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Efforts To Improve Health Care Must Involve Patients

Here’s the bad news: We will not benefit from the health care services, drugs, tests and procedures available to us unless we pay attention, learn about our choices, interact with our clinicians and follow through on the plans we make together. And that “following through”part?  We have to work at doing that every day, whether we feel sick or well, energetic or tired out. And if we can’t do it, we’d best find a spouse or parent or friend or social service agency who can step in to do the things we can’t manage.

OK.  For some people, this is not bad news.  This is how we think it should be: “Nothing about me without me.” For others, our personal encounters with tests and treatments and illness have taught us that this is just the way it is.

But for many of us, this news – should we have reason to attend to it – is inconsistent with our idealized vision of health care that, tattered as its image might be, will step in, take over and fix what ails us. Most of us, after all, are mostly well most of the time and our exposure to health care is minimal.

Efforts to improve the effectiveness of health care and contain its cost have produced Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Fragmented Care Requires Clarification Of Roles By Each Member Of The Medical Team

Jessie GrumanThe most important thing I learned was that different doctors know different things: I need to ask my internist different questions than I do my oncologist.”

This was not some sweet ingénue recounting the early lessons she learned from a recent encounter with health care.  Nope.  It was a 62-year-old woman whose husband has been struggling with multiple myeloma for the last eight years and who herself has chronic back pain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and was at the time well into treatment for breast cancer.

Part of me says “Ahem.  Have you been paying attention here?” and another part says “Well of course!  How were you supposed to know this?  Have any of your physicians ever described their scope of expertise or practice to you?”

I can see clinicians rolling their eyes at the very thought of having such a discussion with every patient.  And I can imagine some of us on the receiving end thinking that when raised by a clinician, these topics are disclaimers, an avoidance of accountability and liability.

But all of us – particularly those receive care from more than one doctor – need to have a rudimentary idea of what each clinician we consult knows and does. Why is this clinician referring me to someone else? How will she communicate with that clinician going forward? How and about what does she hope I will communicate with her in the future?

Why does our clinician need to address these questions? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

“The Hot Spotters”: Is Better Care For The Neediest Patients The Answer To Lower Healthcare Costs?

Author-physician Dr. Atul Gawande has done it again with a well-written article in The New Yorker magazine entitled, “The Hot Spotters.” It deals with the fact that 5 percent of people with chronic illness make up over 50 percent of all healthcare costs.

If we can zero in on providing better preventive care for those people, we can finally get our arms around runaway healthcare costs. How great that you don’t even have to have a New Yorker subscription to read it. Here are a few cliff notes until you get to it:

– In Camden, New Jersey, one percent of patients account for one-third of the city’s medical costs. By just focusing attention on the social and medical outpatient needs of those people, they not only got healthier but costs were cut in half.

– Our current system is unable to reign in costs. We need to completely re-design and fund how we do primary care.

– Charging high co-payments to people with health problems just backfires. They avoid preventive care and end up hospitalized with expensive and life-threatening illnesses that are much worse and more costly. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Newt Gingrich’s Take On Facebook Saving A Woman’s Life

I’ve seen at least half a dozen links to the op-ed coauthored by Newt Gingrich and neurosurgeon Kamal Thapar about how the doctor used information on Facebook to save a woman’s life. (It was published by AOL News. Really.)

In brief, a woman who had been to see a number of different health care providers without getting a clear diagnosis showed up in an emergency room, went into a coma and nearly died. She was saved by a doctor’s review of the detailed notes she kept about her symptoms, etc., which she posted on Facebook. The story is vague on the details, but apparently her son facilitated getting the doc access to her Facebook page, and the details posted there allowed him to diagnose and treat her condition. She recovered fully.

Newt and Dr. Thapar wax rhapsodic about how Facebook saved a life, and sing the praises of social media’s role in modern medicine. (I’m not sure how this really fits in with Newt’s stance on health reform, within his 12-step program to achieve the total replacement of the Left…but, hey, nobody has the patience these days for so many details anyway.)

Regular readers of HealthBlawg know that I would perhaps be the last to challenge the proposition that social media has a role to play in health care. However, I think Newt got it wrong here. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Misusing Medical Technology And Escalating The Cost Of Healthcare

Guest post by Stephen C. Schimpff, M.D.

We are often told that the reason for the high cost of medical care is all of our new technologies and drugs. There is an element of truth in that but when used correctly, new technologies save lives and improve the quality of patient care and often improve safety. But technologies used inappropriately increase costs while not improving quality and may adversely impact safety.

A patient example

An older woman had been coming to the same primary care physician (PCP) as her daughter for over twenty years. She lived in another city about 30 miles distant but she preferred to visit the doctor with her daughter. She also occasionally saw a doctor near her home if she had an immediate problem.

On nearly every visit she said that she felt “tired.” Repeated history and exam over twenty years revealed no cause nor did logical tests such as those for anemia or hypothyroidism. She then developed syncopal episodes — times when she would black out and fall to the floor, once bruising her head when she fell against the stove, and then waking up in a few minutes. Evaluation by the PCP showed that she had intermittent episodes of bradycardia, or very slow heart rate, resulting in the drop attacks. Read more »

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

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…

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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…

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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…

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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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