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What Do Clinical Guidelines And The US Tax Code Have In Common?


The above graph from the Cato Institute demonstrates the growing complexity of the U.S. tax code over the years. After doing my taxes recently and trying to track the ins and outs of the law for my wife’s private practice, I can attest to the graph’s accuracy.

But then I was reading an interesting editorial in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology by N.A. Mark Estes III, MD and Jonathan Weinstock, MD that reviewed an article by Roos, et al in the same journal that found only 27 of 698 guideline recommendations from the European Society of Cardiology (median 1.2% per guideline [IQR 0.95% to 3.7%]) were correctly referenced as Class I or III Level of Evidence A recommendations, calling into question the accuracy of guideline recommendations. In their editorial, Estes and Weinstock defended the guideline process but also mentioned the following shocking statistic: Read more »

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

Clinical Guidelines: Who Writes Them Anyway?

While DrRich is a conservative American, and has made plain the difficulties he has with the Progressive program in general and with Progressive healthcare reform in particular, at times he is forced to admit that, on occasion, the Progressive way of looking at the world has certain merits. And as DrRich contemplates a question that has been bothering him lately, a question that no doubt plagues many American physicians who (unlike DrRich) are still toiling away in the trenches, he finds that this is one such occasion.

That question is: Just who are the people writing all those clinical guidelines — the  “guidelines” physicians are now expected to follow in every particular in every case, on pain of massive fines, loss of career, and/or incarceration?

DrRich is quick to say that the act of creating clinical guidelines is not inherently evil, and indeed, back in the day when guidelines were merely guidelines (instead of edicts or directives that must be obeyed to the last letter), creating clinical guidelines was a rather noble thing to do.

But today, we have physicians clamoring to become GOD (Government Operatives Deliberating) panelists. These aristocrats of medicine will render the rules by which their more inferior fellow physicians, the ones who have actual contact with patients, will live or die. Clearly positions of such authority will be very desirable, and so, as one might predict, they are being vigorously pursued. And we are seeing candidates audition for these panels with efforts ranging from amateurish to ruthless. It puts one in mind of the early-season contestants on “American Idol.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

When Doctors Are Paid Less, Unnecessary Prescriptions Drop

Take medical uncertainty. Add financial incentive to treat. Voila! Increased utilization. Now take away financial incentive to treat. Guess what you get?

MedPageToday explains, in the case of hormone therapy for prostate cancer:

Medicare accomplished what clinical guidelines and evidence-based medicine couldn’t: it reduced unnecessary use of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in prostate cancer.

Inappropriate use decreased by almost 30% from 2003 to 2005, following enactment of the Medicare Modernization Act, which lowered physician reimbursement for ADT. Appropriate use of ADT did not change during the same time period, according to an article in the Nov. 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Our findings suggest that reductions in reimbursement may influence the delivery of care in a potentially beneficial way, with even the modest [reimbursement] changes in 2004 associated with a substantial decrease in the use of inappropriate therapy,” Vahakn B. Shahinian, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and co-authors wrote in conclusion.

“The corollary is that reimbursement policies should be carefully considered to avoid providing incentives for care for which no clear benefit has been established. The extreme profitability of the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists during the 1990s probably contributed to the rapid growth in the use of ADT for indications that were not evidence-based.”

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

“Less Is More” In Medicine: Why Patients Aren’t Buying It

In a recent article, the editors of the Archives of Internal Medicine make the case that too much unneeded care is being delivered in physician’s offices these days. According to the authors, “patient expectations” are a leading cause of this costly problem.

Their solution? Get physicians to share with patients the “evidence” for why their requests are crazy, wrong, ill-informed or just plain stupid. But getting patients to buy into the “less is more” argument is a daunting task as most physicians already know. The problem is complicated by the fact that patients have a lot good reasons for not buying it. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

Unnecessary Tests And Treatments: Responsible Reporting Can Help

Just when I’ve lost hope that mainstream media will stop perpetuating the myth the more medicine equals better care, the Associated Press came up with this excellent piece. The article states, rightly, that “anywhere from one-fifth to nearly one-third of the tests and treatments we get are estimated to be unnecessary,” and that, “it may lead to dangerous side effects.”

Regular readers of this blog should be familiar with those concepts. I wrote recently that patients often reject evidence-based medicine. One reason is that there aren’t enough clinical guidelines available for patients to make an informed decision. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

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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