Are You On The Case When It Comes To Your Healthcare?

Are You On The Case When It Comes To Your Healthcare?

Patients often fail to remember what their doctors say to them, a physician reminded me this week.  Research supports his observation.  Yet only rarely do doctors actually write down their recommendations.  End-of-visit reviews of diagnoses and treatments are scarce.  As a result, too many patients leave their doctors’ offices unsure of what was decided and what they should do next.

Part of the problem is dysfunctional “framing” or the perceptual schemata we use to guide our decisions and actions.  Word choice, length of discussion, eye contact, facial expressions and hand gestures are among the ways doctors create frames that influence patient experiences.  Vocal tone alone may cause a doctor’s well-intentioned advice to seem condescending, resulting in a patient becoming upset or defensive.  

The endeavor to create a constructive doctor-patient frame for interaction is made more difficult by the constraints on time doctors can provide to patients.  For this reason alone, patients should become aware of how their doctors see them and how they themselves participate in building a doctor-patient interaction frame.

Gender, for example, can lead to problems in the treatment of heart disease.  If you are a female cardiac patient or at risk for cardiac disease, it’s particularly important to know how your gender may affect your physician’s choices.  Similar gender issues exist for the treatment of stroke.

For a good start in influencing how your doctor relates to you, look at some entrenched frames into which doctors can easily slip unless you guide them to do otherwise.

Lecturing doctors tend to go off on soliloquies.  They may intend to provide helpful answers, but they fail to remember that the best answers only emerge from asking the right questions.  Many of these doctors are Patronizing – although often inadvertently so.  They don’t sense that in their tone and wording they’re talking down to patients.  By so doing, they stifle many patients and thus damage the relationship that can be crucial to obtaining a good medical outcome. 

Defensive doctors don’t like being second-guessed.  They reveal this in vocal tone, terse answers or nonverbal expressions of annoyance at any kind of challenge.  As with styles that become routine over time, doctors may not realize that they’re being defensive.  Some have been listening to other doctors for years.  They only hear that they sound like some of them. 

Other doctors act as Partners right from the get-go.  While this doesn’t mean they are friends to their patients, they truly want to hear what those patients have to say.  The most responsive often have spent time as patients themselves, and thus can empathize with the challenges of dealing with illness.  They spend at least as much time asking questions as they do giving advice and prescribing treatment.  In short, they’re both curious and concerned.   

If you have a lecturing, patronizing, defensive, or closed-minded doctor, consider making a change.  However, be sure to examine your own contribution to the relationship, so you can avoid creating a similar dysfunctional frame with your next doctor.

Here are some comments that can help your doctor understand that you plan to take an active part in your healthcare:

            “I find it useful to take notes on what we discuss here and what I should do when I get home.”

            “I did some research before coming today and I have a few questions.”

            “There’s something you said earlier that needs some clarification.”

            “I have some additional information that could make an important difference.”

            “Before I leave, let’s quickly go over what you’ve recommended.”           

Involved patients tend to be more satisfied with their care. They gain a better understanding of their condition and treatment options, and are more committed to therapeutic regimens. Thus, your doctor is also likely to benefit from your interest in your own care.  No, you’re not looking for the nicest doctor in town, but rather one who is a good communicator.  

When it comes to your health, you’re the expert in charge.  You know your body better than anyone else.  The best doctors will participate with you in this frame.  Find yourself one of those doctors.  It can be an important step on the path to wellness.

photo:  Alexander Raths/

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

What is the rarest blood type?

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
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China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

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There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.