Tag Archives: medicine

Henrietta Lacks

Grady (2010) offers the circumstances of Henrietta Lacks for discussion as it pertains to medical ethics. Henrietta Lacks was a young woman who succumbed to cervical cancer in the early 1950s at Johns Hopkins Hospital (Grady, 2010; Sorrell, 2010). Grady describes Henrietta Lacks and her family as “poor, with little education and no health insurance” (para. 10), yet she was cared for and her cancer was treated with radium, the standard treatment of the day. Despite treatment, Henrietta passed away. During the course of her treatment, however, a small sample of cancer cells were removed from her cervix for testing, and they continue to be tested to this day (Grady, 2010; Sorrell, 2010). Additionally, this line of cells, now known as the HeLa cells, has become commercialized, as they are bought and sold for millions on the biomedical research market (Grady, 2010).

Assuming no consent was given by Henrietta or her family, this raises a few questions. Did the physicians at Johns Hopkins have a right to these cancer cells? Did they have a right to transfer ownership to third parties? Does the estate of Henrietta Lacks require royalties be paid when others profit from what amounts to a donation to the public domain?

No person can own another person (or, a part thereof). This is consistent with the moral society of the United States. However, Henrietta Lacks presented herself to Johns Hopkins hospital with the express desire to rid herself of the cancer cells causing her illness. This alone could mean that the cells are refuse and able to be salvaged, and according to Fost (2010), this is agreed to be the law of the land. Fost describes the circumstances surrounding the HeLa cells as normal course of medical business, and I agree for the most part: “If tissue removed during an operation is about to be thrown out with the garbage and has no identifying information, it should be permissible to use it for research without the patient’s consent” (2010, para. 1). In this case, however, the researchers later approach the Lacks family to obtain DNA samples to discriminate between HeLa cell cultures and non-HeLa cell cultures. This mere fact offers evidence that the tissue is identifiable with Henrietta Lacks and her lineage, and I feel, as does Fost, that this is where the researchers erred, in asking for continued support of the cells by obtaining further comparative specimens for analysis yet not clarifying the misconceptions of the family. The researchers should not have requested further tissue (i.e. blood) donation without obtaining informed consent from the donors. Further, the cell line were given a name representative of Henrietta Lacks, HeLa, and she was named as the donor and widely known as such throughout the biomedical research community. Ergo, there were certainly identifying data linking Henrietta Lacks to the specimen.


Certainly under normal circumstances the cells should be made available for research purposes, but they should not be sold for profit, only for the costs of storage and maintenance. Any tissue freely used for medical science should be in the public domain. Further, if a specimen is found to have financial worth, I feel that the custodial researchers should set aside a royalty account allowing a small percentage of the proceeds to be returned to the donor’s estate. I also feel that if researchers have any special interest in further donation, then those donors should be offered remuneration for their donation which should be commensurate to the gains assumed to be made by their donation.

I find no issue with how the cancer cells were used initially, however, the sample should not have been attached in name to the donor. Though not required, it would have been nice if the researchers provided a royalty to the estate of Ms. Lacks, however, to thank her for her contribution to medicine and science.


Fost, N. (2010). A cell’s life: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Issues in Science and Technology, 26(4), 87+. Retrieved from http://ic.galegroup.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org

Grady, G. (2010, February 1). Second opinion: A lasting gift to medicine that wasn’t really a gift. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Sorrell, J. M. (2010). First do no harm: Looking Back to the Future [Editorial]. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 48(9), 2-3. doi:10.3928/02793695-20100730-07

Quality in Interdisciplinary Critical Care Medicine

To improve the overall quality of care provided in critical care medicine, Curtis et al. (2006) promote a framework, as well as some key concepts, for measuring performance improvement outcomes within the critical care or intensive care setting. Curtis et al. introduce the reader to Donabedian’s (as cited in Curtis et al., 2006) model of improving the quality of healthcare, which focuses on “structure, process, and outcome” (p. 212). With quality improvement the focus of this article, Curtis et al. approaches the dynamics of interdisciplinary teams in the context of the multitudes of ICU variations available throughout the United States. Additionally, Curtis et al. recognize that high-quality care is dependant on both clinical and non-clinical processes, citing organizational management as a key requirement that has significant impact on overall patient care.

“Successful quality improvement programs require interdisciplinary teamwork that is incremental and continuous” (Curtis et al, 2006, p. 216).

In reading Curtis et al. (2006), I find that approaching patient care with a team approach addresses all of the available topics and more. Improving patient satisfaction requires improving performance which, in turn, creates efficiency and can improve reimbursement (especially under pay-for-performance models). On the other hand, addressing a requirement to increase reimbursement under a pay-for-performance model can ultimately lead to increases in patient satisfaction by improving inefficient processes. Overall, one of the largest benefits of operating within a team environment is the access to a larger knowledge-base, increasing the application of knowledge for all team members.


Curtis, J. R., Cook, D. J., Wall, R. J., Angus, D. C., Bion, J., Kacmarek, R., … & Puntillo, K.(2006). Intensive care unit quality improvement: A “how-to” guide for the interdisciplinary team. Critical Care Medicine, 34(1), 211-218. doi:10.1097/01.CCM.0000190617.76104.AC

Codes of Ethics

Of the three ethical codes presented by Lewis and Tamparo (2007), I align myself most with the Principles of Medical Ethics: American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA promotes honesty, integrity, compassion, respect, and most importantly, responsibility. In all manners of occupation, it is virtuous to remain honest; this is paramount in medicine. Physicians, nurses, paramedics, and other health professionals may make mistakes during their career, and it is important that these mistakes be corrected as soon as possible and understood to promote practices that may minimize the same mistake from happening. Honesty leads to integrity. Integrity is a hallmark of professionalism and, in conjunction with honesty, promotes trust. Having compassion and respect for patients regardless of political, societal, economic, or other divisions allows a provider to actually care for his or her patients rather than just deal with them. As a paramedic, I try to be as trustworthy and caring as possible to each and every patient I see. Ultimately, I understand my responsibility to my community, to fellow clinicians and technicians, to patients, and to myself. I hold ultimate responsibility for my actions and inactions, and I take care to not let these adversely effect the perception others hold of me as a professional. The AMA expects this of all physicians, and as an extension of the physicians I work for, I must strive to meet the same demands.

The Hippocratic Oath is dated in its language and demands. Though the oath can be approached as symbolism, the metaphor can be lost on some. I appreciate the Hippocratic Oath for what it is (a foundation for the ethical practice of medicine), but contemporary words, meanings, and application serve me better.

I find the Code of Ethics of the American Association of Medical Assistants lacking in context, applicability, and substance when adopted for paramedicine, my chosen occupation; therefore, I do not align as well with this code as I do with the previously mentioned codes of ethics.

Codes of ethics provide baseline philosophies that serve to direct the actions of groups. By ascribing to such, the professional belonging to such a group allows the code to guide moral judgments when the answer is unclear. In medicine, this is especially true. Medical professionals deal with life and death decisions which stretch the boundaries of personal moral beliefs. By ascribing to a notion of a slightly higher directive than one’s self, the professional can remove his- or herself from the situation with more clarity and less bias.

My personal ethics are bound by a sense of personal liberty and the responsibility of that liberty. Without responsibility, there are no consequences. Without consequence, there is no learning. I like to learn so that I may be the best paramedic that I can to the next patient in my care. For me, it is always about the next patient; they deserve the best that I can offer.


Lewis, M. A. & Tamparo, C. D. (2007). Codes of ethics. In Medical law, ethics, and bioethics for the health professional (6th ed.; pp. 241-243). Philadelphia, P.A.: F. A. Davis.

Addressing Health Disparities

It is troubling to many people to see any person suffering in our society. It is even more troubling to see inequality extend to whole ethnic and racial groups within our society. We certainly do not want to be an unjust society, and we certainly want every member of our society to benefit from the technological gains made in the last century.

One of the more troublesome areas that many view as unjust is health and health care. It is unfortunate that some members of our society suffer from disparities in health. For instance, immunizations and vaccines for most of the common deadly pathogens are readily available, yet many people fail to immunize themselves or their family.

Immunization and vaccination programs have eradicated smallpox and polio and have all but eliminated the threat of measles in the United States (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2000). With influenza and pneumonia causing 30,000 to 41,000 deaths in the U. S., annually, the importance of vaccinating against these diseases is quite evident. Obviously, lacking immunity to a deadly pathogen is a disparate condition of health status, and Hispanic and African American populations are vaccinated with less frequency than Whites. How are these issues being addressed?

On the international level, the United Nations (2009) is addressing health disparities by attempting to eradicate poverty on a global scale. Unfortunately, many of these global initiatives have created an environment rife with economic turmoil that we are just now starting to see and understand. Though the premise of helping people out of poverty is very noble, the reality seems to be that we can only offer means for people to help themselves. Otherwise, we risk thrusting whole populations into a world they know nothing about, setting them up for failure. Poverty is based on local economy, and I believe that these interrelated problems are best addressed on the local levels with assistance from states, nations, and global endeavors. The people must direct their own path for a successful transition. They must take responsibility for their own successes and failures.

The United States addresses these concerns on a federal level, offering guidance to states and municipalities in ways to address them. One of these methods is a report from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010 (DHHS, 2000) has two stated major goals: 1) to increase quality and years of healthy life, and 2) to eliminate major health disparities. There are also 467 objectives in 28 focus areas designed to further these two major goals. Immunization is one of these focus areas.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Disease Statistics (2010), the goal of achieving a 90% immunization rate for children 19-35 months of age is close to being reached. The combination diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) vaccine (85%) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (75%) are the only two recommended childhood vaccines that are not being administered at least 90% of the time. According to DHHS (2000), the goal for DTP vaccination was 80% in 2000. It appears that this goal has been reached and exceeded.

Conversely, older adults, age 65 and greater, are at an increased risk of contracting illnesses that could be prevented by vaccination. “In 1999 approximately 90 percent of all influenza and pneumonia-related deaths occurred in individuals aged 65 and older” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, 2007, para. 2). DHHS (2000) does not state a quantitative goal for vaccinating noninstitutionalized older adults, though it does mention a need to “increase the proportion of noninstitutionalized adults who are vaccinated annually against influenza and ever vaccinated against pneumococcal disease” (p. 42). In 2000, 46% of the population in the U. S. were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, and 64% were vaccinated against influenza (DHHS, 2000). In 2009, pneumococcal disease vaccinations increased by 15%, whereas influenza vaccinations increased by only 3% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2010).

Striving to eliminating health disparities is a noble endeavor; however, the mere fact of attaining this goal contributes to the increase of health care disparity. By increasing the health care delivery model for one at-risk population, we must accept negative gains in the delivery of health care for all other populations. This is an example of the law of conservation describing the divisional nature of finite resources: when an isolated system undergoes change, its change in entropy will be zero or greater than zero (Negi & Anand, 1985). This concept is better stated as it applies to the zero-sum game of our economics today. Kathleen Madigan (2010), in a Wall Street Journal blog post, stated, “More spending in one area has to be financed by less purchases elsewhere” (para. 5).

Two conclusions can be drawn from observing this phenomena in health care. First, if people are spending their health care dollars on other staples, such as food, clothing, and shelter, then we should see a decline in the health of individuals that are making these choices. Second, within health care, in order to increase a focus on one population, an equal negative effect will be seen in all other population groups.

In all aspects of health care delivery, care should be taken to ensure just and equitable delivery of care regardless of socioeconomic factors, race, gender, religion, or creed. All people should have access to the minimum required care in order to maintain a healthy and productive life. We can counsel and educate our patients and clients to best health practices, but we cannot, however, force people to choose health over other facets of their lives.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2010). Immunization. FastStats. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/immunize.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. (2007). Eliminate disparities in adult & child immunization rates. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/AMH/factsheets/immunization.htm

Madigan, K. (2010, August 3). With wallets thin, consumers face zero-sum game. Real time economics: Economic insight and analysis from the Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/08/03/with-wallets-thin-consumers-face-zero-sum-game/

Negi, A. S. & Anand, S. C. (1985). The second law of thermodynamics. A textbook of physical chemistry (pp. 241-289). Retrieved from http://books.google.com/

United Nations. (2009). The millenium development goals report: 2009. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/MDG_Report_2009_ENG.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000, November). Healthy People 2010: Understanding and improving health (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.

Cultural Influences on Health Disparities

Disparities in the availability, access, and delivery of health care are a great and growing concern. Some of the factors leading to disparite health include race, socioeconomic status, and gender (Chen, Martin, & Mattews, 2006). Chen et al. describes how race and socioeconomic status are major factors in the United States, based on the Healthy People 2010 data (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). According to the results of this study, our public health efforts seem to be misguided. As the researchers of this study indicate, “race and SES effects on child health are best understood in concert, rather than separately” (p. 705). The differences in race and socioeconomic status are a factor only to White and Black children when looking at prevalence rates for activity limitations and circulatory conditions, as illustrated by Chen et al. in Figures 1 and 2. These figures show that higher education actually has a small but negative effect on the health status of Asians and Hispanics while having a dramatically positive effect on Blacks. Additionally, in Figure 3, Chen et al. show a significant negative effect of education on incidence rates for acute respiratory conditions. There is no significant relationship for the same with regards to Whites or Blacks.

This study shows that there are certainly correlations between race, economic status, and differences in the health status of children in America, but these factors might only be relative. We need to understand if other factors can be identified as causative. In order to explain how Whites and Blacks share correlations while Asians and Hispanics share correlations, we might consider the length of time each population has been exposed to American culture. Whites and Blacks have been in America for over 300 years while Asians and Hispanics have migrated more recently. In addition, there is also evidence of attitude and preference differences for minorities towards health care, though the Institute of Medicine (2002) marginalizes this phenomena in their study.

As a health care provider and regardless of the causes of disparities in health status, it is advisable that I understand these causes so that I may better direct a patient’s care with a holistic understanding of the patient.


Chen, E., Martin, A. D., & Matthews, K. A. (2006). Understanding health disparities: The role of race and socioeconomic status in children’s health. American Journal of Public Health, 96, 702-708. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2004.048124

Institute of Medicine. (2002). Unequal treatment: What healthcare providers need to know about racial and ethnic disparities in health. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/html/unequal_treatment/reportbrief.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000). Healthy people 2010: Understanding and improving health. Washington, DC: Author.

Immunization and Infectious Disease Mitigation

Cultural Models of Immunization and Infectious Disease Mitigation

The members of some communities, such as Puerto Rico, do not understand the scope and severity of some infectious diseases until they become infected (Pérez-Guerra, Zielinski-Gutierrez, Vargas-Torres, & Clark, 2009). The lack of a basic understanding of illness and infection poses a roadblock to mitigating disease transmission within the community. For Pérez-Guerra et al., the perception of severity and mitigation is important as they investigate the difference in attitudes towards dengue infections because dengue cannot be controlled by vaccine and must be mitigated by community participation in mosquito abatement activities. Other infectious diseases, however, can be controlled by vaccine, but efforts to limit infection are met with ignorance or misconceptions (Lau, Griffiths, Choi, & Tsui, 2010; Leask, Sheikh-Mohammed, MacIntyre, Leask, & Wood, 2006).

Public health officials, in concert with community leaders, should seek to educate affected communities about the infectious diseases they face along with effective mitigation strategies and the importance of vaccination, if available. Coreil (2010) describes the importance of cultural models in “[gaining] a deeper understanding of the cultural context of behavior” (p. 83). If behaviors are not understood, then it will be difficult to redirect them. Reaching out to community leaders has the added effect of allowing the leaders to alter the message just enough so that it might be effectively communicated to the community.

Providing a cultural health model allows for a larger scope of audience while effectively tailoring the message so that most of the target audience will appreciate the nature of the message. Approaching health behaviors from a cultural stand-point also offers the advantage of allowing peer support to propagate messages through out the community. This might be especially true when dealing with a multitude of subcultures where the message might better be disseminated via interpersonal means. Eventually, the message will be received by many individuals who will begin to have discussions with others in the community. For communities where individuals are not likely to speak to each other regarding personal health-related matters, the cultural health model allows a general message to reach each individual.


Coreil, J. (Ed.). (2010). Social and behavioral foundations of public health (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lau, J. T. F., Griffiths, S., Choi, K. C., & Tsui, H. Y. (2010). Avoidance behaviors and negative psychological responses in the general population in the initial stage of the H1N1 pandemic in Hong Kong. BMC Infectious Diseases, 10(139), 1-13. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-139

Leask, J., Sheikh-Mohammed, M., MacIntyre, C. R., Leask, A., & Wood, N. J. (2006). Community perceptions about infectious disease risk posed by new arrivals: A qualitative study. The Medical Journal of Australia, 185(11/12), 591-593. Retrieved from http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/185_11_041206/lea10999_fm.pdf

Pérez-Guerra, C. L., Zielinski-Gutierrez, E., Vargas-Torres, D., & Clark, G. G. (2009). Community beliefs and practices about dengue in Puerto Rico. Pan American Journal of Public Health, 25(3), 218-226. doi:10.1590/S1020-49892009000300005

Flawed Conclusions in Literature Review

For this week’s discussion, I have chosen to analyze an article (Sakr et al., 2006) that attempts to outline the efficacy and potential dangers of certain drugs used to treat shock. As a critical care paramedic, the discussion surrounding this article can provide insight to choosing alternative therapies when caring for my patients, but it is important for me to understand the potential biases and limitations of such a study that could lead to flawed conclusions (Gluud, 2006).

Sakr et al. (2006) collected data on ICU admissions over a two week period to further understand how dopamine effects mortality and morbidity when administered in response to hemodynamic compromise. Also, other administered vasoactive drugs were included in the analysis whether administered concomitantly with dopamine or instead of dopamine. The researchers did not distinguish between etiologies except to delineate between septic shock and non-septic shock. Patients who presented with shock or suffered a shock state within the first 24 hours of admission were included in the analysis. Patients admitted to the ICU mainly for 24 hour surgical observation where not included.

Shock is defined as “a state of inadequate cellular sustenance associated with inadequate or inappropriate tissue perfusion resulting in abnormal cellular metabolism” (Hillman & Bishop, 2004, p. 121). There are many etiologies of shock, including sepsis, anaphylactic, neurogenic, hypovolemic, cardiogenic, and others, which respond differently to various therapies. This confounder creates an information bias, as this variable is not identified in the data collection and cannot be scrutinized. Simply identifying the etiology of each shock state would limit this bias. The researchers, however, acknowledge this limitation and others.

Another confounding variables is the time constraint of the data. In regards to septic shock, this variable becomes evident. Many pathogens spread predictively during certain times of the year. The concomitant treatment of these infections could predispose patients to suffer a prolonged state of shock (in cases where the pathogen might not be immediately recognized) or provide for an ideal treatment pathway when the pathogen and the antibiotic regimen are fully understood and effective. This selection bias could be controlled by choosing patients who present throughout the year.

As Gluud (2006) points out:

When intervention effects are moderate or small, the human processing of data, unsystematic data collection, and the human capacity to overcome illnesses spontaneously limit the value of uncontrolled observations. Experimental models are essential for estimation of toxicity and pathophysiology.
(p. 494)


Gluud, L. L. (2006). Bias in Clinical Intervention Research. American Journal of Epidemiology, 163(6), 493–501. doi:10.1093/aje/kwj069

Hillman, K. & Bishop, G. (2004). Clinical Intensive Care and Acute Medicine. West Nyack, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.

Sakr, Y., Reinhart, K., Vincent, J., Sprung, C. L., Moreno, R., Ranieri, V. M., De Backer, D., & Payen, D. (2006). Does Dopamine Administration in Shock Influence Outcome? Results of the Sepsis Occurrence in Acutely Ill Patients (SOAP) Study. Critical Care Medicine, 34(3), 589-597. doi:10.1097/01.CCM.0000201896.45809.E3

Patient Safety Considerations for EMS

 In the out-of-hospital emergency care setting, patient safety is paramount. Initially, victims of trauma or illness are already suffering in an uncontrolled environment. It is this same environment where first responders, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics must operate to stabilize and transport the victim to the hospital, a more controlled environment. Unfortunately, there is little research in the area of patient safety in this setting (Meisel, Hargarten, & Vernick, 2008; Paris & O’Conner, 2008).


Focusing on patient safety and developing processes to ensure optimal safety would allow the study of inherently dangerous, yet potentially beneficial therapies, such as rapid sequence intubation where the clinician uses a series of medications to rapidly sedate and paralyze a critical patient for ease of inserting a breathing tube. Focusing on safety, an EMS department in Maryland successfully instituted such a program (Sullivan, King, Rosenbaum, & Smith, 2010).

With more research in this area, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can improve the care they seek to deliver to their patients.


There are many challenges facing EMS as they seek to deliver safe and effective care to their patients. Motor vehicle accidents (including air transportation accidents), dropped patients, medication and dosage errors, other inappropriate care, and assessment errors all contribute to the number of adverse events in the EMS out-of-hospital care setting (Meisel et al., 2008). Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to identify both the existence and the cause of each event (Meisel et al., 2008; Paris et al., 2008). Additionally, there are adverse events that are impossible to track, such as the iatrogenic exposure to a pathogen. It would be very difficult to distinguish how and when a patient was first exposed to the infecting pathogen without considering community-acquired infections and hospital-acquired infections, which are both equally difficult to ascertain (Taigman, 2007).

Strategies for improvement

As EMS seeks to increase the professionalism among its ranks, the stakeholders must acknowledge responsibility for providing evidence-based processes to ensure patient safety.


Meisel, Z. F., Hargarten, S., & Vernick, J. (2008, October). Addressing prehospital patient safety using the science of injury prevention and control.Prehospital Emergency Care, 12(4), 4-14.

Paris, P. M. & O’Connor, R. E. (2008, January). A national center for EMS provider and patient safety: helping EMS providers help us. Prehospital Emergency Care, 12(1), 92-94.

Sullivan, R. J., King, B. D., Rosenbaum, R. A., & Shiuh, T. (2010, January). RSI: the first two years. One agency’s experience implementing an RSI protocol. EMS Magazine, 39(1), 34-51.

Taigman, M. (2007, July). We don’t mean to hurt patients. EMS Magazine, 52(4), 36-42.

Relationships Among Health Services Organizations

 As a critical care paramedic, I am fortunate enough to experience our health care system as an active participant, caring for the sick and injured, and as a passive observer, following the pathways of the patients whom I have treated. The health care system in the United States is, admittedly, fractured (Kovner & Knickman, 2008), but there are components that serve to create harmony and efficiency within this system, and I will describe just a few of them.

The primary care physician is meant to be the coordinator of all care for his or her patients. The importance of this role cannot be overstated, as it is the keystone to “health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses” (American Academy of Family Physicians, 2010, para. 7). When appropriately utilized, the primary care physician can coordinate a patient’s care to ensure efficiency and efficacy of treatment while ensuring safe and comprehensive care (Kovner et al., 2008).

There is a growing number of specialties and sub-specialties within the practice of medicine today (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010b). Specialists focus on their chosen area of practice and are an asset to the general practitioner, or primary care physician, who can concentrate on the coordination of the patient’s care. The inclusion of specialists in medicine is an efficient and effective means of offering the patient a level of expertise not otherwise available. One of these specialties is emergency medicine.

Emergency departments are necessary entry points into the health care system for victims of acute trauma and illness, but often times, the emergency department is used as the primary portal for those who lack insurance or other means of accessing health care appropriately (Committee on the Future of Emergency Care, 2006; Kovner et al., 2008). These patients tend to utilize the emergency room for even minor ailments, distressing this important component of the system, causing a “nationwide epidemic of [emergency department] overcrowding, boarding, and ambulance diversion” (Committee on the Future of Emergency Care, 2006, p. 19).

Laboratories and radiology departments are great assets to providers, allowing technicians to perform tests at the behest of the physicians and only requiring the physician to interpret the results of the tests. This seems to be a cost-effective and efficient component of the system, so long as the tests are performed timely and accurately.

Pharmacists have been regarded as patient-focused consultants who can provide both patient-specific and general information regarding over-the-counter medications as well as prescription medications. In our health care system, pharmacists have a valuable role of safeguarding patients from over-medication, as well as under-medication, medication compatibility, and also educating patients to the possible side-effects of their prescribed medicines (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010a).

In conclusion, the safest and most efficient use of our health care system begins at primary care. Though, in emergency situations, there is certainly a need to seek immediate care by other means, patients can suffer financial challenges as well as safety issues by trying to remove the primary care physician from the health care paradigm. Not only is this unsafe for the patient seeking primary care elsewhere, but misuse of emergency departments cause unnecessary delays for truly emergent patients. The health care system in the United States is vast and can be confusing. The primary care physician can provide a safe and efficient pathway of care that will save a patient time, money, and, possibly, his or her life.


American Academy of Family Physicians. (2010). AAFP policy on primary care. Retrieved May 1, 2010, from http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/policy/policies/p/primarycare.html

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor. (2010a). Pharmacists. Occupational outlook handbook (2010-11 ed.). Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos079.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor. (2010b). Physicians and surgeons. Occupational outlook handbook (2010-11 ed.). Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ ocos074.htm

Committee on the Future of Emergency Care in the United States Health System. (2006). Hospital-based emergency care : At the breaking point. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Kovner, A. R., & Knickman, J. R. (Eds.). (2008). Jonas & Kovner’s health care delivery in the United States (9th ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Direct To Consumer Advertising: Patient Education

Today, we are familiar with mass-media marketing of prescription drugs not only to physicians but to patients as well, known as direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA). Though, many argue that a better informed patient allows for more autonomy in physcian-directed care (Buckley, 2004; Lyles, 2002; Sumpradit, Fors, & McCormick, 2002), “the evidence for DTCA’s increase in pharmaceutical sales is as impressive as is the lack of evidence concerning its impact on the health of the public” (Lyles, 2002, p. 73). Concerns abound regarding the ability of the physician to direct the care of a patient driven by DTCA. Many researcher’s, including Buckley (2004) and Green (2007) believe that many physicians prescribe medications solely on the request of the patient without providing guidance or education to the patient.

As a paramedic, I hear the concerns of patient’s regarding physician refusals to prescribe name-brand drugs to patients. These patients are almost militant about their beliefs of their illness and that the physician should honor the requests of their patients. While these patients never seem to find a resolution, I also see many people who trust in their physicians’ role and, with education, discuss with their physicians the possibilities and concerns of advertised medications. As one secondary data analysis (Sumpradit et al, 2002) suggests, though there is no demographic difference in the propensity of patients to ask their doctor for a medication based on DTCA alone versus seeking more information from their doctor, those with chronic conditions and who have poorer perception of health status tend to engage their physicians more often to clarify information garnered from DTCA’s.

I feel that DTCA is can be an empowering tool for the patient as long as it is educational, honest, and forthcoming. Empowering the patient to take an active role in his or her medical care is very important, but this empowerment comes with responsibility to be as fully educated as possible, allowing the physician his or her role in the relationship as the ultimate patient advocate, which some physicians lack.


Buckley, J. (2004). Pharmaceutical marketing: Time for change. Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies, 9(2), 4-11.

Green, J. A. (2007). Pharmaceutical Marketing Research and the Prescribing Physician. Annals of Internal Medicine, 146(10), 742-748.

Lyles, A. (2002). Direct marketing of pharmaceuticals to consumers [Abstract]. Annual Review of Public Health, 23, 73-91.

Sumpradit, N., Fors, S. W., McCormick, L. (2002). Consumers’ attitudes and behavior toward prescription drug advertising. American Journal of Health Behavior, 26(1), 68-75.