KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Leaving Antidepressants; The Lack Of Tech-Savvy Doctors

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The Atlantic: Why Aren't Doctors More Tech-Savvy
Whenever I feel like taking a trip back in time, I save myself the trouble of building a time machine and instead just head over to a doctor's office. For a Millennial, or really anyone who lives a modern lifestyle, getting medical care is a rare departure from an otherwise technology-fueled existence. … Few of my doctors use email to communicate with patients, so medication refills, questions about side-effects, or reminders about appointments all require elaborate phone tag. This hassle is exacerbated by the fact that healthcare is one of the few consumer-focused industries where being a few minutes late is a sin so grave that it’s punished with a total cancellation of the appointment, and sometimes even the forfeiture of the fee (Olga Khazan, 1/21).

Medscape: Atul Gawande On The Secrets Of A Puzzle-Filled Career
Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, wears many hats, including that of a surgeon, researcher, journalist, and author. In this segment of Medscape One-on-One, Dr. Gawande talks with Eric J. Topol, MD, about what inspires him, his plans for the future, and why he's secretly a frustrated rock singer (Dr. Eric J. Topol and Dr. Atul Gawande, 12/6).

KevinMD: Balancing The Physician Work Force: It Takes More Than Money
Here we go again. There is yet another round of evidence of how the physician workforce hole we've dug for ourselves keeps getting deeper, but there has been still no substantive payment reform on the government side (Medicare/Medicaid) or the private payer side. … No, money is not the complete solution to balance the U.S. physician workforce. However (and I'm not making this up), when I worked with administrators at CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) during my innovation advisor year, a high-placed official actually and seriously asked me, "Do you think if primary care physicians were paid more that more medical students would choose primary care?" It took all of my limited self-control to not laugh, scream, or cry (Dr. Richard Young, 1/20).

The New Yorker: The Prisoner Of Stress
People don't ordinarily self-medicate by writing a book, but "My Age of Anxiety" (Knopf) is an attempt at recovery by a man whom modern psychiatry has failed. The man is Scott Stossel, a successful journalist (he is currently the editor of The Atlantic), now in his forties, who has suffered all his life from an acute anxiety disorder. … The idea that anxiety is central to the human condition can also mean that our mental life is characterized by psychic conflict, and anxiety is the symptom of that conflict. This is, roughly, the psychoanalytic view. ... The notion that disorders such as anxiety and depression are caused by stuff out there in the environment, that they are like the diseases we catch from germs and viruses and are not symptoms of internal conflicts, was important to the success of an industry that was poised to take off: Big Pharma (Louis Menand, 1/27).

Al Jazeera: Waking Up From Sadness: Many Find Trouble Getting Off Antidepressants
While getting onto antidepressants is as simple as getting an increasingly common prescription and popping a pill, weaning off the drugs can seem insurmountable, if not impossible ... “People can get started on the drugs for anxiety, obesity, menopause. You see people prescribe the drugs for anything under the sun,” said Dr. Peter Breggin, an expert in psychiatric withdrawal with a private psychiatry practice in Ithaca, N.Y. “I think they’re among the most difficult drugs to come off — harder to come off than alcohol and opiates.” ... Experts disagree about the solution to what appears to be the overprescription of antidepressants to women at the primary-care level (Rebecca White, 1/22).

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