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The Cost Of Treating Kidney Disease

Medical spending to treat kidney disease totaled on average $25.3 billion annually from 2003 to 2007 (in 2007 dollars). Almost half of the expenditures ($12.7 billion) were spent on ambulatory visits.

On average, 3.7 million adults (1.7 percent of the population) annually reported getting treatment for kidney disease, reports a statistical brief from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. During 2003-2007, for those ages 18 to 64, more than half of the total kidney disease expenditures were from ambulatory visits (53.1 percent) compared with about one third (30.3 percent) from inpatient visits. Among those age 65 and older, ambulatory visits accounted for 46 percent of the total kidney disease expenditures and hospital stays were 43 percent.

Similar amounts were spent on prescription medicines ($1.4 billion) and emergency room visits ($1.5 billion). Hospital stays amounted to $9.1 billion. Medicare paid 40 percent of the total expenditures to treat kidney disease.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Getting Quality And Profit Out Of Medicine

Looking for a great story about the state of hospital care in America? Look no further. The Health Care Blog has a great article by hospitalist Dr. Robert Wachter that sums it up nicely. It’s about money. Thats how hospitals get paid. That’s how everyone gets paid. It will always be about money. We don’t pay doctors, nurses, or administrators with smiley faces and candy canes. We pay them with cold hard cash. For example:

One of the physicians, an invasive cardiologist, stopped me in my tracks. “Actually, our hospital already provides a tremendous amount of support and feedback,” he said. “When I perform a catheterization or angioplasty, a hospital staff member watches the entire procedure, she sometimes suggests mid-course corrections, and as soon as I’m done she provides me detailed feedback on whether I met all the best practice standards.”

“Wow,” I said. “Your hospital is really taking quality seriously!”

“Oh,” he replied, mischievous smile on his face, “she’s not from the quality department. She’s from the billing department.”

The question should not be how do you get profit out of medicine. The question should be how do you get quality into profit. We need profit. The last thing you want in this country is universal VA health care. Trust me on that. Americans would never stand for it. But how do you get both? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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*

The Importance Of Discriminating Against The Obese

DrRich has pointed out several times that it is very important to our new healthcare system, as a matter of principle, to be able to discriminate against the obese.

The obese are being carefully groomed as a prototype, as a group whose characteristics (ostensibly, their lack of self-discipline, or their sloth, or their selfishness, or whatever other characteristics we can attribute to them to explain how their unsightly enormity differentiates them from us), will justify “special treatment” in order to serve the overriding good of the whole.

The obese are a useful target for two reasons. First, their sins against humanity are painfully obvious just by looking at them, so it is impossible for them to escape public scorn by blending in to the population, unlike some less obvious sinners such as (say) closet smokers, or pedophiles. And second, since true morbid obesity almost always has a strong genetic component, successfully demonizing the obese eventually will open the door to the demonization of individuals with any one of a host of other genetically mediated medical conditions. Read more »

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

Why Medical Care Costs So Much: A Real-Life Example

The cost of medical care is high because the human body is complicated and doctors and patients hate ambiguity. The cost is high because a missed diagnosis can lead to death and a large lawsuit. The cost is high because we have many specialists who view the human body in their own tiny pieces and they want to feel 100 percent correct about their piece. Let me give you a real-life example. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

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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