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2D: The economics of science & healthcare

The link between the two articles in this 2D is health and economics. It’s a reasonably weak link, granted… but it’s a link nonetheless!

The first article I’d like to recommend is this long and thoughtful interview with Bill Gates by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, which carries the arresting title “death is something we really understand extremely well”. He talks through some of the financial decisions his Foundation makes, and the economics of disease eradication. I found it quite fascinating.

The second article is really rather different. For Priceonomics, Alex Mayyasi gives a history and economics lesson to explain why articles in scientific journals are, more often than not, behind a paywall. He argues, too, that the system needs to move on and develop in the 21st century. As someone who spends a disproportionate amount of time whining about medical journals and their paywalls, I found this detailed blog post very interesting and informative.

2D posts appear on alternate Wednesdays. For 2D, I pick two interesting articles that look at an issue from two different – though not necessarily opposing – perspectives. I hope you enjoy them! The picture at the top of this post was uploaded to Flickr by Howard Lake, and has been modified and used under Creative Commons licence.

This 2,038th post was filed under: 2D, Health, , , , , , .

Weekend read: This is how you healthcare

Sarah Bee published this moving story earlier this week over at NSFWCORP. Just occasionally, I come across a story that stops me in my tracks, moves me, and makes me think a little bit differently about life and medicine. This powerfully personal article about Sarah Bee’s experience as she watched her own father die in an intensive care unit in London is one of those stories.

This 1,990th post was filed under: Health, Weekend Reads, .

“There is a lot of blood and unfamiliar aromas”

So given that I’ve stopped posting pictures of my face, I’m trying to record something in my scrapbook each day that means something to me – whether that’s something memorable that I’ve done in the day, something that summarises what I’m up to, something meaningful I’ve read, or something that’s brought back memories.

Today, I’m going for the final category. This article about autopsies* (I’d say post-mortems) from the Student BMJ really reminded me of my time studying Forensic Pathology in Calgary. The description of the autopsy process was particularly redolent of my experience, and the quote above certainly made me smile! The aromas were particularly unfamiliar when dealing with “decomps” – corpses that had lain decomposing for some time before being discovered!

It was a great experience, and I’m really glad I chose to take the opportunity to do something completely different to the rest of my medical career when I had the chance.

*You need to complete a free registration to read the whole of this article. Irritating, isn’t it?

This 1,968th post was filed under: Health, Scrapbook, University, , , , , .

Review: Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills by Mr Dispenser

Mr Dispenser, Twitter’s highly entertaining anonymous pharmacist, has gone and written a book. He’s compiled just over 130 pages worth of pharmacy-based jokes, anecdotes, and blog posts – and the result is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

As a former hospital doctor, I didn’t really know what pharmacists got up to – least of all community pharmacists. The ward pharmacists were friendly folk who stalked the wards correcting my prescriptions in green ink, and putting up with incessant questions posed by curious junior doctors like me. They always seemed to know the answers. I guess my closest brush with community pharmacists came when I worked in general practice, and I’d occasionally get a phone call asking if I really meant to prescribe a drug – to which the answer was almost invariably “No”.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that pharmacists were generally the people, along with nurses, who routinely saved my ass, so I guess I’m pretty well disposed towards them. And from Mr Dispenser’s tweets, I was fairly sure they had a good sense of humour, too.

Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills removed any doubt. Community pharmacists share a similar geeky and absurdist sense of humour with many GPs and hospital doctors, which means that the humour in this volume aimed directly at my funny bone. I laughed out loud repeatedly when reading this, most often at the pithy anecdotes of insane situations in which pharmacists find themselves – and even when the book is gently (or not so gently!) ribbing doctors. I even get quoted in there at one point!

More than just humour, though, Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills gave me a better appreciation for what community pharmacists do all day. In that sense, it was even a little bit educational. And a proportion of the profits from the book is being donated to charity.

All of that said, this probably isn’t a book for a general audience. It’s very much aimed at pharmacists. As a non-pharmacist, some bits went over my head to some extent, and I’d imagine that those outside of healthcare would struggle to see the funny side of much of the book. And, if I’m being very picky, I’d probably have liked a bit of a narrative thread in there somewhere too. But Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills is sure to raise a smile among pharmacists, pharmacy students, and perhaps some more of the medical community besides.

Pills, Thrills and Methadone Spills is available now from amazon.co.uk on Kindle. A paperback is coming later in the year. Mr Dispenser is @MrDispenser on Twitter.

In the interests of full transparency, I declare that I was sent a free electronic review copy of this book. In accordance with this site’s ethical review policy, I have not accepted payment for this review, I have written this review without regard to the source of the product, and I have made a charitable donation equivalent to the retail cost of the e-book.

This 1,964th post was filed under: Book Reviews, Health, , , .

Photo-a-day 340: Cold relief capsules

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With both Wendy and me feeling under the weather at the moment, we’ve been through a fair few over the counter medications in the past week or so… although I have to admit that, in line with gender stereotypes, I’m more often sighted rummaging through the medicine cabinet!

This 1,917th post was filed under: Health, Photo-a-day 2012, .

Blood donation by numbers

Regular readers will know I’m a fan of infographics, and I thought this was was particularly powerful (though clearly more “graphic” than “info” – what’s with that 50% reduction “graph”?). Still, it’s a powerful message – 100,000 new donors needed in the next few weeks. Sign up to give blood today.

This 1,911th post was filed under: Health, , .

Photo-a-day 296: @NHSFluFighter

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I’m now officially a flu-fighting super-doc, and hope that all of my clinical colleagues are similarly brilliant!

The evidence is clear: in randomised trials, care facilities with high uptake of flu vaccine amongst staff have been consistently shown to have significantly lower levels of flu-like illness and mortality. In the 2010/11 flu season, the UK saw 2,200 ITU admissions with flu, mostly in under-65s.

So do your bit, and get your jab!

This 1,858th post was filed under: Health, Photo-a-day 2012, , .

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