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Accountable Care And Doctor-Patient Communication Go Hand In Hand

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) figure prominently in the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The concept behind ACOs is that by tying both physician and hospital compensation to outcomes via a bundled fee (say for pneumonia) we can expect to see an improvement in quality and value.

In principal, accountable care makes a lot of sense. Practicality speaking, however, doctors and hospitals must address a huge challenge before they can expect benefit financially. Before doctors can be held accountable for the care they deliver, they must first be held accountable for the quality of their communication with patients.

Take hospital readmissions, which are a big healthcare cost driver today. According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 20 percent of all Medicare patients discharged from hospitals were readmitted within 30 days, and 34 percent percent within 90 days. The Joint Commission and others rightly believe that inadequate communication between physicians — as well as between physicians and patients – is a major contributing factor. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

Heart Attacks Are Killing Fewer People: Why?

Heart attack mortality fell by nearly a half a percent last year at 4,500 hospitals that treat Medicare patients. And, facilities with the lowest and highest death rates saw similar declines, according to a new hospital report card by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). 

Heart attack mortality fell from a national average of 16.6 percent last year to 16.2 percent, with a range among all facilities from 14.5 percent to 17.9 percent. CMS released the data as part of its hospital report card effort to spur better quality and outcomes through public reporting of recommended treatments. The agency added heart attack and heart failure mortality to the report card three years ago.

At issue now is what’s driving the figures: public reporting of hospital data driving improvement, or faster door-to-balloon-treatment times. Areas that do need to improve include lowering readmissions and getting people to the hospital faster when they have a heart attack. (USA Today)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Hospitalist*

For Medicare Patients, “The Doctor Is Out”

In a last-minute shocker, the Senate voted Thursday against postponing a scheduled 21-percent cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians and other healthcare providers. Sixty senators were needed to end filibuster debate and stop the cuts under Senate rules. Fifty six voted in favor, while 40 opposed. There was no Republican support. (And, of course, no support from Senator Lieberman, who is a Republican in disguise.)

Another consequence of the vote is that tens of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits would not be eligible for more. In addition, new taxes on wealthy investment managers would not be imposed, along with an increase in liability taxes on oil companies, leading Democrats to contend that Republicans were protecting Wall Street and the oil industry, according to the New York Times.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader. “We know the American people only have us to depend on.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Doc Fix Blamed On Doctors

The American Medical Association will launch a multi-million-dollar ad campaign tomorrow to heighten pressure on Congress for a doc-fix bill. The American College of Physicians (ACP) reacted by calling for doctors to contact their member of Congress directly to let their voices be heard. Robert Centor, FACP, called for doctors to protest as well. (American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, DB’s Rants)

Meanwhile, a Florida medical society predicts a crisis in that senior-laden state. The society cited but did not name eight primary care doctors who’ve stopped accepting Medicare patients this year, and 12 cardiologists who left private practice for employment elsewhere because of already reduced payments. Unbelievably, business columnist Steven Pearlstein sorted through the issues around the doc fix, and concluded that it’s the docs that need fixing for paying themselves generous salaries. (Naples News, The Washington Post) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Why Healthcare Reform Is Good For Medicare

You may have noticed, uncharacteristically for me, that I haven’t posted a blog in week. I thought it would be better to allow the readers to post their own reflections, and you did — with comments ranging for unabashed pride to skepticism to disdain for the law and the American College of Physician’s (ACP’s) role in bringing in about.

I respect the principled arguments made by those who believe that the legislation gives the government too much control or those who fear that it will add to the deficit and public debt, even though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says otherwise. But there is one claim made by some of the critics that sticks in my craw, which is that the legislation will result in “massive cuts” to Medicare. Here are the facts. Read more »

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

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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