Douglas S. Paauw
PHILADELPHIA — Physicians may inadvertently practice medicine that includes long-debunked myths, a speaker at the American College of Physicians Internal Medicine meeting said.
To illustrate this point, Douglas S. Paauw, MD, MACP, a board-certified physician at the University of Washington Medical Center, asked attendees at his session if a patient with asthma, who mentions she is allergic to eggs, can still receive the influenza vaccine. Only 62% answered correctly that she can.
Another previous long-standing medical myth centers around a common cardiological condition, Paauw told Healio Primary Care Today.
“There was a time when it was absolutely, positively wrong to recommend or prescribe beta-blockers for heart failure. Those who did so were accused of committing malpractice, were considered a bad doctor, and you were accused of not knowing what you were doing.
“Now of course, we know that beta-blockers are an important part of the heart failure treatment regimen,” he continued.
Myths often stem from physiology that makes sense based on other medical knowledge, long-standing traditions, and in some instances, case reports that appear in many medical journals, Paauw told attendees.
“I’m not saying physicians should discredit all case reports. HIV and AIDS were first described in case reports. But more often than not, case reports are one or two examples of something observed in a patient panel that becomes known as the cure-all to every patient with that same condition described in the case report,” he said in the interview.
Paauw added that patients are also often vulnerable to medical misconceptions.
"Think about how many people still believe the flu shot makes you sick. Or that certain vaccines cause autism," he said.
There are several ways that physicians can separate myths from realities, Paauw said.
“When you read words like ‘this is the only way to treat this condition’ or ‘there is no other option for this disease,’ that is likely a myth.”
“You can also consider hiring a medical student to work for you. You get to share all your medical knowledge with him or her. In return, when a patient says something that sounds suspicious, the medical student can step in where appropriate and point to recent research that sheds light on the patient’s statement,” he continued.
Quick internet searches of reputable sites and medical journals will frequently dismiss myths, Paauw said, noting that he has published approximately 30 papers on medical myths.
Most of all, Paauw encouraged clinicians to “keep an open mind” as they advance in their careers.
Physicians may inadvertently practice medicine that includes long-debunked myths, a speaker at the American College of Physicians Internal Medicine meeting said.
“A lot of what we learn in medical school and throughout our professional lives changes, or we encounter someone who is emphatic about a new approach and refuses to accept any other possibilities,” he said in the interview
“The fact is there is rarely, if ever, something that is that set-in stone in medicine. Things change over time. As we get more illumination on diseases and treatments, we frequently learn new and better ways of doing things,” Paauw added. – by Janel Miller
Paauw DS. “Busting medical myths: When dogma is for the dogs.” Presented at: American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting; April 11-13, 2019; Philadelphia.
Disclosures: Paauw reports no relevant financial disclosures.