When surgeon and noted medical writer Atul Gawande wanted to make the point that treating patients today requires specialized teams of medical personnel, he listed some of the procedures surgeons are allowed to perform. He didn’t list them all, because surgeons can legally perform more than 4,000 procedures, ranging from setting broken arms bones to excising breast cancer to repairing hernias. His point: To expect one surgeon to know the best way to do each of those procedures — not to mention to understand the actions and interactions of the more than 6,000 medications that he or she is allowed to prescribe — is unrealistic.

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