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Pay-for-Performance Targets Hospitals Unfairly

This blog has tried to support the virtue of personal responsibility. If you smoke, don’t blame Joe Camel. If you surrender to Big Mac attacks, don’t go after Ronald McDonald. If you love donuts, and your girth is steadily expanding, is it really Krispy Kreme’s fault? And, if you suffer an adverse medical outcome, then…

Medicare aims to zoom in on hospitals, suffocating them with a variation of the absurd pay-for-performance charade that will soon torture practicing physicians. Of course, a little torture is okay, as our government contends, but pay-for-performance won’t increase medical quality, at least as it currently exists. It can be defended as a job creator as several new layers in the medical bureaucracy will be needed to collect and track medical data of questionable value.

Medical quality simply cannot be easily and reliably measured as one can do with a diamond, an athlete or a wine. Most professions resist being graded or claim that the grading scheme is a scheme. Teachers, for example, refute that testing kids is a fair means to measure their teaching performance. Conversely, any individual or profession who scores well on any quality review program will applaud the system’s worth and fairness. Shocking.

Under the government’s new program, hospitals could be financially responsible for the cost of medical care that a patient requires for up to 90 days after discharge. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Physician Almost Places Feeding Tube In Wrong Patient

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I barely escaped from an embarrassing situation recently in the hospital. I was consulted to place a feeding tube, called a PEG, in an ICU patient. We gastroenterologists are rarely consulted for our opinion on whether these tubes make sense, which they often don’t. We are recruited to these patients simply to perform the technical function of inserting the tubes, so that Granny, or Great-Granny, or Great-Great… , won’t starve. Multiple medical studies have demonstrated that providing this nutrition to individuals with advanced dementia doesn’t benefit them. In addition, while it may seem intuitive that artificial feeding provides comfort, this may not be the case. It may provide more comfort to the physicians and family than it does to the patient. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Killed By TPN: A “Never-Ever” Hospital Event?

Recently, nine patients died in Alabama when they received intravenous nutrition that was contaminated with deadly bacteria. This type of nutrition is called total parenteral nutrition, or TPN, and is used to nourish patients by vein when their digestive systems are not functioning properly. It is a milestone achievement in medicine and saves and maintains lives every day.

What went wrong? How did an instrument of healing become death by lethal injection? What is the lesson that can emerge from this unimaginable horror?

This tragedy represents that most feared ‘never event’ that can ever occur – death by friendly fire. No survivors. Contrast this with many other medical ‘never events’ as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, such as post-operative infections, development of bed sores in the hospital or wrong-site surgery. Under the ‘never events’ program, hospitals will be financially penalized if a listed event occurs. Many physicians and hospitals are concerned that there will be a ‘never events’ mission creep with new outcomes added to the list that don’t belong there. Medical complications, which are unavoidable, may soon be defined as ‘never events’.

Do we need a new category of ‘never ever ever events’ to include those that lead to fatal outcomes? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

CMS “Never Events” Incentivize Physicians To Avoid Caring For High Risk Patients

In 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it would no longer pay for the treatment of “never events,” i.e., certain medical conditions in hospitalized patients which the Feds deem to be universally avoidable under all circumstances. These conditions included:

* Decubitus ulcers
* Two kinds of catheter-associated infections
* Air embolism
* Mediastinitis after coronary bypass surgery
* Transfusing patients with the wrong blood type
* Leaving objects inside surgery patients
* In-hospital falls

Then, having been delighted with the results of its original list (or dismayed that healthcare costs continued to skyrocket despite its original list) CMS subsequently proposed declaring several new conditions as “never events,” including: Read more »

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

Medicare & Private Health Insurance: Monkey See, Monkey Do


File this under utterly predictable:

Aetna tightens payment policies on hospital errors – Modern Healthcare (sub req)

Aetna has established new, tighter policies dictating when it will and will not reimburse for medical care related to errors made by providers.

Under the policies, Aetna has broken errors into two categories: “never events”—three events involving surgery: wrong patient, wrong site and wrong procedure—and 25 serious reportable events as defined by the National Quality Forum. Providers will not be reimbursed for a case involving one of the three never events, under the new payment policy. Of the 25 events, eight will be reviewed by Aetna to determine whether reimbursement should be withheld. The rest of the events will also be reviewed under Aetna’s new policy, but they will not be considered eligible for adjustments to reimbursement, the spokeswoman said.

This of course follows on the heels of Medicare’s decision not to pay for such events. The good news is that, as far as I can tell, Aetna has not extended the policy as far as Medicare has. Medicare, you may recall, also decided not to pay for certain (arguably) preventable conditions, such as foley-catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and surgical wound infections. Aetna, at least for the moment, is limiting its policy to the more black-and-white “never events” as defined by the National Quality Forum: items such as wrong-patient surgery or death due to contaminated medications.

I mention this not to rail against these standards or against the notion of incentivizing hospitals financially to avoid errors, but to highlight how rapidly and directly Medicare policies are aped by private insurers to the point that they become industry standards.

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

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