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Doctors Should Be Able To Trust Their Patients

Physicians are still debating whether prescribing placebos is ethical. Dissenters argue that this is dishonest and would erode trust between patients and their physicians. If the practice were to gain acceptance, then physicians’ credibility would be diminished. Patients would wonder whether the medicines their doctors are recommending are evidenced-based or fraudulent.

Patients can now push their own snake oil right back onto their physicians. I learned that the ‘secret shopper’ mechanism for quality assessment has been introduced into the medical profession. I first read about this in the March/April 2010 issue of the Journal of Medical Practice Management, a periodical that I suspect is not widely read by physicians.

Folks are hired as pretend patients and are dispatched to doctors’ offices and hospitals to document their findings. Their mission is to assess office staff, appointment issues and the waiting room experience. I wonder if Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Is The Million Hearts Campaign All About The Money?

I don’t know what I was thinking with my last post about the Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts initiative. I thought the whole point of this program was to save money. At the time, I was less than optimistic that the government could acurately reach their goal given the problems with many of the principles behind their program. For instance, maybe it was just me, but how typing on an electronic medical record system would save those lives was lost on me.

But at the time, I had no idea this whole campaign was based on fear.

Watch this introductory video I found on the brand new Million Hearts website, all paid for (of course) with your tax payer dollars: Read more »

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

The Health Insurance Industry’s Unnecessary Expenses

I have described how the healthcare insurance industry loads its expenses into direct patient care expenses to increase their profits.

The Medical-Loss Ratio calculation is not reported by the traditional media. The healthcare insurance industry spends less healthcare dollars on direct patient care after it is permitted by federal and local agencies to load its expenses into the direct patient care column.

Simply put, the healthcare insurance industry cooks the books to increase its net profit.

Another way to increase profits is to shortchange physicians on medical claims. In fact, 20% of medical claims payments are inaccurate according to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) fourth annual National Health Insurer Report Card. Claims-processing errors by health insurance companies waste billions of dollars and frustrate patients and physicians.

This is one of the reasons the RAND report about physicians controlling waste is so absurd to me. The healthcare insurance industry creates waste in order to increase net profit. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Repairing the Healthcare System*

Print Journals Are Not How We Get Our Information Anymore

This morning in the Chicago Tribune’s business section appeared an article entitled “Just What the Doctor Ordered” that included an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner, the new editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). He plans to pursue a strategy of “intelligent innovation” for the journal:

…looking for ways to get information to doctors and consumers through several new platforms, such as social media, video and other forms. “If you look at TED or Big Think, they have been experimenting with video clips,” Bauchner said. “I could imagine having some of our authors do video clips where they speak about the meaning of their research for eight or 10 minutes, and then that’s easily linked to a smart phone.”

He also wants shorter on-line version of articles that condense the topic to 500 words from the typical 2,500- to 3,000-word articles not too dissimilar, I suppose, to the abstract.

Which leads to the inevitable end result: Read more »

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

Health Care Attorney Discusses The Use Of Disclaimers On Facebook Pages

This is the third part of a three part post addressing the legal concerns of social networking in the health care arena.

In part one, legal expert David Harlow, Esq., Health Care Attorney and Consultant at The Harlow Group, LLC in Boston, answered questions regarding “The Legal Implications for Doctors, Nurses and Hospitals Engaging in Social Media?”

In part two, Mr. Harlow answered questions related to the Pharma industry;  “Legal Concerns: What Steps can Pharma Take to Engage in Social Media?”

The third part addresses a question from a follower on Facebook about the use of disclaimers.

Q:  Barbara: A Healthin30 reader on Facebook writes:  “I’m looking for a good disclaimer to put on a couple of medical practices’ Facebook pages. The AMA social media guidelines aren’t helpful. Do you have a good boilerplate you recommend? Thanks in advance for your help!”  David, can you offer a couple suggestions?

A:  David: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

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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