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Cartoon: America’s Problem With Pain Meds

Americans Taking More Antidepressants Than Ever

Remember when the best-selling book Listening to Prozac came out almost 20 years ago?

Now Americans aren’t just reading about Prozac. They are taking it and other antidepressants (Celexa, Effexor, Paxil, Zoloft, to name just a few) in astounding numbers.

According to a report released yesterday by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.

The federal government’s health statisticians figure that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

ER Overuse: Is It A Myth?

Overuse of the emergency department is commonly discussed during the healthcare conversation, especially with the lack of primary care access shunting patients with seemingly routine symptoms to the ER. But is this a myth? That’s what two emergency physicians contend in a piece from Slate.

The emergency department is functioning just fine, they say: “Just 12 percent of ER visits are not urgent. People also tend to think ER visits cost far more than primary care, but even this is disputable. In fact, the marginal cost of treating less acute patients in the ER is lower than paying off-hours primary care doctors, as ERs are already open 24/7 to handle life-threatening emergencies.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Consultation Codes: Medicare Sends A Message To Specialists

A study published in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine looked at so-called errors made in consultation code billing by specialists seeing patients at the request of a primary care practice in suburban Chicago. The methodology? Comparing the primary care office referral form with the specialist’s bill.
The author concludes that specialists are greatly overusing consultation codes in situations where a new patient visit would be more appropriate, to the tune of over half a billion dollars a year in Medicare payments, and suggests that it is time to reconsider the use of these codes. (Medicare, of course, has already come to the same conclusion, and beginning January 1 of this year, is no longer paying for consultation codes.)

There may be misuse of consultation codes going on, but this study does not necessarily prove that. The methodology does not include medical record review, the standard by which coding choices are verified or refuted, and relies entirely on the referring physician’s determination of what the specialist should be billing. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog that Ate Manhattan*

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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