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Review Of 2011 Predictions In The World Of Health Care

How Did My 2011 Predictions Turn Out?

Pretty well, actually.

As predicted last December, there was no big change to health care reform, doctors still didn’t have enough time with their patients, Microsoft (disclosure: Microsoft is a Best Doctors client) made moves to create a “Windows” for electronic health records, and “ACO” became the hot buzzword in health care.  Some state governments started major redesigns of their benefits programs, saving money in the same ways private sector employers do.  Meanwhile, more than ever, private sector employers are penalizing employees who don’t take care of themselves.

Misdiagnosis finally started to be recognized as a public health problem.  At Best Doctors we got a great deal of press coverage in 2011 on this (for a few examples, go here, here, here, here and here).  I will sneak in a 2012 prediction and tell you that you will hear a lot more about this this year, and not just from us.

What did I get wrong? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BestDoctors.com: See First Blog*

Research Points Out The Down Side Of Chasing Success

Bill Gates once said:

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.

It’s clever, and it seems right.  Now there is science to prove it.

In a study published last week, scientists studied special imaging scans of doctors’ brains as they made simulated medical decisions.  Those doctors who paid attention to their mistakes made better decisions than those who were more interested in their successes: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BestDoctors.com: See First Blog*

Giving People Across The World The Best Medical Care They Can Get

Guatemala is a developing country, with great natural beauty, hard-working people and many challenges.  Most Americans look at places like Guatemala and see only the challenges.  Some see opportunity.

I’ve just returned from Guatemala, where I met with our business partners, government officials, and others.   And I can tell you a universal truth.  People across the world want the best medical care they can get.  They aren’t looking for the latest technologies and drugs and treatments – or, rather, they aren’t looking only for those things.  No, what is most important to whoever I meet, no matter where they live, is that they are able to get the right diagnosis, and the right treatment.

It’s a harder thing to get in some places than in others.  Americans don’t realize that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BestDoctors.com: See First Blog*

Being An Entrepreneur In Health Care: How To Set Yourself Up For Success

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur in health care?

Twice in the last two weeks I had the honor of speaking at Northeastern University’s Health Sciences Entrepreneurs Program. It’s a terrific program, dedicated to fostering the creation of health care businesses by helping the people who build them figure out how to do it. That it exists is a testament to how strong the American spirit of entrepreneurship really is – and how the 21st century economic engine is going to be health care.

But the hundreds of students and alumni who attended the events already knew this. What they wanted to know were the answers to more practical questions – Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BestDoctors.com: See First Blog*

What We Really Need: Teamwork In Medicine

Atul Gawande says that we’re used to doctors working like “cowboys” – rugged individualists who are responsible for making sure your care gets done right.  We don’t need cowboys, he says.  We need “pit crews” – teams of doctors working together toward a common goal, with each playing their own role.

It’s an appealing idea.  Pit crew-like teams work, and work well, in trauma units across the country.

But there’s a problem: if you haven’t just been airlifted to a hospital after a horrible accident, you’re not going to be treated by a pit crew.  You’re going to be on your own, shuffled from one 15-minute specialist visit to the next, likely with no one person in charge of your care.

Dr. Gawande knows this, and he picks a heck of an example of the problem: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BestDoctors.com: See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

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Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

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Latest Cartoon

Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

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Latest Book Reviews

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…

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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…

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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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