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The Cost Of Health Care, BioMed Jobs, And Other Health News

health care costs, Rob Stein, NPR, reporting on health, medical ethicsHealth Costs: In an unusual stance, a leading doctor’s group has issued ethical guidelines that include taking cost into account when recommending medical treatments for patients, Rob Stein reports for NPR’s Shots blog.

BioMed Jobs: A Texas biomedical research center that was supposed to create 5,000 jobs with a $50 million state grant has fallen far short of those goals, and the private company that received 70 percent of the money has pulled out of the project, Matthew Watkins reports for The Eagle.

Health Reform: What’s happening in health reform this year? Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post lays out some key dates for 2012.

Medicare: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Reporting on Health - The Reporting on Health Daily Briefing*

Review Of 2011 Predictions In The World Of Health Care

How Did My 2011 Predictions Turn Out?

Pretty well, actually.

As predicted last December, there was no big change to health care reform, doctors still didn’t have enough time with their patients, Microsoft (disclosure: Microsoft is a Best Doctors client) made moves to create a “Windows” for electronic health records, and “ACO” became the hot buzzword in health care.  Some state governments started major redesigns of their benefits programs, saving money in the same ways private sector employers do.  Meanwhile, more than ever, private sector employers are penalizing employees who don’t take care of themselves.

Misdiagnosis finally started to be recognized as a public health problem.  At Best Doctors we got a great deal of press coverage in 2011 on this (for a few examples, go here, here, here, here and here).  I will sneak in a 2012 prediction and tell you that you will hear a lot more about this this year, and not just from us.

What did I get wrong? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BestDoctors.com: See First Blog*

Physician Offers Potential Explanations For The Sustainable Growth Rate “Hole”

This article and its graph (from the NEJM), and its interesting, informative but probably useless graph, was referenced today on twitter, via the Washington Post’s Wonkblog,

Recently, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services announced a scheduled cut in Medicare physician fees of 27.4% for 2012. This cut stems from the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula used by the physician-payment system. …
To illustrate the level of inequity in this system, we broke down the national spending for Medicare physician services by state and by specialty and determined which states and specialties have contributed most to the SGR deficit between 2002, when the program was last balanced, and 2009. Although SGR spending targets are set on a national level, we computed state targets by applying the SGR’s national target growth rate to each state’s per capita expenditure, using 2002 as the base year. Our analysis is an approximation, because, unlike the SGR, we do not adjust for differential fee changes. …

We compared the state targets for the years 2003 to 2009 to actual state expenditures and added the annual difference between these figures to get a cumulative difference between the state’s spending and the SGR target. This cumulative difference was Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

Large Hospital Systems Are Driving Up Healthcare Costs

The primary stakeholders in the healthcare system are patients and physicians. Without patients or physicians there would not be a healthcare system.

Patients should be the drivers of the healthcare system. They are not. The primary drivers are the government and the healthcare insurance companies.

Hospital systems play the next largest role in driving up the costs of the healthcare system. Large hospital systems are constantly playing a game of chicken with the government and the healthcare care insurance industry.

Somehow, large hospital systems have been able to stay under the radar.  They have been able to avoid the responsibility of the rising costs of healthcare.

Large hospital systems and large hospital chains know that insurers need them to service their network of patients.  The healthcare insurance companies know that the hospital systems can hold them hostage to increased reimbursement.

When a large hospital system demands an increase in reimbursement the healthcare insurance industry simply increases premiums.

An example is the Read more »

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

Choosing The Best Health Care For You: What Information Helps You Decide?

Our ailing economy has boosted the number of people who are unemployed, without health insurance or with minimal coverage. The popularity of high deductible health plans is soaring as employers and individuals look for affordable insurance.  Twenty-nine percent of bankruptcies are said to be caused by medical bills. Many of us now choose health care services and providers carefully, trying to stay within tight budgets.

The American people, long protected from the price of health care by insurance, are now forced to act as consumers.  This situation is a free marketer’s dream.  According to this model, we will rationally calculate the price/quality trade-offs of each doctor visit, procedure, test and drug.  We will stop overusing services. We will demand better care. And the result will be reduced health care costs for the nation while the quality of care and the health of individuals will remain the same, if not improve.

There’s nothing like a good theory.

But the theory can only be tested if a) It’s easy to find publicly reported, relevant quality information about the services we need, matched with what we would pay out of pocket; and b) We use that information as the basis of our health care decisions. Neither of these conditions can be met today.

A new Cochrane review Read more »

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

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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