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Are MDs More Effective At Running Hospitals Than MBAs?

It’s been more than five years since Henry Mintzberg released the enlightening book ‘Managers, not MBAs’, a well-reasoned criticism of prevailing management education that basically revolves around Master in Business Administration (MBA) programs. Financial crisis was not even in sight but Mintzberg, a professor at McGill University in Montreal and one of the most important guiding lights in the questionable field of management, already pointed out that it was a serious danger for modern organizations to rely on professionals that had just finished their MBAs as the prime source for senior managerial positions.

Mintzberg focused his criticism on two essential aspects. First, most programs are aimed at people with no previous experience or knowledge about organizations and how they look like from the inside… and these same people then storm into companies believing that the real world works exactly as business school taught them it does. The second point is that many of these business schools spread a perverted set of values, such as the hunt for short-term profit, the belief that a good aim justifies any means and the urge to translate all human behaviors into accountable figures (the ‘countophrenia’ depicted by Vincent de Gaulejac in his must-read ‘La Société Malade de la Gestion’).

Then the crisis rose, and many CEOs of the biggest organizations had their share of responsibility for it, as they were enjoying multi-million dollar bonuses while taking their companies to the edge of bankrupcy. Most of them came from the most famous business schools in the world. I have outlined in the past the outrageous conflict of interests of many of these institutions, starting with Harvard, as Charles Ferguson perfectly displayed in his brilliant documentary ‘Inside Job’.

‘Social Science and Medicine’ published in its August issue a very interesting work by Amanda Godall, professor at the IZA Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany. Godall’s is the first empirical research on the correlation between hospital results and having MDs in their top managerial positions. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

The Beneficial Effect Of Laughter On Your Health

I stumbled upon the article ‘Laughter: gender-specific variations’ in Revista Clínica Española (‘Spanish Clinical Journal’) and I can’t help thinking about the need for taking this into account to improve doctor-patient relationships. The text can actually be read as a guide to understand how every person laughs and how to use it in clinical practice.

Table 1. Laughter effect on health Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

Medical Tourism: A Lot Of Sellers But Not Many Buyers?

I must confess that I have a weakness for medical tourism. Patients have always been ready to go on a pilgrimage to find the world’s leading expert (we call it ‘key opinon leader’ now) hoping to find a cure. As long as traditional leaders in the field of Medicine have been the Germans, the French and the English -with some occasional Austrian and Spanish name in the mix- traffic of wealthy patients across Europe is nothing new.

Since we entered the antibiotics era, these leaders started to be located mainly in the United States, the cradle of modern, technology-driven Medicine. Thus hi-tech centers got ready to welcome foreign patients, building strong International Customer Support departments. A random example -by no means the only one- would be the Mayo Clinic. On their website you can see that their wealthy patients speak Arabic or come from Latin America. These healthcare services have a long tradition of client-oriented work because they work for private clients that pay for their treatment (sometimes the client is not the patient himself but his family). The important thing was never the price, but the patient. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

Do You Really Need 6-8 Glasses Of Water Each Day?

“Bueno es saber que los vasos
nos sirven para beber;
lo malo es que no sabemos
para qué sirve la sed”.
Proverbios y cantares.XLI. Antonio Machado

(‘It’s good to know that glasses
are what can help us drink;
The trouble is, we don’t know
What is the purpose of thirst’)

The one thing you can’t afford to have missing when you start a scientific congress or any other professional meeting is not a notepad, a pencil or even an iPad – nowadays, it’s a bottle of water. Offices, airports, handbags and lecture halls, all of them are bursting with all kinds of bottles. It seems they are essential to work and even to stay alive.

Bordering nonsense, some people desperately search for a bottled water vending machine as soon as they arrive at the airport, even if that means gobbling it down in a minute before walking through the security checkpoints.

It is now a common belief that continously drinking water (6 to 8 glasses a day according to NHS, at least two litres -half a gallon- according to other sources) is the healthy thing to do. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

From Spain: Drug Prescription Habits Are Often Emotionally Driven

I recently stumbled upon a very interesting editorial opinion in the ‘European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology’: ‘The use of drugs is not as rational as we believe…but it can’t be! The emotional roots of prescribing’, authored by Albert Figueras, from Fundació Institut Català de Farmacologia (Catalonia Institute of Pharmacology Foundation at Vall d’Hebron Hospital, in Barcelona).

Since more than 40 years ago when Archie Cochrane said that “there must be solid scientific evidence behind any statement, decision and prescription made by medical staff”, and all the way until today’s WHO promotion of rational medicine utilization, both developing and industrialised countries have been striving to increase sound knowledge about prescription and thus spread the kind of rational thinking necessary to foster evidence-based medicine in drug use.

Keeping your skills up to date has never been an easy task but nowadays we have newsletters and other Internet tools that can grant any MD state-of-the-art knowledge on any subject he or she may need, accessible anywhere and for any medical speciality. Nevertheless, drug use in the “real world” is far from this high quality. Not only in Spain: it has been noted in France, Greece and other countries that, despite widespread knowledge of risk factors that may cause gastrointestinal toxicity in patients under nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) treatment, there is a massive use of proton-pump inhibitors in individuals that show no significant risk.

Changing well-established drugs for newer, less-known products is not consistent with the need of a well-grounded comparative evaluation. We are not raising concern on the influence of gifts or invitations from pharmaceutical companies. Many doctors really want to make rational decisions… but can’t. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

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.

***

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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