Friday, May 11, 2012

Stanford Med using Khan Academy tactic to improve physicians collaboration and learning

Techcrunch has a great piece on Stanford medical school flipping its didactic model so that students listen to lectures at home and collaborate on problem solving projects in the classroom. Techcrunch posits that this is more innovative than Harvard and MIT posting their lectures online; I agree.

Having sat through hundreds of laborious hours of monotone recitations at the University of Maryland Medical School, I can attest that lectures are not an efficient nor effective method for transferring information to students like me. Watching videos at home allows each student to play, pause, and repeat any portion at any time without any embarrassment or guilt. If there is a word or an idea that isn't clear, the student can pause and research something immediately on the web, and gain the appropriate contextual understanding that allows for real learning - this isn't possible in a live lecture.

Using classroom time learning to work with other students on complicated medical issues instills a very important skill which is all too lacking in current medicine: collaboration. Too often patients come to me in my ER and it is evident to me that the patient's four physicians (eg internist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, oncologist) have not really been talking to each other, that each of them is changing the patient's medicines without consulting the others in real time. The patient is left alone trying to make sense out of sometimes conflicting recommendations. Mayo clinic understands the importance of real time collaboration of physicians, and it's major success, I would argue, is based on this core feature.

Some companies recognize the critical nature of the current broken communication system for physicians, not made easier with the tremendous boundaries erected by HIPAA. It is great to see innovative companies like TigerText creating new and improved methods of communication for doctors.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Action Item: Protect Our Protectors - TSA screeners deserve radiation monitoring NOW!

Having just flown out of Washington Dulles Airport, I was stunned to see the TSA personnel manning the whole body X-ray scanners not wearing radiation dosimeters. Having worked in research labs with nuclear isotopes and in many hospitals, I know that each institution REQUIRES staff who have exposure to non-background radiation to wear radiation dosimeters. It's ridiculous not to - if you care about your staff. Dosimeters are cheap (less than $50), can be easily worn as a badge, and are easy to administer ($69 for the whole year from this vendor).

Although a dosimeter does not itself protect against the cancer risks of radiation, which are well documented, it can notify you if your cumulative dose is reaching dangerous levels, something you wouldn't be able to know or feel otherwise. 

I asked my screener whether she was offered a dosimeter, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I got the very a uncomfortable feeling that this young female was not properly educated on the potential risks of cumulative doses of radiation. It is well documented that radiation is more dangerous to females and the young

Although articles from January 2012 state that the TSA is intending to buy dosimeters, it is now many months later, and our TSA screeners are still without the most basic radiation safeguard that every other institution requires of its staff. This is dangerous, unacceptable, and unfair. The only excuse I was able to find was the TSA reply that the amount of radiation from a single body scan is minuscule. No radiation expert would deny the fact that even minuscule doses of ionizing radiation can have a cumulative dangerous effect when multiplied by hundreds of exposures per day times day after day times thousands of exposed staff. 

It is time for the scientific community and concerned citizens to voice their outrage. TSA workers deserve the same protections and safeguards afforded to radiation workers in all other industries. Otherwise, what is TSA trying to hide?

Sign the petition to tell the TSA to act now to help prevent radiation induced cancer in its staff.

Click HERE, to sign the petition.

My piece on my experience with the healthcare system as an Emergency Medicine physician

My piece on the challenges and failures of the US healthcare system is being featured on the front page of Medium today. Would love to hear...