Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Should Doctors Work Weekends?

Peter Orszag wants doctors to work weekends. The former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget wrote as much in this past weekend’s New York Times:

Doctors, like most people, don’t love to work weekends, and they probably don’t enjoy being evaluated against their peers. But their industry can no longer afford to protect them from the inevitable. Imagine a drugstore open only five days a week, or a television network that didn’t measure its ratings. Improving the quality of health care and reducing its cost will require that doctors make many changes — but working weekends and consenting to quality management are two clear ones.

And he’s right, to a point.

I’ve pointed to studies showing that mortality rises on the weekends, in part due to skeleton staffs that hospitals employ on Saturday and Sunday. And, since Mr. Orszag is an economist, the cost factor is noted. Tests that get pushed off until Monday cost the health system serious dollars. The problem I have is that Mr. Orszag, like most health reformers, offers doctors little incentive in return. Read more »

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

Emergency Medicine Dilemma: Risk Malpractice Or Overtesting?

Emergency physicians are in a dilemma. Risk missing a diagnosis and be sued, or be criticized for overtesting.

Regular readers of this blog, along with many other physicians’ blogs, are familiar with the difficult choices facing doctors in the emergency department.

The Associated Press, continuing its excellent series on overtesting, discusses how lawsuit fears is a leading driver of unnecessary tests. Consider chest pain, one of the most common presenting symptoms in the ER:

Patients with suspected heart attacks often get the range of what the ER offers, from multiple blood tests that can quickly add up in cost, to X-rays and EKGs, to costly CT scans, which are becoming routine in some hospital ERs for diagnosing heart attacks …

… and the battery of testing may be paying off: A few decades ago insurance statistics showed that about 5 percent of heart attacks were missed in the emergency room. Now it’s well under 1 percent, said Dr. Robert Bitterman, head of the American College of Emergency Physicians’ medical-legal committee.

“But you still get sued if you miss them,” Bitterman added.

The American Medical Association’s idea of providing malpractice protection if doctors follow standardized, evidence-based guidelines makes sense in these cases. Furthermore, it can also help reduce the significant practice variation that health reformers continually focus on. 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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »