Hospital costs are out of control. We have an aging population living longer with more complicated presentation of disease. We have an insurance driven platform instead of a health driven accountability. The long term sustainability of that architecture is one of guaranteed insolvency.
One way or another hospitals are going to find their lifeline cut off. Medicaid is bankrupt. Hospital profit margins from Medicare have been negative for almost a decade. In addition, the rapid rise in private insurance premiums and industry’s gradual but accelerating exit from the health insurance benefit market all tell me that hospitals must find a way to reduce the cost of providing care.
There are many ways hospital costs can be reduced. Administrators are paid handsomely to make it happen. Either they do or they don’t succeed. Either they survive the coming Armageddon of hospital funding or they don’t. The hospitals least able to reduce their expenses in a market of decreasing payment will fold and other hospitals will become too big to fail. You want to be too big to fail. That’s the goal. If you can survive the coming tsunami, you will be saved and bailed out when you are the only one left standing. That is what history has taught us.
So, how can hospital costs be reduced? One way is to Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*
It’s heart wrenching when young athletes die of sudden cardiac death (SCD). Last week the death of Wes Leonard, a Michigan high school star athlete, was especially poignant since he collapsed right after making the game-winning shot. This sort of tragedy occurs about one hundred times each year in America. That’s a lot of sadness. The obvious question is: Could these deaths be prevented? Let’s start with what actually happens.
Most cases of sudden death in young people occur as a result of either hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an abnormal thickening of heart muscle, or long QT syndrome (LQTS), a mostly inherited disease of the heart’s electrical system. Both HCM and LQTS predispose the heart to ventricular fibrillation — electrical chaos of the pumping chamber of the heart. The adrenaline surges of athletic competition increase the odds of this chaos. Unfortunately, like heart disease often does, both these ailments can strike without warning.
Sudden death is sad enough by itself, but what makes it even worse is that both these ailments are mostly detectable with two simple painless tests: The ECG and echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). Let’s get these kids ECGs and echos then. “Git ‘er dun,” you might say.
On the surface the solution seems simple: Implement universal cardiac screening of all young athletes. And you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this way. You could even boast the support of Dr. Manny Alvarez of Fox News and the entire country of Italy, where all athletes get ECGs and echos before competing. But America isn’t Italy, and things aren’t as simple as Fox News likes to suggest. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*
Abraham Verghese is a professor of medicine at Stanford University and one of the most articulate physician-writers today. He recently wrote an op-ed highlighting primary care’s plight, and focuses on the scarcity of time:
The science of medicine has never been more potent – incredible advances and great benefits realized in the treatment of individual diseases – yet the public perception of us physicians is often one of a harried individual more interested in the virtual construct of the patient in the computer than in the living, breathing patient seated on the exam table.Time is the scarcest commodity of all. Patients, particularly when it comes to their routine, day-to-day care, want a physician who has time to understand them as people first, and then as patients.
It’s been frequently discussed on this blog, with solutions ranging from paying physicians per hour to cash-only practices.
There’s no easy answer, and worse, money isn’t even the root of the problem. Often left unaddressed is the burnout that primary care doctors face, practicing in unpalatable environments where the doctor-patient relationship is obstructed by bureaucracy and paperwork. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*