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

Latest Posts

All Attempts To Reduce Bureaucracy In The Healthcare System Will Increase It

“The media is the message.” It does not matter if the policy has failed previously.  All that is important is the effectiveness of the policy’s presentation and its ability to manipulate the polls.

The government’s purpose is to work for the people who elected it. It does not seem to be working that way at present. Bureaucrats create rules or regulations as they interpret the laws made by congress and the president. Regulations are controlled by the administration’s ideology. Many times the regulations in one area nullify the intended effect in another area.

Regulations and bureaucracy inhibit the use of common sense in policy making for the benefit of the people.

The people did not have an outlet to express their opinions or frustrations until blogging came into its own seven years ago.

Americans do not like President Obama’s healthcare reform act. They also do not like Dr. Don Berwick’s apparent disrespect for their intelligence and his infatuation with the British healthcare system.

“I am romantic about the NHS (British National Health Service); I love it. All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country.” Read more »

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

Why Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) Will Fail To Reduce Costs

In an ideal world ACOs should work. There is no evidence that  untested and complex organizational structure of ACOs developed by Dr. Don Berwick (head of CMS) will improve quality of care and reduce costs.

ACOs are supposed to provide financial incentives to health care organizations to reduce costs and improve quality. There are too many defects in the ACOs infrastructure to improve the financial and medical outcomes.

At a conceptual level, the incentive for ACOs would be to increase efficiency and avoid overuse and duplication of services, resources, and facilities. In this model, ACO members would share the savings resulting from the increased coordination of care.

I have said over and over again that excessive administrative fees and ineffective management of chronic disease is the main source of waste in the healthcare system. ACOs do not deal with these main drivers of costs.

The only stakeholders who can demand that this waste be eliminated are consumers/patients. Patients must control their healthcare dollars.  They will make sure there are competitive prices and will not permit duplication of services. Read more »

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

Will Our Healthcare System End Up Looking Like An Apple Or Android Product?

The future direction of American health care is unclear.  Certainly the cost trend as it exists is unsustainable with health care costs being a major concern of the private sector, the government, and individuals.  How does the nation manage costs while ensuring high quality medical care, access, and service?  Proposals include increasing competition among insurers, providers, and hospitals to drive down prices or giving more financial responsibility to patients via higher deductibles and co-pays with the belief that they will demand price transparency, shop around for the best price, and as a result slow health care costs.

What if both ideas are wrong?

While it is possible these plans might work, I cannot help but notice the similarities in the challenges for patients in navigating the health care system and consumers figuring out how to purchase and use technology.  Walk into your neighborhood electronics store.   Individuals are overwhelmed with the number of product choices, manufacturers, differences in technical specifications and features.  In the majority of situations, consumers are unsure of what they are purchasing.  They want something that just works, whether surfing the internet, making home movies, or being connected with loved ones.  The gap in knowledge between an expert and a consumer is great and often unintentional and unapparent. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Are Paul Ryan’s Medicare Budget Cuts Going To Harm The Elderly?

For some time now, numerous loved ones and dear friends have been advising and occasionally urging DrRich that, perhaps, it has become a bit inappropriate, and even unseemly, for him to continue in his longtime position as President and sole member of Future Old Farts of America (FOFA). For a not unsubstantial interval DrRich ignored this advice, feigning incipient deafness. But finally, after some focused study of that which these days returns his gaze in the mirror, and reluctantly concluding that maybe his loved ones have a point (and not wishing to seem Cranky), DrRich has reluctantly decided to resign from (and therefore disband) FOFA.

DrRich is pleased to announce that he has accepted a new position as President and sole member of Glorious Old Farts of America (GOFA).

And it is in this new capacity that DrRich has become alarmed at some of the dire warnings now being sounded by respected leaders of the Democratic Party, to the effect that the Republicans’ proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2012, released last week by Congressman Paul Ryan (who serves, DrRich believes, as Deputy Whippersnapper of the House Republican caucus), proves that Republicans are trying to kill old people. Read more »

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

Kudos To ACOG: A Moral Victory for Pregnant Women

This post is written as a follow-up to The Hijacking of Pregnant Women.

It is said that sometimes you have to rock the boat in order to shift the course of progress. Well today pregnant women have reason to celebrate. The winds of change are apparent.

Bowing under pressure, K-V Pharmaceutical Company reduced the price of Makena from $1500 to $690. Makena is the trade name for hydroxyprogesterone caproate or 17OHP. It is a drug recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce premature deliveries before 37 weeks if it is given before 21 weeks gestation.  It has been used for years as an off-label drug and costs approximately $10 to $20 to make by compound pharmacists. When the FDA gave K-V an exclusive right to manufacture the drug, their integrity flew out the window.  The pricing strategy of K-V is a case study of corporate greed. Most drug companies will use the “research and development” logic to explain their rationale for marking up the cost of a drug.  In the case of Makena, that excuse is valid. The research and development of Makena had already been done by Squibb Pharmaceuticals who had sold the drug for years. Is it any wonder why U.S. citizens will cross geographic borders and purchase drugs from their Canadian and Mexican neighbors?

Kudos are in order to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) who took the lead in questioning K‑V’s pricing strategies. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

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.

See all cartoons »

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…

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 »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »