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Why We Should Be Thankful For The Uninsured

In what has become a tradition over the past few years, DrRich proudly reprises his annual Thanksgiving message to his beloved readers:

Gathered around the Thanksgiving table, DrRich’s large extended family, carrying out a longstanding tradition, each offered in their turn one reason for being thankful on this most reflective of American holidays. DrRich listened respectfully as each of his loved ones, and each of the ones he was obligated to tolerate benignly because they had married (or in some other manner had committed to) one of his loved ones, recounted a cause for thanks.

There is no need for DrRich to recite their utterances here, because they were all perfectly predictable and fairly mundane, having mostly to do with items such as maintaining good health, finding a job, being able to afford one’s mortgage payments, getting a passing grade in French, receiving a new puppy, Mr. Obama’s remarkable presidency, the apparent continued structural integrity of the Universe despite Mr. Obama’s presidency, etc., etc.

When it was at last DrRich’s turn, he, in retrospect perhaps somewhat inadvisedly, was unable to refrain from displaying his keen insight and superior analytical abilities on matters related to healthcare (a topic, anyone would have to admit, about which most of us would very much like to feel thankful). Lifting his glass, DrRich pronounced that he was most deeply and humbly thankful for the 47 million Americans without health insurance.

And further, especially thankful that their ranks must surely be growing, given the recession, advancing unemployment, imminent collapses of businesses and indeed entire industries, etc. And even though Obamacare promises to significantly reduce that number, DrRich went on to express his fervent wish that large numbers of the uninsured might still be with us a year and two years and even ten years hence, for the great and good benefit of us all. Read more »

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

The Struggle To Retain Physicians

Some states are finding it tough to retain physicians. Take Virginia for instance:

A recent study found Virginia retains only 35 percent of its medical school graduates and ranks 31st among other states in retaining doctors.

In 2008, Virginia spent more than $50 million from the general fund to support medical education and had nearly 600 new physicians graduate from Virginia’s four medical schools.

Despite this, Virginia still struggles to retain medical graduates, with less than 25 percent of Virginia’s physicians graduating from medical schools in the Commonwealth.

Some feel incentives might work:

Dr. Greenawald says other states including North Carolina have incentives to keep medical students in state. He hopes Virginia considers following suit. Dr. Greenawald also said the over burden of paperwork and insurance company oversight have taken doctors away from what they love doing which is providing care to patients. He said that’s prompted many doctors to retire early.

I’m not so sure. Until more medical students feel primary care is worth the effort, the mass exodus to specialties (and the out-of-state training that is often required) will continue.

-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Primary Care: Has It Been “Oversold?”

Citing a new study by the Dartmouth Atlas, the Wall Street Journal’s health blog provocatively asks: “Has the notion of ‘access’ to primary care been oversold?”

The Dartmouth researchers found “that there is no simple relationship between the supply of physicians and access to primary care.” That is, they found that having a greater supply of primary care physicians in a community doesn’t mean that the community necessarily has better access to primary care. Some areas of the country with fewer primary care physicians per population do better on access than other areas with more primary care physicians.

The researchers also report that the numbers of family physicians is more positively associated with better access than the numbers of internists, although they call the association “not strong.” Although both general internists and family physicians are counted as primary care clinicians, “in [regions] with a higher supply of family physicians, beneficiaries were more likely to have at least one annual primary care visit. In [regions] with a higher supply of general internists, fewer beneficiaries had a primary care visit on average.” Read more »

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

Emergency Rooms Overused For Routine Care

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (our government’s name for healthcare reform) may make our already crowded emergency rooms swarm with more patients.

A new study from Health Affairs shows that more than a quarter of patients who currently visit emergency departments in the U.S. are there for routine care and not an emergency. New complaints like stomach pain, skin rashes, fever, chest pain, cough or for a flare up of a chronic condition should not be treated in emergency rooms. They are best worked up and treated by an internist or family physician, preferably one who knows the patient. So why are these patients waiting for hours and spending up to 10 times as much money for emergency department care? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Primary Care Crisis: Why The Patient-Centered Medical Home Will Fail

Everyone understands the need for a robust primary care workforce in making healthcare more affordable and accessible while keeping those in our care healthy. With the aging of America and healthcare reform, even more Americans will need primary care doctors at precisely the same time doctors are leaving the specialty in droves and medical students shun the career choice.

As a practicing primary care doctor, I’ve watched with great interest the solutions for the primary care crisis. And I’ve been utterly disappointed.

Patients so far don’t like the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) as noted in Dr. Pauline Chen’s New York Times column. The changes recommended won’t inspire the next generation of doctors to become internists and family doctors. Read more »

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

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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