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Chronic Health Needs Must Be Addressed After A Natural Disaster

Sichuan earthquake rescue workers carrying an injured person. Sichuan earthquake rescue workers carrying an injured person. In light of the widespread media coverage of natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan, the public and medical professionals are aware of the anticipated immediate medical needs in these kinds of emergencies. However, it is less well known that after the initial management of life- and limb-threatening injuries, there may be an enormous need to provide care to persons with chronic illnesses. This is because they are displaced from their homes, become exposed to adverse environmental and socioeconomic hardships, lose access to healthcare, are deprived of their sources of medications, and so forth.

Some of my colleagues were allowed to enter Japan after the tsunami, and their observations agree with this assessment, which was also confirmed in a recent paper, “Chronic health needs immediately after natural disasters in middle-income countries: the case of the 2008 Sichuan, China earthquake,” authored by Emily Chan and Jackie Kim (Eur J Emerg Med 2011;18:111-114). The authors considered physical, social and public health preparedness. Read more »

This post, Chronic Health Needs Must Be Addressed After A Natural Disaster, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Being A Doctor Is A Lot Like Being A Parent: You Can’t Tap Out

The American College of Graduate Medical Education has enacted further restrictions on resident work hours.  No more than 80 hours per week of work for resident physicians, averaged over one month.  And no more than 16 hours of continuous work for first year residents (24 after that), which includes patient care, academic lectures, etc.

Whenever they do this sort of thing, everyone seems excited that it will make everyone safer.  After all, residents won’t be working as much, so they’ll be more rested and make much better decisions.  It’s all ‘win-win,’ as physicians in training and patients alike are safer.

I guess.  The problem of course is that after training, work hours aren’t restricted.  There is no set limit on the amount of work a physician can be expected to do, especially in small solo practices, or practices in busy community hospitals.

I understand the imperative to let them rest.  I understand that fatigue leads to mistakes.  I get it!  But does the ACGME get it? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at edwinleap.com*

Research Finds Success In Small, Cheap And Strong Test For HIV And Syphilis

Researchers from Columbia University have developed a “lab on a chip” HIV and syphilis test, and are now reporting the first results from tests in the field conducted in Rwanda. The mChip, as it is called, is the size of a credit card and replicates all steps of an ELISA test, at a lower total material cost and within 20 minutes. After application of a blood sample, the chip is inserted into a $100 battery-powered handheld analyzer. It needs only 1 μl of unprocessed whole blood and does not require any user interpretation of the signal, providing a clear-cut yes or no result.

Right now, HIV testing in developing countries either relies on expensive laboratory testing taking a long time, or uses cheaper methods based on lateral flow, which, although very rapid, do not provide very reliable results. The mChip combines Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Overwhelmed ERs Continue To Rise To The Challenge

Last night I was contacted by a physician in the local urgent-care.   I like him, and we made polite, but brief, conversation.  ‘So, are you guys busy?’

I gave him the status report.  ‘Well, yeah.  We have about 25 people waiting to be seen the waiting room is full and every patient room is full.  Also, we just received a gun-shot wound to the head by EMS.’

‘Wow, sounds terrible!  So, here’s what I need to send you…’

What he sent was, in fact, reasonable.  A young woman with signs and symptoms of meningitis (who was treated earlier in the day for and upper respiratory virus…with Amoxicillin, of course.)

She needed a lumbar puncture, which I performed and which was  negative.

But I had this thought.  I could probably have said, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at edwinleap.com*

UnitedHealth Group Releases A Somewhat Inadequate Report On Modernizing Rural Health Care

The UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization released a white paper today on Modernizing Rural Health Care.  To quote from the UHG presser,

  • [The paper] projects an increase of around 5 million newly insured rural residents by 2019 – even as the number of physicians in rural America lags
  • Quality of care is rated lower in rural areas in 7 out of every 10 health care markets; both physicians and consumers in rural areas more likely to rate quality of care lower than those in urban and suburban markets
  • Innovations in care delivery – particularly telemedicine and telehealth – can absorb future strain on rural health care systems

The paper inventories the current state of health care for the 50 million Americans living in a rural setting — and it’s not pretty.  The question, of course, is why does rural health compare unfavorably to urban health metrics, and what can be done to improve matters? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Latest Interviews

How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

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Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

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Latest Cartoon

Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

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Latest Book Reviews

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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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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