My partners and I have long struggled with the lack of specialty back-up at our hospital. Semi-rural hospitals, out of the way facilities, just can’t always attract specialists. So, we’re happy to have cardiologists every night, but understand that we only have an ENT every third night. We’re thankful to have neurologists, even if they don’t admit anyone. We’re glad to have radiologists, even if they don’t read plain films after 5PM on weekdays.
Still, I continue to scratch my head about why only three of seven community pediatricians take call, such that family physicians have to admit their patients. I was bumfuzzled that our neurologists were previously going to require us to use telemedicine for stroke evaluation when their offices were close by the hospital. (In the same year they were called in roughly three times per neurologist for urgent stroke evaluation.) That problem was resolved, thank goodness.
Now, I find that the problem has returned and grown. We will, very soon, have no ophthalmologist on call, despite the fact that we have three in the community and that they are contacted with remarkable rarity to deal with on-call emergencies. Soon, we will have no neurologist on the weekend. And the pediatric problem remains.
Of course, I’m using my local experience to highlight something that isn’t a local problem at all. It’s a national problem. All over America, specialists are relinquishing their hospital priveleges and staying in the office. Proceduralists are opening surgery centers that are free from the burdens of indigent care. Primary care physicians are allowing hospitalists to do all of their admissions.
In the process, not only are patients losing out, but referral centers are being absolutely overwhelmed. The cities and counties that lie around teaching hospitals are sending steady streams of patients, since they have fewer and fewer specialists. Those referral and teaching centers want patients, but they can’t take all of the non-paying patients, all of the complicated, or even all of the mundane patients with no local coverage. Those facilities, for all their shiny billboards and “center of excellence” marketing, will collapse. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at edwinleap.com*
It came as a Twitter “follow” from @coldfeet65, a self-proclaimed “Nurse Practitioner Hospitalist.” I had never heard this term before. Does it mean a nurse practitioner who cares for hospitalists? Or is it a hospitalist who is a nurse practitioner? Or maybe it’s a nurse practitioner who helps hospitalists? (Honestly, I think I know which one she means, but you get my point.)
Perhaps this is a prescient glimpse to healthcare of the future, where our more typical nurse and doctor labels are supplanted by more and more monikers that serve to confuse, rather than clarify, each of our roles in healthcare delivery. As specialists in cardiology, we’ve seen a similar trend with cardiology hospitalists. But we should be clear what this means to the patients and doctors going forward.
No doubt most people in America still expect to see a doctor when they come to the hospital. Increasingly, it appears that might not be the case. Your doctor might be a robot while a nurse (aka, nurse practitioner) will be the one providing the hands-on care in the inpatient setting. Is that a good thing? Honestly, I’m not sure.
No one argues that the costs in healthcare need to be cut. No doubt the central authority has deemed that doctor salaries will be a big part of that effort. Already, 20 states have cut physician Medicaid payments for fiscal year 2010 and, given the current economic pressure on our states both now and after they start feeling the financial impact of the “Affordable” Care Act in 2019, this trend is not likely to improve anytime soon. As a result, we are seeing that the world is full of “creative solutions” to our healthcare access crisis and the evolution to “nurse practitioner hospitalists” might be one of these. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*
There’s a country with an unusual healthcare system. In it, you often spend about as much time with your lawyer as you do your doctor. There are special courts set up to decide what kinds of treatment you are allowed to have. And doctors have to be careful that they don’t say or do the wrong thing, or else they risk being blackballed by insurance companies.
The country: The United States of America.
You may not realize it, but if you hurt your back at work you end up in a different healthcare system than if you hurt your back at home. Sure, you may end up with similar doctors or hospitals, but your experience of healthcare will be completely different. Here’s why.
If you get hurt at work, you’re covered by the “workers compensation” system. That system has its roots over a century ago, when employers didn’t do much to take care of workers. So the system is based on laws that mandate employers to take care of injured workers, often for the rest of their lives. In exchange for this very comprehensive coverage, employers and their insurers get a great deal of control over what care workers get and where they get it.
Does the workers compensation system represent a model of how a future American healthcare system might work? It might. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*
Are you wondering about a glaring unintended consequence of healthcare reform? Read on to learn how everyone becomes a criminal.
By now you’ve all heard of the government reports of Medicare fraud being three times higher than 17 billion dollars a year previously thought. How you ask? Because an illegible doctor signature is considered fraud and Obama is out to make things right and transparent and accurate. You can pretty much count on every physician in this country being a fraudster.
But what about Medicaid? Does the same fraud problem exist with the Medicaid system? Probably, but you also have to worry about the patient abuse aspect as well. Here’s an angle of unintended consequences you may not have considered with healthcare reform by making pre-existing conditions a thing of the past.
I have been told Happy’s hospital has a handful of repeat offenders using their family member’s Medicaid card to get free healthcare services in the ER. Why is that possible and why would anyone let their family member use their insurance card? The question you should ask is not “why,” but “why not?” Why wouldn’t every family with Medicaid share their card? Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*
You want to see a doctor? You’re going to have to wait. And I don’t mean like an hour in the office. I mean like 53 days.
It’s not some doomsday story from the future. It’s happening today here in Massachusetts. Massachusetts — the state whose 2006 law was the model for the federal healthcare reform law. Massachusetts — home to some of the world’s best medical centers and doctors. And, as the Boston Globe’s “White Coat Notes” blog reports, Massachusetts — home to doctor shortages and long waits to see a doctor:
When primary care patients do secure an appointment for a non-urgent matter, they have to wait to get in the door, the survey found. The average delay is 29 days to see a family medicine doctor, down from 44 days last year, and 53 days to see an internist, up from 44 days last year.
The report said shortages also exist in dermatology, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurology, orthopedics, psychiatry, urology, and vascular surgery.
But what about costs? If you make sure everyone’s covered, you’ve got the foundation for real cost control, right? Unfortunately, no. Healthcare costs have been booming in Massachusetts:
Costs are rising relentlessly for both families and for the state government. The median annual premium for family plans jumped 10% from 2007 to 2009 to $14,300 — again, that’s a substantial rise on top of an already enormous number. For small businesses, the increase was 12%. In 2006, the state spent around $1 billion on Medicaid, subsidies for medium-to-lower earners, and other health-care programs. Today, the figure is $1.75 billion. The federal government absorbed half of the increase.
So what are the lessons for the future of American healthcare? Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*