passed away. He was 86 years old and had been battling the complications of a stroke he suffered in 1999. His contemporaries and disciples paint a humble and colourful character. A keen skier and mountaineer, Dr Kasai lead the Tohoku University mountain-climbing team to the top of the Nyainquntanglha Mountains, the highest peaks of the Tibetan highlands. It was the first successful expedition of its kind in the world. He carried through this pioneering spirit into his professional life. Paediatric surgery was not a recognized specialty in Japan. By founding and chairing multiple associations including the Japanese Society of Pediatric Surgeons, Dr Kasai gave his specialty and biliary atresia, the attention it deserved.
Despite numerous accolades of international acclaim for his contributions to paediatric surgery, Dr Kasai insisted his department refer to his operation as the hepatic portoenterostomy; the rest of the world paid its originator the respect of calling it the ‘Kasia’. Upon completion of their training, he would give each of his surgeons a hand-written form of the word ‘Soshin’ [simple mind], as he believed a modest surgeon was a good one.
At 5 foot 2, Kasai cut a more diminutive figure one might expect for an Emeritus Professor and Hospital Director of a university hospital. During the course of his lifetime he had developed the procedure and lived to see its fruition. The Kasia remains the gold standard treatment for biliary atresia; it has been the shinning light for what Willis J. Potts called the darkest chapter in paediatric surgery. It earned Dr Kasai an affectionate but apt name among his peers, the small giant.
Miyano T. Morio Kasai, MD, 1922–2008. Pediatr Surg Int. 2009;25(4):307–308.
Garcia A V, Cowles RA, Kato T, Hardy MA. Morio Kasai: a remarkable impact beyond the Kasai procedure. J Pediatr Surg. 2012;47(5):1023–1027.
Mowat AP. Biliary atresia into the 21st century: A historical perspective. Hepatology. 1996;23(6):1693–1695.
Ohi R. A history of the Kasai operation: Hepatic portoenterostomy for biliary atresia. World J Surg. 1988;12(6):871–874.
Ohi R. Morio Kasai, MD 1922-2008. J Pediatr Surg. 2009;44(3):481–482.
Lewis N, Millar A. Biliary atresia. Surg. 2007;25(7):291–294.
This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, April 2014 issue.
“You want to be a medical leader? … Gone to the Dark side have you?”
For years medical leadership has been the place to retire to once you’ve done your hard work on the wards. The image of a doctor hanging up their stethoscope, picking up a clipboard and joining the managers “dark side” is all too familiar.
Medical leadership, Healthcare management, Clinical lead, Quality lead – these are all ways of describing someone (a healthcare professional) who wants to make a difference, who wants to help not just one patient but every patient in that service.
Medical leadership is the zeitgeist! It is a growing field. It is a discipline of the young and dynamic. It is something that is relevant to you all. It is something that you will be expected to show in years to come.
As an individual student you can join the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM), do some reading, do a quality improvement project (QIP) and write that you have an interested in medical leadership on your CV.
What if you want to do more than just improve your CV?
Be an agent for change, found a student’s medical leadership and management society at your medical school!
It’s easy! First, find 10 student colleagues – the driven, the politically aware, the idealists, the power-mad and the ones that really care. Step 2 – give yourself a suitably pompous name. Step 3 – register your New “University of X Leaders of Tomorrow” society with you MedSoc or Students Union. Step 4 – Contact the FMLM to let them know you exist and want to join their revolution. Step 5 – Collaborate with the other student Medical Leadership Societies (MLS) around the UK. Step 6 – Hold a social. Step 7 – Find a local doctor who would love to talk about their career and recent success. Step 8 – Invite us all along. Step 9 – Write it on your CV. Step 10 – Leave a legacy.
At the present The University of Birmingham Students Medical Leadership Society is in contact with the FMLM and other similar groups at the Universities of Bristol, Barts and Oxford. We are looking to get in contact with every other society in the country. If you are a new or old MLS then please do get in touch, we would love to hear from you and are happy to help your societies in any way we can – we would also love to attend your events so please do send us an invite and we will do our best to attend and advertise it.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Twitter @UoBMedLeaders
Find us on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/676838225676202/
Come along to our up coming events…
Thursday 5th December LT3 Medical School, 6pm
‘Why should doctors get involved in management’
By Dr Mark Newbold, CEO of BHH NHS Trust
Wednesday 22nd January 2014 LT3 Medical School, 6pm
‘Has the NHS lost the ability to care?’ – responding to the Mid Staffs inquiry’
By Prof Jon Glasby, Director of the Health Services Management Centre , UoB
Thursday 20th February LT3 Medical School, 6pm
‘Creating a Major Trauma Unit at the UHB Trust’
By Sir Prof Keith Porter, Professor of Traumatology, UHB
Saturday 8th March LT3 Medical School, 1pm
‘Applying the Theory of Constraints to Healthcare
By Mr A Dinham and J Nieboer ,QFI Consulting
A recent review by World Bank Group has highlighted the enthusiasm for digitalising text books in Africa. Education officials seeking to acquire digital teaching and learning material have come to realise that it is actually quite a challenging and complex process. The procurement processes in comparison to acquiring traditional textbooks is proving to be less cost effective.
Currently in Africa a few countries have been ambitious in wanting to roll out digital textbooks, referred to as 'teaching and learning resources and materials presented in electronic and digital formats'.
Michael Truanco (Sr. ICT & Education Specialist) for World Bank, makes a clear point about the increasing consideration of the use of free content. Where free content is being used, this means the acquisition of the content is free. But is it really free?
The costs associated with piloting small projects in order to introduce digital teaching and learning materials as a way to learn what the related costs are. There are three categories to consider, the costs related to content, the device related costs and ecosystem related cost.
Michael highlights the costs related to content which are directly related to the acquisition of content. Although post acquisition - there are other costs to consider, including vetting (for accuracy), contextualising, embedding, classifying and distribution.
Device -related costs and other costs which are related includes the end user device which digital teaching materials are viewed on, accompanied with the technical infrastructure. Further costs to consider include the repair and maintenance, replacement, upgrade and security. In order for a device to function efficiently the baseline of electricity needs to be considered. These are the direct related costs to the device, as well as costs associated to the ecosystem.
The article does not seek to dampen the initiative of digitalising content but rather highlight the need to consider the finer details in finances, which is a fundamental element within the process of this great initiative.
Previous initiatives include the World Bank in Latin America and Africa which sought to provide 'teacher generated content'. The initiative is an excellent one but the reality of digitalising textbook initiatives in Africa may need, further refining in terms of economics and overall financial costings.
The question to really ask is whether digitalising textbooks in Africa will have a greater accessibility and outcome than traditional printed format? However, as discussed to achieve this, it will come at a price? But, does the costs outweigh the outcomes?
Irrespective of the costs the overall outcome and benefit of digitalising text book initiative in Africa will have a much greater overall impact. Children and adults will be able to access mass content and learning materials in a much more accessible way. Thus, leading to a more effective and positive learning environment.
To read more on this topic please feel free to click on the article by Michael Truanco of World Bank (see link below).
The NHS provides care free at the point of us to British citizens and anyone who needs emergency care while in the UK. It tries to provide every kind of service and treatment that it can but obviously there are limits.
The NHS gets its money mainly from governments taxes, charities, research grants, some payment for services and from renting out retail space etc. Healthcare is a financial blackhole, any money put in the budget will get spent, efficiently and effectively or not.
The NHS is constantly being expected to provide a better, more efficient service and new treatments, without a comparable increase in government funding. So, why doesn’t the NHS set up services that could make it money?
Some money making suggestions
Gift shops and NHS clothing brand – The American hospital I went to for elective had quite a large shop near the entrance that sold hospital branded goods. People love the NHS and it could make itself a brand, “I love the NHS” t-shirts, “I was born here” ties, “I gave birth at Blah hospital” car stickers, hats, jackets, tracksuits, teddy bears in white coats and so many more things could be sold in this shops to raise money for the NHS.
Patients in a hospital are a captive market and their visitors are semi-captive. The captives get very bored! Why not provide opportunities for these people to spend their money and relieve the boredom while they are in hospital with some retail therapy? For instance, new hospitals should be built with a shopping mall in them and a cinema. A couple of clothes shops would give people something to do and raise money from rent.
While we are on the subject of new hospitals, they should be designed with the input of the clinical staff who know how to maximise the flow of patients through the "patient pathway". Hospitals should be built like industrial conveyor belts: patients enter through ED, get stabilised, get fixed in theatre, stabilised again in ITU, recover on the wards and out the exit to social services and the outpatient clinics.
New hospitals should be designed to sit on top of HUGE underground multi-story car parks. If shopping centres can do this then so can hospitals. Almost all hospitals are short of parking spaces and most car parks are eye sores. So, try to plan from the beginning to get as many car parking spaces as possible. Estimate how many are needed for staff and visitors - then double it! Also, design a park and ride system so additional parking is available off site.
If costa can make money from a coffee shop in an NHS hospital, why isn’t the NHS setting up its own brand of high quality coffee shops in the hospitals and cutting out Costa the middle man?
“NHS healthy eating” – NHS branded diet plans or ready meals could be produced in partnership with a supermarket brand. Mixing public heath, profit and the NHS brand. “Good for you and good for the NHS”
The NHS could set up hospitals abroad that are for profit institutions that use the NHS structures, or market our services to foreigners that they then pay for. Health tourism is a thing, why not make the most of it?
“NHS plus” – the NHS should be a two tier system. Hours of 8am til 6pm should be for elective procedures free at the point of use and free emergency care. Between 6pm and 11pm the hospitals currently only do emergency care, so there is loads of rooms and kit lying about unused. Why not allow hospitals to set up systems where patients can pay for an evening slot in the MRI scanner and cut the queue? Allow surgeons to pay to use the facilities for private procedures in the evenings. Allow physicians to pay to use the outpatients clinics for private work after hours.
An “NHS Journal” could publish research and audits conducted within and relevant to the NHS.
“NHS pharma” – the NHS buys a huge amount of off patent drugs, why not produce them itself? Set up a drug company that produces off patent medication, these can be given to the NHS at cost price and sold to other healthcare providers for profit. NHS pharma could also work with British universities and researchers to produce new drugs for the British market that would be cheaper than new Drug company drugs because they wouldn’t need huge advertising budgets.
There are so many ways the NHS could make more money for itself that could then be used to deliver newer and better treatments. Yes, it is a shift in ideology and culture, but I am sure it would have positive outcomes for the NHS and patients.
If you have any ideas on how the NHS could produce more money then please do leave a comment.
After I retired from my academic position at the University of Miami, I started working as an intermittent ob & gyn in various cultural settings in the US and abroad. In 2006 I practiced in a hospital in New Zealand.
I saw many interesting cases during my six months at Whangarei Hospital. One stands out in particular. This was a middle aged native Mauri woman who had been seeing her family doctor for several years because she was gaining too much weight, her abdomen was getting bigger, and she was constipated. Each time the family doctor saw her, he did not examine her but patted her on the back and encouraged her to eat less, eat more fruit and vegetables and be more active so that she would lose weight. When much later he finally examined her, he noticed a large tumor in her abdomen and referred her to the hospital.
To make a long story short, we operated on her and removed a large ovarian cyst weighing more than 18 kilograms (about 40 pounds). This cyst fortunately turned out to be benign and the woman did well. The operation itself was something else as we needed an extra assistant to hold the tumor in her arms while we removed it without breaking it.
Even though this large tumor was certainly not a record, we ended up publishing the case in a New Zealaned medical journal for family practice (see reference below), not so much for the nature of the tumor itself as for pointing out to family doctors (all doctors, in fact) that examining patients before giving them advice is most important.
Alison Gale, Tommy Cobb, Robert Norelli, William LeMaire. Increasing Abdominal Girth. The Importance of Clinical Examination. New Zealand Family Physician. 2006; 33 (4): 250-252
Each year on the 26th of January, Australia Day, Australians of all shapes, sizes and political persuasions are encouraged to reflect on what it means to be living in this big, brown, sunny land of ours. It is a time to acknowledge past wrongs, honour outstanding Australians, welcome new citizens, and perhaps toss a lamb chop on the barbie (barbecue), enjoying the great Australian summer. It is also a time to count our blessings.
Australians whinge a lot about our health system. While I am certainly not suggesting the model we have is anywhere near perfect, it could be a whole lot worse.
I recently read this NY times article which talks about the astronomical and ever-rising health care costs in the US and suggests that this, at least sometimes, involves a lack of informed consent (re: costs and alternative treatment options). The US is certainly not the “land of the free” when it comes to health care.
There are many factors involved, not least being the trend in the US to provide specialised care for conditions that are competently and cost-effectively dealt with in primary care (by GPs) in Australia.
The article gives examples such as a five minute consult conducted by a dermatologist, during which liquid nitrogen was applied to a wart, costing the patient $500. In Australia, (if bulk billed by a GP) it would have cost the patient nothing and the taxpayer $16.60 (slightly higher if the patient was a pensioner).
It describes a benign mole shaved off by a nurse practitioner (with a scalpel, no stitches) costing the patient $914.56. In Australia, it could be done for under $50.
The most staggering example of all was the description of the treatment of a small facial Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) which cost over $25000 (no, that is not a typo – twenty five THOUSAND dollars). In Australia, it would probably have cost the taxpayer less than $200 for its removal (depending on exact size, location and method of closure). The patient interviewed for the article was sent for Mohs surgery (and claims she was not given a choice in the matter).
Mohs (pronounced “Moe’s” as in Moe’s Tavern from The Simpsons) is a highly effective technique for treating skin cancer and minimises the loss of non-cancerous tissue (in traditional skin cancer surgery you deliberately remove some of the surrounding normal skin to ensure you’ve excised all of the cancerous cells) . Wikipedia entry on Mohs. This can be of great benefit in a small minority of cancers. However, this super-specialised technique is very expensive and time/ labour intensive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has become extremely popular in the US. ”Moh’s for everything” seems to be the new catch cry when it comes to skin cancer treatment in the US.
In the past two years, working very part time in skin cancer medicine in Australia, I have diagnosed literally hundreds of BCCs (Basal Cell Carcinomas). The vast majority of these I successfully treated (ie cured) in our practice without needing any specialist help. A handful were referred to general or plastic surgeons and one, only one, was referred for Mohs surgery. The nearest Mohs surgeon being 200 kilometres away from our clinic may have something to do with the low referral rate, but the fact remains, most BCCs (facial or otherwise), can be cured and have a good cosmetic outcome, without the need for Mohs surgery.
To my mind, using Mohs on garden variety BCCs is like employing a team of chefs to come into your kitchen each morning to place bread in your toaster and then butter it for you. Overkill.
Those soaking up some fine Aussie sunshine on the beach or at a backyard barbie with friends this Australia Day, gifting their skin with perfect skin-cancer-growing conditions, may wish to give thanks that when their BCCs bloom, affordable (relative to costs in the US, at least) treatment is right under their cancerous noses.
Being the skin cancer capital of the world is perhaps not a title of which Australians should be proud, but the way we can treat them effectively, without breaking the bank, should be.
Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at http://genevieveyates.com/
Shattered. Third consecutive day of on-calls at the birth centre. I’m afraid I have little to show for it. The logbook hangs limply at my side, the pages where my name is printed await signatures; surrogate markers of new found skills. Half asleep I slump against the wall and cast my mind back to the peripheral attachment from which I have not long returned. The old-school consultant’s mutterings are still fresh: “Medical education was different back then you see....you are dealt a tough hand nowadays.” I quite agree, it is Saturday.
Might it be said the clinical apprenticeship we know today is a shadow of its former self? Medical school was more a way of life, students lived in the hospital, they even had their laundry done for them. Incredulous, I could scarcely restrain a chuckle at the consultant’s stories of delivering babies while merely a student and how the dishing out of “character building” grillings by their seniors was de rigeur. Seldom am I plied with any such questions. Teaching is a rare commodity at times. Hours on a busy ward can bear little return. Frequently do I hear students barely a rotation into their clinical years, bemoan a woeful lack of attention. All recollection of the starry-eyed second year, romanced by anything remotely clinical, has evaporated like the morning dew.
“Make way, make way!...” cries a thin voice from the far reaches of the centre. A squeal of bed wheels. The newly crowned obs & gynae reg drives past the midwife station executing an impressive Tokyo drift into the corridor where I stand. Through the theatre doors opposite me he vanishes. I follow.
Major postpartum haemorrhage. A bevy of scrubs flit across the room in a live performance of the RCOG guidelines for obstetric haemorrhage. They resuscitate the women on the table, her clammy body flat across the carmine blotched sheets. ABC, intravenous access and a rapid two litres of Hartmann’s later, the bleeding can not be arrested by rubbing up contraction. Pharmacological measures: syntocinon and ergometrine preparations do not staunch the flow. Blood pressure still falling, I watch the consciousness slowly ebb from the woman’s eyes.
Then in a tone of voice, seemingly beyond his years, the reversely gowned anaesthetist clocks my badge and says, “Fetch me the carboprost.” I could feel an exercise in futility sprout as I gave an empty but ingratiating nod. “It’s hemabate....in the fridge” he continues. In the anaesthetic room I find the fridge and rummage blindly through. Thirty seconds later having discovered nothing but my general inadequacy, I crawl back into theatre. I was as good as useless though to my surprise the anaesthetist disappeared and returned with a vial. Handing me both it and a prepped syringe, he instructs me to inject intramuscularly into the woman’s thigh.
The most common cause of postpartum haemorrhage is uterine atony. Prostaglandin analogues like carboprost promote coordinated contractions of the body of the pregnant uterus. Constriction of the vessels by myometrial fibres within the uterine walls achieves postpartum haemostasis. This textbook definition does not quite echo my thoughts as I gingerly approach the operating table. Alarmingly I am unaware that aside from the usual side effects of the drug in my syringe; the nausea and vomiting, should the needle stray into a nearby vessel and its contents escape into the circulation, cardiovascular collapse might be the unfortunate result. Suddenly the anaesthetist’s dour expression as I inject now assumes some meaning. What a relief to see the woman’s vitals begin to stabilise.
As we wheel her into the recovery bay, the anaesthetist unleashes an onslaught of questions. Keen to redeem some lost pride, I can to varying degrees, resurrect long buried preclinical knowledge: basic pharmacology, transfusion-related complications, the importance of fresh frozen plasma. Although, the final threat of drawing the clotting cascade from memory is a challenge too far. Before long I am already being demonstrated the techniques of regional analgesia, why you should always aspirate before injecting lidocaine and thrust headlong into managing the most common adverse effects of epidurals.
To have thought I had been ready to retire home early on this Saturday morning had serendipity not played its part. A little persistence would have been just as effective. It’s the quality so easily overlooked in these apparently austere times of medical education. And not a single logbook signature gained. Oh the shame!
This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, February 2014 issue.
Previously on Meducation..
The 'F***-it‘ Button’: an account of the (red) button that when activated triggers (in the initiator and possibly a nearby friend) a ‘mental state of no-return’; a mindset during which there is no form of resistance to indulging in whatever foodstuff is wanted, when wanted, (temporarily) guilt-free. Read my previous post here.
In Search of the 'F***-it Button' Cure
I do not know whether since writing the previous entry, with increased awareness of this ‘state of mind’, I have become a ‘F-it button’ hypochondriac, but I am sure that I have been increasingly experiencing ‘F*** button’ symptoms.
This did not bother me at first: Boston Tea Party’s flapjack selection is the perfect essay incentive and, it is March therefore baggy jumpers are still legit…
In other words, my increased ‘F***-it’ button tendencies did not seem worth addressing.
However, my illness behaviour, like any other, influenced by economical (Boston Tea Party flapjacks are quite expensive), environmental (Baggy jumpers have limited capacity) and cultural factors (Lent), culminated in ‘help-seeking’ behaviour.
Lent is a six and a half week period during which Christians, (and others who want to practice self-discipline), give up a luxury to remember the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent alone in the desert without food, being tempted by the Devil. With this in mind, my initial thoughts on Pancake Day was, ‘why not try give up the F***-it button..!?’.
Feeling rather full and overindulged at the time – pathognomonic post-‘F***-it button’ symptoms – I sought to find my cure and decided to self-medicate… Baggini’s book.
As I was on holiday, my first challenge was the ‘all-you-can-eat’ (‘eat-what-you-like’/’eat-as-much-as-you-like’) breakfast buffet. I always find that my ‘hunter-gatherer’ streak comes out in this kind of situation: stock up on as many K-Cals as possible in order to cope with the possibility of later starvation. This primitive approach, in combination with my indecisive nature, invariably results in assembling everything and anything from the buffet bar onto my plate and the ‘F***-it button’ is inevitably activated... At which point I order the full English breakfast.
On the morning of Ash Wednesday I was determined to avoid this and, in anticipation of the ‘breakfast-buffet-F***-it button-trigger’, I consulted my book.
One reason that Baginni cites for why we fail to stick to resolutions is that, whilst we may have a clear objective, we haven’t thought about it enough. That is to say, we may think that we have clearly decided not to do something, for example, ‘hit the ‘F-it button’’. However, we haven’t actually fully taken into account that we also have the belief that, of any given ‘buffet-bar-situation’, that it wouldn’t be ‘so bad’ if we indulged after all because,(for example), ‘we may be hungry later’. Thus, faced with temptation, the ‘F-it button’ is activated regardless of initial good intention.
A solution to this problem is a form of ‘metacognition’, to draw what is known as a ‘bright line’, a clearly defined rule or standard. The ‘bright line’ should be achievable and not too restrictive. In my case, I made the rule, ‘no more than one portion of cereal and a pastry of choice at the buffet bar’.
However, despite my ‘bright line’, the first day of Lent was a little bit of a fail…
The problem with a ‘bright line’ is that if you don’t actually believe that the 'bright line' matters, when faced with temptation it will probably be crossed and… let’s just say, I put the extra eggs benedict, other pastry, creamy hot chocolate and couple of yoghurts down to this limitation.
It seems that a ‘bright line’ only works if you believe in respecting it and, for the rest of the holiday I gave that ‘bright line’ all the respect it deserved. Lent was going really quite well.
But then I got back to Bristol, to essay writing and to Boston Tea Party. I reached for Baggini’s book…
‘There isn’t a very strong relationship between capacity to engage in dietary restriction – to consciously restrict intake – and [low] BMI [because] in effect you’re expending so much energy making one kind of mental effort that you don’t leave yourself enough for others. This suggests that although metacognition can be useful in impulse control for one-off temptations, relying on it as a medium- or long-term strategy may not work.’
I have horrible feeling forty days counts as ‘medium’ to ‘long term’.
Hey guys! I’m Nicole and I’m a second year medical student at Glasgow University. I’ve decided to start this blog to write about my experiences as a med student and the difficulties I encounter along the way, hopefully giving you something you can relate to.
Since June of last year I have been suffering with a personal illness, with symptoms of persistent nausea, gastric pain and lethargy. At first I thought it was just a bug that would pass on fairly quickly, but as the summer months went on it was clear that this illness wasn’t going to disappear overnight.
I spent my summer going through a copious amount of medications in hope that I’d feel better for term starting. I visited my GP several times and had bloods taken regularly. After 2 months, I finally got given a diagnosis; I had a helicobacter pylori infection. I started eradication therapy for a week and although it made my symptoms worse, I was positive would make me better and I’d be well again within the week.
The week passed with no improvements in my condition. Frustrated, I went back to my GP who referred me for an endoscopy. Term started back the next week and despite feeling miserable I managed to drag myself out to every lecture, tutorial and lab. Within a few weeks I began to fall behind in my work, doing the bare minimum required to get through. Getting up each morning was a struggle and forcing myself to sit in lectures despite the severe nausea I was experiencing was becoming a bigger challenge each day.
In October I went for my endoscopy which, for those of you that don't know, is a horribly uncomfortable procedure. My family and friends assured me that this would be the final stage and I’d be better very very soon. The results came back and my GP gave me a different PPI in hope that it would fix everything.
I waited a few weeks and struggled through uni constantly hoping that everything would magically get better. I gave up almost all my extra-circular activities which for me, the extrovert I am, was possibly the hardest part of it all. I wanted to stay in bed all the time and I become more miserable every day. I was stressing about falling behind in uni and tensions began to build up in my personal life. It got to the point where I couldn’t eat a meal without it coming back up causing me to lose a substantial amount of weight. I got so stressed that I had to leave an exam to throw up. I was truly miserable.
I seen a consultant just before Christmas who scheduled me in for some scans, but it wasn’t until January. I was frustrated at how long this was going on for and I thought it was about time I told the medical school about my situation. They were very understanding and I was slightly surprised at just how supportive they were. I contacted my head of year who arranged a visit with me for January.
During the Christmas break I had a chance to relax and forget about everything that was stressing me. I got put on a stronger anti-sickness medication which, surprisingly, seemed to work. The tensions in my life that had built up in the last few months seemed to resolve themselves and I began to feel a lot more positive!
I met with my head of year just last week who was encouraged by my newly found positive behaviour. We’ve agreed to see how things progress over the next few months, but things are looking a lot brighter than before. I’ve taken on a new attitude and I’m determined to work my hardest to get through this year. I’m currently undertaking an SSC so I have lots of free time to catch up on work I missed during the last term.
My head of year has assured me that situations like the one I’m in happen all the time and I’m definitely not alone. I feel better knowing that the medical school are behind me and are willing to help and support me through this time.
The most important thing I have taken from this experience is the fact that you’ll never know the full extent of what a patient is going through. Illness effects different people in different ways and it may not just be a persons health thats affected, it can affect all aspects of their life. This experience has definitely opened my eyes up and hopefully I’ll be able to understand patients’ situations a little better.
It’s quick, it’s easy and we’ve all done it. Don’t blush, whether it’s at our leisure or behind the consultant’s back we can confess to having used the world’s sixth most popular website. You might have seen it, sitting pride of place on the podium of practically any Google result page. Of course, it’s the tell tale sign of one of Web 2.0’s speediest and most successful offspring, Wikipedia.
Now for fear of patronizing a generation who have sucked on the teat of this resource since its fledgling years, the formalities will remain delightfully short. Wikipedia is the free, multilingual, online encyclopedia, which harnesses the collective intelligence of the world’s internet users to produce a collaboratively written and openly modifiable body of knowledge. The technology it runs on is a highly flexible web application called wiki. It is open-source software; hence the explosion of wiki sites all united under the banner of combined authorship. Anyone with internet access can edit the content and do so with relative anonymity. It would be unthinkable that a source, which does not prioritize the fidelity of its content, could possibly play a role in medical education. How ironic it seems that medical students can waste hours pondering which textbook to swear their allegiance for the forthcoming rotation, yet not spare a second thought typing their next medical query into Wikipedia. Evidently it has carved itself a niche and not just among medical students, but healthcare professionals as well. According to a small qualitative study published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, 70% of their sample, which comprised of graduates from London medical schools currently at FY2 and ST1 level, used Wikipedia in a given week for ‘clinical purposes’. These ranged from general background reading to double checking a differential and looking up medications.
We are so ensnared by the allure of instantaneous enlightenment; it’s somewhat comparable to relieving an itch. "Just Google it..." is common parlance. We need that quick fix. When the consultant asks about his or her favourite eponymous syndrome or you’re a little short on ammunition before a tutorial, the breadth and ease-of-use offered by a service accessible from our phones is a clandestine escape.
The concept of Wikipedia, the idea that its articles are in a way living bodies because of the continual editing process, is its strength. Conversely textbooks are to a degree outmoded by the time they reach their publication date. While I commend the contributors of Wikipedia for at least trying to bolster their pages with references to high impact journals, it does not soften the fact that the authorship is unverifiable. Visitors, lay people, registered members under some less than flattering pseudonyms such as Epicgenius and Mean as custard, don’t impart the sense of credibility students (or for that matter patients)expect from an encyclopedia. Since the prestige of direct authorship if off the cards, it does beg the question of what is their motivation and I’m afraid ‘the pursuit of knowledge and improving humanity’s lot' is the quaint response. There is a distinct lack of transparency. It has become a playground where a contributor can impress his/her particular theory regarding a controversial subject unchallenged. Considering there is no direct ownership of the article, who then has the authority to curate the multiple theories on offer and portray a balanced view? Does an edit war ensue? It is not unheard of for drug representatives to tailor articles detailing their product and erase the less pleasant side-effects. Obviously Wikipedia is not unguarded, defences are in place and there is such a thing as quality control. Recent changes will come under the scrutiny of more established editors, pages that are particularly prone to vandalism are vetted and there are a special breed of editors called administrators, who uphold a custodial post, blocking and banishing rebellious editors. A study featured in the First Monday journal put Wikipedia to the test by deliberately slipping minor errors into the entries of past philosophers. Within 48 hours half of these errors had been addressed. Evidently, the service has the potential to improve over time; provided there is a pool of committed and qualified editors.
Wikiproject Medicine is such a group of trusted editors composed primarily of doctors, medical students, nurses, clinical scientists and patients. Since 2004, its two hundred or so participants have graded an excess of 25,000 health-related articles according to quality parameters not dissimilar to peer review. However, the vast majority of articles are in a state of intermediate quality, somewhere between a stub and featured article. Having some degree of professional input towards a service as far reaching as Wikipedia will no doubt have an impact on global health, particularly in developing countries where internet access is considered a luxury.
March this year saw the medical pages of the English Wikipedia reach a lofty 249,386,264 hits. Its ubiquity is enviable; it maintains a commanding lead over competing medical websites. The accessibility of this information has catapulted Wikipedia far beyond its scope as a humble encyclopedia and into a medical resource. Patients arrive to clinics armed with the printouts. As future doctors we will have to be just that one step ahead, to recognise the limitations of a source that does not put a premium on provenance but is nevertheless the current public health tool of choice.
Illustrator Edward Wong
This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, November 2013 issue.
When you think of the term 'bacteria', it immediately conjures up an image of a faceless, ruthless enemy-one that requires your poor body to maintain constant vigilance, fighting the good fight forever and always. And should you happen to lose the battle, well, the after effects are always messy. But what some people might not know is that bacteria are our silent saviours as well. These 'good' bacteria are known as probiotics, where 'pro' means 'for' and 'bios' is 'life'.
The WHO defines probiotics as "live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health bene?t on the host". Discovered by the Russian scientist Metchnikoff in the 20th century; simply put, probiotics are micro-organisms such as bacteria or yeast, which improve the health of an individual. Our bodies contain more than 500 different species of bacteria which serve to maintain our health by keeping harmful pathogens in check, supporting the immune system and helping in digestion and absorption of nutrients.
From the very first breath you take, you are exposed to probiotics. How so? As an infant passes through it's mother's birth canal, it receives a good dose of healthy bacteria, which in turn serve to populate it's own gastro-intestinal tract. However, unfortunately, as we go through life, our exposure to overly processed foods, anti-bacterial products, sterilized and pasteurized food etc, might mean that in our zeal to have everything sanitary and hygienic, we might be depriving ourselves of the beneficial effects of such microorganisms.
For any health care provider, the focus should not only be on eradicating disease but improving overall health as well. Here, probiotic containing foods and supplements play an important role as they not only combat diseases but also confer better health in general. Self dosing yourself with bacteria might sound a little bizarre at first-after all, we take antibiotics to fight bacteria. But let's not forget that long before probiotics became a viable medical option, our grandparents (and their parents before them) advocated the intake of yoghurt drinks (lassi). The fermented milk acts as an instant probiotic delivery system to the body!
Although they are still being studied, probiotics may help several specific illnesses, studies show. They have proven useful in treating childhood diarrheas as well as antibiotic associated diarrhea. Clinical trial results are mixed, but several small studies suggest that certain probiotics may help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis and prevent relapse of Crohn’s disease and the recurrence of pouchitis (a complication of surgery during treatment of ulcerative colitis). They may also help to maintain a healthy urogenital system, preventing problems such as vaginitis and UTIs.
Like all things, probiotics may have their disadvantages too. They are considered dangerous for people with impaired immune systems and one must take care to ensure that the correct strain of bacteria related to their required health benefit is present in such supplements. But when all is said and done and all the pros and cons of probiotics are weighed; stand back ladies and gentlemen, there's a new superhero in town, and what's more-it's here to stay!