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Podcast: Emergency docs highlight toxic health care myths

Mary Chris Jaklevic is a reporter-editor at She tweets as @mcjaklevic.

A trip to the emergency department is never a welcome experience, but it can be made worse — or even triggered by —  a patient’s unrealistic expectations.

In this podcast, veteran emergency doctors Jerome Hoffman, M.D., and Greg Henry, M.D., discuss how misleading media messages can feed health care myths that lead to patient harms, and what patients and physicians can do about it.

Hoffman is a professor emeritus of medicine/emergency medicine at UCLA, and a former director of the school’s emergency medicine residency program.

Henry is a clinical professor in emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and a past president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), which happens to be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Greg Henry, M.D.

Both are prolific writers and lecturers who’ve helped to shape the practice of emergency medicine since it was officially recognized as a medical specialty in 1979.

Once dismissed as a non-serious medical career path, emergency medicine is now a sought-after profession that affords doctors the opportunity to treat all kinds of patients.

It’s also ground zero for observing systemic problems such as overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

Those problems, they say, often stem from myths such as more is better, earlier is better, and technology will save us.

They discuss:

  • How imbalanced discussion in medical literature, as well as prolific advertising, encourages the overuse of treatments and tests.
  • How rushing to treat can backfire in surprising ways, and not just in the use of a clot-busting drug for stroke.
  • How TV sets up unrealistic expectations, as shown in a study on the portrayal of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in medical dramas.

    Jerome Hoffman, M.D.

  • How better technology finds more and more trivial things, such as harmless pulmonary emboli and bacterial infections.

While urging patients and their families to be skeptical, Hoffman and Henry also stress the ability of emergency medicine to do good. They say emergency providers can help nearly every patient who comes through their doors in some way.

This podcast is part of’s series on how real patients are harmed by misleading media messages. See more stories like this, or share your own, on our series page.



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