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Reading List - Chapter 8: Healthcare

Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease, by Fabrizio Benedetti

One of the most widespread words in medicine is placebo and placebo effect, although it is not always clear what it means exactly. Recent progress in biomedical research has allowed a better clarification of the placebo effect. We know that this is an active psychobiological phenomenon which takes place in the patient's brain and that is capable of influencing both the course of a disease and the response to a therapy.

Since publication of the first edition of this book in 2008, there has been an explosion of placebo research, and this new edition brings the topic fully up to date. Throughout, the book emphasizes that there are many placebo effects and critically reviews them in different medical conditions, such as neurological and psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, immune and hormonal responses, as well as oncology, surgery, sports medicine and acupuncture. The psychosocial context around the patient is crucial to the placebo effect, for example the doctor's words and attitudes, and throughout this is considered.

Exhaustive in its coverage, and written by a world authority in the field, this is the definitive reference text to the placebo effect - one that is essential for researchers and clinicians across a wide range of medical specialities.

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Meaning, Medicine and the ‘Placebo Effect,’ by Daniel E Moerman

Traditionally, the effectiveness of medical treatments is attributed to specific elements, such as drugs or surgical procedures. However, many other factors can significantly effect the outcome. Drugs with nationally advertised names can work better than the same drug without the name. Inert drugs (placebos, dummies) often have dramatic effects on some patients and effects can vary greatly among different European countries where the "same" medical condition is understood differently. Daniel Moerman traverses a complex subject area in this detailed examination of medical variables. Since 1993, Cambridge Studies in Medical Anthropology has offered researchers and instructors monographs and edited collections of leading scholarship in one of the most lively and popular subfields of cultural and social anthropology. Beginning in 2002, the CSMA series presents theme booksworks that synthesize emerging scholarship from relatively new subfields or that reinterpret the literature of older ones. Designed as course material for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and for professionals in related areas (physicians, nurses, public health workers, and medical sociologists), these theme books will demonstrate how work in medical anthropology is carried out and convey the importance of a given topic for a wide variety of readers. About 160 pages in length, the theme books are not simply staid reviews of the literature. They are, instead, new ways of conceptualizing topics in medical anthropology that take advantage of current research and the growing edges of the field.

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Health and Healing, by Andrew Weil

Dr. Andrew Weil’s groundbreaking handbook for people who want to take control of their lives and their health, Health and Healing presents the full spectrum of alternative healing practices, including holistic medicine, homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, and Chinese medicine, and outlines how they differ from conventional approaches. The philosophical basis for his work in integrative medicine and optimum health, Health and Healing draws on Weil’s own vast clinical and personal experience, as well as on case studies from around the world.

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The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands, by Eric Topol

A trip to the doctor is almost a guarantee of misery. You'll make an appointment months in advance. You'll probably wait for several hours until you hear "the doctor will see you now"—but only for fifteen minutes! Then you'll wait even longer for lab tests, the results of which you'll likely never see, unless they indicate further (and more invasive) tests, most of which will probably prove unnecessary (much like physicals themselves). And your bill will be astronomical. In The Patient Will See You Now, Eric Topol, one of the nation’s top physicians, shows why medicine does not have to be that way. Instead, you could use your smartphone to get rapid test results from one drop of blood, monitor your vital signs both day and night, and use an artificially intelligent algorithm to receive a diagnosis without having to see a doctor, all at a small fraction of the cost imposed by our modern healthcare system.

The change is powered by what Topol calls medicine's "Gutenberg moment." Much as the printing press took learning out of the hands of a priestly class, the mobile internet is doing the same for medicine, giving us unprecedented control over our healthcare. With smartphones in hand, we are no longer beholden to an impersonal and paternalistic system in which "doctor knows best." Medicine has been digitized, Topol argues; now it will be democratized. Computers will replace physicians for many diagnostic tasks, citizen science will give rise to citizen medicine, and enormous data sets will give us new means to attack conditions that have long been incurable. Massive, open, online medicine, where diagnostics are done by Facebook-like comparisons of medical profiles, will enable real-time, real-world research on massive populations. There's no doubt the path forward will be complicated: the medical establishment will resist these changes, and digitized medicine inevitably raises serious issues surrounding privacy. Nevertheless, the result—better, cheaper, and more human health care—will be worth it.

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