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The Downfalls Of Medical Care In America’s Rural Communities

Malinda Bell I graduated from medical school in 1985, am board certified in EM and practiced 25 years—mainly inner city/trauma/teaching centers. However, the last 5 years were in a rural 25-bed hospital, 60 miles from a shopping mall or hospital with higher capabilities and specialists. My hourly rate was competitive and the hospital provided benefits included: malpractice, health, dental, & vision insurance, prescription coverage, paid vacation/CME allowance, and pension contribution.

Palliative Medicine (intensive symptom management for chronic or serious illness, coordination of care and clarification of patient/family treatment & life goals) is a subspecialty in urban settings but is lacking and most needed in the rural community setting. The chronically ill patient who is also typically elderly may present to the ED and be denied hospital admission after an ED physician evaluation. The doctor can “request” admission from an at-home Utilization Review nurse who checks the admission guidelines and if not met, reports the patient is to be sent home—even if it is over the objections of the physician who has evaluated the patient. There is no systematic follow-up of these patients, and they are told to “contact your primary care physician.” No one is making sure this happens. Some do not have primary care physicians and may be unable to obtain a timely appointment. The hospital does not have a social worker to coordinate care or provide assistance in the confusing navigation of insurance/appointments/outpatient testing, etc. There is no 24-hour pharmacy. Many of these patients do not have transportation or no longer drive and often live many, many miles from the hospital relying on neighbors, church folk, or county ambulance when they become ill.

In 2010, I opened Read more »

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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