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A “Third Place” In Healthcare: What We Can Learn From Starbucks

Media reports on misdiagnosis continue to mount. A recent study on patients with Alzheimer’s found that half had been misdiagnosed. Half.

Another headline blared “4 out of 10 patients being misdiagnosed.” The article encouraged patients to “see another doctor” if they are worried about their diagnosis.

You know what it makes me think about? Starbucks. Why? Because the way Starbucks revolutionized coffee drinking shows a way forward for healthcare.

Starbucks realized that since our lives focus on two places — home and work — most of us don’t have a “third place” to go. A place where we can be free of everyday distractions and take care of ourselves. Starbucks set out to create that “third place” by making its shops comfortable, inviting places. It works. “Third place” makes customers’ lives better — and Starbucks has almost 20,000 shops to prove it.

It’s time for a kind of “third place” in healthcare. Healthcare focuses on two places, too: The doctor’s office and the hospital. Both places are difficult for patients. Patients complain of not getting enough time from their overworked doctors, and studies of things that go wrong in hospitals are equally disturbing.

There really isn’t a “third place” to go to in healthcare. Somewhere that you can step outside of the difficult process of being sick. Somewhere you can get a quiet, clear perspective of what is going on.

Now, some people are lucky and can turn to relatives or friends who are doctors to provide some of that “third place” experience. But most people can’t. At Best Doctors, we’re creating the experience of a healthcare “third place.” We do it by taking the time to review each case, have doctors think about what’s happening, consult with experts, and share advice. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Making Employee Health A Fundamental Part Of Company Culture

Dick Quinn of Quinn’s Commentary has a pithy post about why it’s hard for the government to control healthcare costs. He says:

Nobody complains about the cost of healthcare, rather they complain about their insurance premiums or their payroll deductions for health benefits.

He’s right about what politicians react to. The healthcare reform law is loaded with things that are meant to contain the price of coverage. But I would add two words to his post:

“Nobody who votes complains about the cost of healthcare.”

It’s true: The large employers who pay for much of healthcare in America complain about the cost a lot. But they are doing something about it.

In my work, I have the opportunity to present at events with some of our Fortune 500 clients. (I have one this week with The Home Depot, hosted by the National Business Group on Health. The event information here – you have to be a member of the NBGH to participate). Listening to these customers, you get a good sense of how employers are attacking this problem.

Here are the top three trends I see benefits professionals talking about:

1.  Engagement and Prevention

Doing things to help employees be enthusiastic believers in their company is high on the list of many companies’ strategic objectives. Employee benefits are an important part of that.

A senior benefits leader at a Fortune 100 employer I presented with earlier this year said his company surveyed its employees to see what they wanted in their benefits package. Number 1? That the company’s  benefits show it really cares about their well-being. Benefits professionals see health benefits as an opportunity to engage employees in their jobs. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

A Doctor’s Brain: The Most Important Piece Of Healthcare Technology

Some people may tell you that healthcare IT will solve many of the quality and cost problems in healthcare. I don’t believe them.

I know a 70-year old man named Carlos (not his real name) who was hospitalized following a bout of hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid in the skull, which affects the brain. Among other things, people with hydrocephalus can be confused, irritable, and nauseous. Carlos had all of these symptoms.

Carlos’ problem was fixable by inserting a special kind of drain in his head called a “shunt.” This kind of shunt is, essentially, a series of catheters that runs from the brain into the abdomen, and which drain the excess fluid. You can’t see it from the outside, so it’s meant to stay inside of you for a very long time.

For a week after Carlos’ shunt was installed, his symptoms completely disappeared. But they soon started to re-emerge. Worried, his family took him to the hospital. Doctors found that his hydrocephalus was back — the shunt wasn’t draining properly. They admitted him to the hospital, and the next day they put in a new shunt. The surgery went well.

But again, about a day later, he started to have the same kinds of symptoms. The doctors sent him for a CT scan, which showed, to their surprise, no problems with the shunt. Unsure of what to do, they decided to wait and see if the symptoms resolved. It was possible, they thought, that the symptoms were from the quick drainage of fluid through the shunt. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

The Worst Healthcare System In The World

The worst healthcare system in the world is the United States, of course. Oh no, wait — it’s Canada. Actually, it could be Germany. Geez, now I think it might be the UK.

You could go on and on like this, but you know what? No matter how good or bad your healthcare system is, there are certain universal truths. Here are four of them that might make you look at global healthcare a little differently:

First, healthcare is getting more expensive, all over the world. A new study by the global consultant, Towers Watson (disclosure: Towers Watson is a Best Doctors client) found that the average medical cost trend around the world will be 10.5 percent in 2011. In the advanced economies costs will rise by an average of 9.3 percent. While Americans tend to think of rising medical costs as a uniquely American problem (they’ll rise by 9.9 percent here), it’s just not true. Canadian costs will rise by 13.3 percent. In the UK and Switzerland, they will increase by 9.5 percent, and in France by 8.4 percent.

Why is it happening? As ever, the main drivers are the increasing availability of new medical therapies — and inappropriate use of care. We see the same phenomenon at Best Doctors in our global experience. Across the world, our data for 2010 showed that just over 20 percent of patients had an incorrect diagnosis, and about half were pursuing inappropriate treatment plans. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

The Secret To The Virginia Healthcare Decision

Unconstitutional? How can the mandate to buy health insurance be unconstitutional? It must be some kind of misguided resistance to progressivism. Or maybe it’s someone finally taking a stand against a power-grabbing government program.

But it’s actually about something else entirely. And if you don’t know what it is, you won’t understand why the Virginia court ruled the way it did. Here’s the secret:

The U.S. Constitution grants to the federal government certain powers. These are things like raising an army, controlling currency and establishing courts. It also gives it the power to regulate interstate commerce, through something called the “Commerce Clause.” Everything else is the domain of the states.

Notice that the Commerce Clause only gives the federal government power over interstate commerce. The word “interstate,” in 1789, was probably easy to understand. Since the original 13 states were more like little countries, than part of one big country, the idea of trading goods from one state to another was identifiable as a special kind of thing. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

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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How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

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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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