Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Another New Pharmacy Student

I am Azadeh Vasefi, a 4th year pharmacy student at the University of Toronto. This type of rotation is new and exciting to me. 

I will be developing an eNewsletter on the topic of primary dysmenorrheal management, preparing some FAQs on the topic of Acute Otitis Media (middle ear infection), and critically appraising rxBriefCase program,Managing Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pharmacy Practice

I am interested in pediatrics and women’s health, and hope to gain more knowledge on these topics during this rotation.

This is my second rotation of my fourth year. I soon got over my initial lost and anxious feelings since the environment at the mdBriefCase is very welcoming. 

Stay tuned for more blog posts and updates from my experience at mdBriefCase!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Parting Thoughts

It’s Ashu Randhawa, checking in as my rotation draws to a close. It’s been quite the journey! I’m glad that I had the chance to work with such a talented and diverse group of people.

I’ve improved my medical writing at mdBriefCase, but more importantly I’ve refined my communication skills. If there’s anything I want you guys to take away from my blog posts, it’s this:

  • Know your audience
  • Keep it simple and to the point
That’s how you get your messages across effectively. I’ll incorporate what I’ve learned here to become an even better pharmacist. 

Thanks for everything, mdBriefCase!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cultural Shifts, Biases, and Do-It-Yourself Healthcare

Our approach to healthcare has changed over the years. Healthcare providers used to have a paternal, authoritarian stance when dealing with patients. A few decades ago, it wouldn’t have been unusual to hear a doctor say, “Take this pill everyday and come see me in 2 months.”

Would you listen to your doctor if they told you that today? Maybe, but I bet you’d ask why, first.

We’ve had a recent cultural shift. The power imbalance between patients and healthcare providers is shrinking, and healthcare institutions now promote working with patients instead of just telling them what to do. We’re improving our communication skills. I believe that overall, we’re heading in the right direction.

However, I also believe that our cultural shift is a double-edged sword. People are trying to solve their own health problems. I’ve seen a fair number of cases where patients self-medicate with products (ex. herbals) recommended by friends, commercials, or the internet. Patients rarely share this to healthcare providers unless they’re explicitly asked. It’s usually not a big issue, but in some situations self-medicating can be dangerous.

The problem with having patients make completely independent healthcare decisions is that humans are naturally weak in sorting out good information from bad information. We’ve got too many biases in our way. These include:
  • Confirmation bias: We tend to look for information that lines up with our beliefs, and ignore everything else.
    • For example, a man distrusts medications. He sees a new headline that says, "New heart medication works great; but it may cause muscle pain." He says to his friends, "Muscle pain? I knew these drugs were bad for you," ignoring the protective effects of the drug on the heart.
  • Availability Bias: We give more attention to personal stories and examples. We give less attention to impersonal numbers and data.
  • Anchoring Bias: We rely too heavily on the first pieces of information we get.

Overcoming these biases is hard.

Things become especially complicated when the internet is involved. People have mastered the art of Google-Fu, but the internet isn’t well-regulated. It’s incredibly easy to find false or misleading information. When looking online, it’s essential to be skeptical and to question what you read. When in doubt, check with your healthcare provider. You’ve got no real idea of what to expect when you act on 1 hour of online research. There’s a bit more leeway when you follow the advice of someone trained to give standardized care.

I think it’s excellent that people look things up for themselves. It's empowering to take control of our own health, and there's certainly a lot of well-written information out on the web. However, we've got to be responsible in how we handle that information. 

As always, please feel free to provide me with any comments or feedback. Otherwise, I’ll see you in my next post!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A note on keeping it brief

It’s Ashu Randhawa, checking in again at the half-way mark of my rotation. My predecessors weren’t kidding when they said that time flies by here.

My time here so far has been unique. It’s worlds away from the quiet intensity of hospital or the organized chaos of community. It’s tranquil and friendly and fun.

The work gives me an opportunity to practice some valuable skills. Keeping things short and sweet is the name of the game, here. Gathering information is easy. Distilling it into something concise that flows well is harder. To reflect on a larger scale: the point of writing or speaking is to communicate something. If your target doesn’t understand you, then what was accomplished? I think Blaise Pascal put it best when he said, “I’m sorry that this was such a long letter. I didn’t have the time to write you a short one.”

Or if I can double dip, Shakespeare. “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

As pharmacists, it’s easy to write pages of medical information when we have resources like UpToDate or clinical guidelines or even Wikipedia at our fingertips. It’s easy to use big words, but that doesn’t mean we should. Even when dealing with other healthcare professionals, I think we should first and foremost try to make sure we’re understood.

I hope my MSFY and e-Newsletter reflect this ideal when they’re released, but you can be the judge of that. As always, feel free to leave any comments or suggestions you have for me. Otherwise, stay tuned!