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Latest Posts

What Is The Most Costly Healthcare Expenditure?

The National Institute for Healthcare Management Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on healthcare. The foundation just published an excellent report on the distribution of  healthcare costs in the population.

The results indicate that reducing healthcare cost is all about reducing and managing chronic diseases.

U.S. healthcare spending has sharply increased between 2005 and 2009 by 23 percent from $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion per year.

This is a result of a combination of factors. Chief among them is the increasing incidence of obesity.

Who spends the money? Read more »

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

Will We Ever See Accountability And Transparency In Our Healthcare System?

President Obama, where is your promise about transparency and accountability in Obamacare?

A major problem in the healthcare system is the lack of transparency and accountability. It has been unchecked for a very long time.

Both primary and secondary stakeholders act in their self-interest. These stakeholders have had ample opportunity to be non-transparent and non-accountable. All the stakeholders have abused the healthcare system.

I hit a nerve with my last blog “Patients And Physicians Must Control Costs”. Multiple readers responded with the usual comments:

Patients are not smart enough to handle their own healthcare dollars.”

“Your basic idea makes sense, but in reality I doubt that a patient knows enough to make intelligent medical/financial decisions, because there are too many unknowns and variables.”

“Physicians over use the fee for service system in order to make more money.”

“If a physician tells a patient that there is only a 1/10,000 chance that an MRI will yield something useful, if the patient doesn’t have to pay for it, the patient wants the MRI.

Patients (consumers) must be taught and motivated to manage their own healthcare dollars. Patients’ choice Read more »

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

Healthcare Spending: Slowest Growth Since The Great Depression

Healthcare spending grew in 2009 at its slowest rate since 1938, according to a report published in Health Affairs.

The last time America saw such a slow growth rate on health spending it was still emerging from the Great Depression and hadn’t yet entered World War II. The most recent recession is also the cause for the health spending figures, according to the annual report, released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The report shows that the recession left a deeper impact than previous ones.

Healthcare spending grew 4 percent to $2.5 trillion, outpacing the rest of the still recovering economy. Authors wrote that the recession contributed to slower growth in private health insurance spending and out-of-pocket spending by consumers, as well as a reduction in capital investments by health care providers. Enrollment in private health insurance fell by 6.3 million people.

That’s still 17.6 percent of the U.S. economy in 2009, which reflects the effects of the recession on the economy and the effects of more Medicaid spending, which rose nearly 22 percent last year as part of the economic stimulus and to cover state deficits. (Health Affairs, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Addressing Healthcare Spending: “Cowardice” Or Bravery?

In assessing the “best and worst” of the recommendations from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein accuses the Commission of “cowardice” in addressing healthcare spending:

“The plan’s healthcare savings largely consist of hoping the cost controls . . . and various demonstration projects in the new healthcare law work and expanding their power and reach. . . In the event that more savings are needed, they throw out a grab bag of liberal and conservative policies . . . but don’t really put their weight behind any. . .[their] decision to hide from the big questions here is quite disappointing . . . ”

Pretty harsh words, considering that in other respects Klein gives the Commission high marks. But I think there is a lot more to the Commission’s recommendations on healthcare spending than meet’s (Klein’s) eyes, even though I have my own doubts about the advisability and political acceptability of many of them. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Minnesotans Get More Lower-Back MRIs: Why?

Kudos to Christopher Snowbeck and the St. Paul Pioneer Press for digging into new Medicare data to report that the state the newspaper serves is out of whack with the rest of the country in how many expensive MRI scans are done on Minnesotans’ bad backs.

Snowbeck artfully captures the predictable rationalization and defensive responses coming from locals who don’t like what the data suggest. Because what they suggest is overuse leading to overtreatment. So here’s one attempt a provider makes to deflect the data:

“The Medicare billing/claims data, which this report is generated from, would not capture conversations between a patient and provider that may have addressed alternative therapies for lower back pain,” said Robert Prevost, a spokesman for North Memorial Health Care. “It’s important to recognize the limitations of this data.”

No, data don’t capture conversations. But wouldn’t it be fascinating to be a fly on the wall during those many patient-physician encounters that led to an MRI to see what level of truly informed shared decision-making (if any) took place? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview 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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