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Publisher's Summary

A New Yorker staff writer, best-selling author, and professor at Harvard Medical School unravels the mystery of how doctors figure out the best treatments - or fail to do so. This book describes the warning signs of flawed medical thinking and offers intelligent questions patients can ask. On average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within 12 seconds. In that short time, many doctors decide on the likely diagnosis and best treatment. Often, decisions made this way are correct, but at crucial moments they can also be wrong - with catastrophic consequences.
In this myth-shattering book, Jerome Groopman pinpoints the forces and thought processes behind the decisions doctors make. He explores why doctors err and shows when and how they can, with our help, avoid snap judgments, embrace uncertainty, communicate effectively, and deploy other skills that can have a profound impact on our health.
Groopman draws on a wealth of research, extensive interviews with some of the country's best physicians, and his own experiences as a doctor and patient. He has learned many of the lessons in this book the hard way, from his own mistakes and from errors his doctors made in treating his own debilitating medical problems.
How Doctors Think reveals a profound new view of 21st-century medical practice, giving doctors and patients the vital information they need to make better judgments together.
©2007 Jerome Groopman, M.D. (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"A revealing, often disturbing look at what goes on in doctors' minds when treating patients....A highly pleasurable must-read. "(Kirkus)
"I wish I had read this book when I was in medical school, and I'm glad I've read it now....Every reflective doctor will learn from this book....every prospective patient will find thoughtful advice for communicating successfully." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Audiophile on 05-13-07


I enjoy Groopman's articles in the New Yorker, and I took this selection after hearing his compelling interview on NPR. However, I was disappointed in the content of the book. This does not really tell us too much about how doctors think; what constitutes the complexity of a diagnosis or how doctors make decisions. Rather, it is more of a collection of stories about misdiagnosis or mistreatment of patients and friends of Dr. Groopman. And it turns out that Groopman is mostly the hero of the book -- either making the tough diagnosis himself or referring to one of his friends who saves the day. His friends happen to be located at Harvard, Mayo Clinic, and Sloan-Kettering. Not exactly the answer for the masses of Americans belonging to HMOs who cannot even get a specialty referral without a letter to a congressman.

The book starts out addressing the theme that young doctors are becoming too entranced with algorithmic medicine. He complains that they follow guidelines for care like robots on an assembly line. Most would agree, however, that the bigger problem in American medical care is the failure of doctors to adhere to evidence-based guidelines, rather than over-reliance on them. Care for diabetics, asthmatics, and hypertensives fall far short of what it should be and what would improve the health of the nation.

Dr. Groopman does share our pain, however. He had a day of distress because a doctor called him at home with a fatal mis-diagnosis while his wife was away skiing. He had the diagnosis corrected the next day at work, but lost a night's sleep over it.

Once you get past the self-congratulations, the old-boy network of super-docs, the confessions of imperfection in himself, and the self-pity; there are a few good points.
1. Get a second opinion.
2. Be an informed consumer.
3. Ask questions
3. If you do not like your doctor, get another one.
Not worth the read to learn these lessons.;

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43 of 45 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 08-07-09

Terrible narration, great idea, good execution

To begin with, the narration was horrible. I am a doctor and had looked forward to this book with great enthusiasm. However the narrator's dry, business-like narration sounded like the worst stereotype of a condescending paternalistic doctor one could imagine. But to make things worse he frequently and repeatedly mispronounced medical terms. How hard would it have been to make a list of terms he did not recognize and ask Groopman how to say them?

As far as the book goes, it was generally excellent, and I have found it very instrumental in guiding my own thinking and avoiding mistakes. There were some sections that were silly, for example there is a section in which his fellow temple congregant, a mother named Rachel, underwent an ordeal in which a child she adopted got very sick. He spent way too much time on this chapter and focused, nearly obsessively, on her religious reflections which did nothing to advance the points he was making.
At other times he was repetitious. For the most part, however, this was an exhilarating and a refreshing way to look at medical errors and medical decision making, and is getting the attention it more than deserves from medical circles.

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12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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