Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Blood Tests Save Lives If You Know What To Look For

To be a great internist you have to be great at blood gas interpretation. And you have to be able to do it quickly and efficiently. You have to understand what all the numbers mean and you have to get a good clinical sense of how to interpret them and how to change management based on their result. And you have to be able to do it without pulling out your formula books. In six years as a hospitalist I have never calculated what the compensatory responses should be. I just know.

Sometimes blood gases change your management or your medical opinion on what’s happening. Take for example my patient with advanced MS. She presented through the emergency department with “oropharyngeal bleeding of unclear etiology”. Her original BMP:

Na 137
K 4.0
CL 99
HCO3 36
BUN 35
CR 1.0
Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at A Happy Hospitalist*

Models Of Healthcare In The Developed World

I heard an interview with T.R.Reid and can’t wait to read his book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. He traveled the world and compared how developed countries manage health care. He makes the point that all other developed countries have universal coverage. No-one is left out.

He found four basic systems (some named after their founders):
Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Quality-Based Medicare Payments: Will They Kill Private Practice?

It’s the holy grail of physician payment reform: ending fee-for-service payments to doctors and, instead, pay doctors based on the quality of care they perform. Remarkably, Congress feels they’ve found the answer:

Thus, the new language in the Senate Finance bill would finally connect Medicare reimbursements to quality, as opposed to volume.

The measure gives the secretary of Health and Human Services, working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the power to develop quality measurements and a payment structure that would be based on quality of care relative to the cost of care. The secretary would have to account for variables that include geographic variations, demographic characteristics of a region, and the baseline health status of a given provider’s Medicare beneficiaries.

The secretary would also be required to account for special conditions of providers in rural and underserved communities.

Additionally, the quality assessments would be done on a group-practice level, as opposed to a statewide level. Thus, the amendment would reward physicians who deliver quality health care even if they are in a relatively low quality region.

The secretary of Health and Human Services would begin to implement the new payment structure in 2015. By 2017, all physician payments would need to be based on quality.

Wow. That sounds great! But there’s just one problem…

… how do we define “quality?”
Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Telemedicine As The Cost-Saving Foundation To Healthcare Reform

A Keynote Address To The American Telemedicine Association September 25, 2009

The following is a summary of Alan Dappen, MD, keynote address at the mid-year meeting of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). His keynote, billed as “Private Practice And Telemedicine: A Success Story” discusses how Dr. Dappen’s practice, DocTalker Family Medicine, which is a fee-for-service practice that deploys telemedicine for over 50% of its patients needs, has enjoyed growth and has received numerous awards and media attention. You can check out Dr. Dappen’s full address on the site.

On to the highlights of Dr. Dappen’s talk:

“This is my third visit to an American Telemedicine Association (ATA) event. I’ve been a proud member for seven years. Two years ago I presented the fundamentals my medical practice DocTalker, where the doctor is chief cook and bottle washer.

“Our practice mirrors the recommendations outlined by the Institutes of Medicine’s book
Crossing the Quality Chasm and those purporting the ‘medical home’ model. Read more »

Primary Care Is Being Crushed By A Paper Weight

Ever wonder why your physician only spends 5-10 rushed minutes with you during your office visit? You may think it’s because there are simply too many patients vying for her time, but that’s not the real reason. The root cause is that health insurance companies are stealing time from your visit by requiring excessive documentation from your doctor. She can’t give you the time you need, because doing so would put her out of business.

In a special report on the administrative burden of healthcare, MedPage Today revealed that PCPs spend about one third of their income on documentation required by health insurers. Because they run a business with thin margins, they must increase the volume of patients they treat in order to cover the salaries of the staff required to manage this “paper weight.”

About 49% of all physicians have said that they are considering retiring or quitting medicine in the next two years (the rate is lower for specialists), largely because of increasing documentation requirements and decreasing reimbursement. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »