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Veterans Affairs CIO Says iPads Need To Be Secured For Medical Use

In a nod to the reality of rapid physician adoption of tablets and smartphones, the CIO of the VA system recently stated that the VA must find a way to accommodate  iPads at a  conference on federal information technology.

According to Baker, the fact is that 100,000 residents rotate through the VA each year and “they’re all carrying mobile devices”. In order for them to do their jobs, they want to be able to access resources on the internet.

In an article published at nextgov.com, CIO Roger Baker said:

I’ve told my folks I don’t want to say ‘no’ to those devices anymore…I want to know how I say yes.

The key, according to Baker, is security. While the iPad can be secured, proper protocols need to be developed. Otherwise, the device can be likened to a “huge unencrypted USB stick with no pin”. In order to facilitate development of security protocols, a pilot program has been launched giving out iPads to select employees in situations where security is looser. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

The Business Of Anticoagulation

This is a guest post by Dr. Juliet Mavromatis:

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The emergence of a new generation of anticoagulants, including the direct thrombin inhibitor, dabigatran and the factor Xa inhibitor, rivaroxaban, has the potential to significantly change the business of thinning blood in the United States. For years warfarin has been the main therapeutic option for patients with health conditions such as atrial fibrillation, venous thrombosis, artificial heart valves and pulmonary embolus, which are associated with excess clotting risk that may cause adverse outcomes, including stroke and death. However, warfarin therapy is fraught with risk and liability. The drug interacts with food and many drugs and requires careful monitoring of the prothrombin time (PT) and international normalized ratio (INR).

Recently, when I applied for credentialing as solo practioner, I was asked by my medical malpractice insurer to detail my protocol for monitoring patients on anticoagulation therapy with warfarin. When I worked in group practice at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta I referred my patients to Emory’s Anticoagulation Management Service (AMS), which I found to be a wonderful resource. In fact, “disease management” clinics for anticoagulation are common amongst group practices because of the significant liability issues. Protocol based therapy and dedicated management teams improve outcomes for patients on anticoagulation with warfarin. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Hospitalist*

Why Government Healthcare Is Your Best Bet

A friend who works with the unemployed called me up the other day huffing with indignation. The local charity clinic, apparently overwhelmed, had changed its policies so that her unemployed uninsured would no longer be able to seek care there.

“Someone has to do something!”

Um, what exactly would that be? I’d love to help, but I have bills to pay (as do charity clinics) so I can hardly provide medical care without seeking payment. I understand her desperation (and that of the people she so valiantly helps) but who, exactly, is supposed to do what, precisely?

Things are going to get worse before they get better, I fear. The unemployment issue goes way beyond a devastating economic downturn. It’s a reflection of the most basic economic principle of supply and demand. Wages are the “price” of labor — prices go down when supply goes up. In the case of labor, it’s when you have large numbers of people willing to accept lower wages. Can you say “outsourcing?” Watch as the jobs flow overseas while we’re still left with all these people, but not enough jobs to support themselves. In the meantime they all still need healthcare, but can’t pay for it.

Someone has to do something!

Guess what? It just so happens that we really do have a healthcare infrastructure in this country. Between the Veterans Administration (VA) and public healthcare clinics, we have rather a good start at building a truly national healthcare system. Perhaps now is the time to expand it. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Too Much Data: Can It Overwhelm Doctors And Harm Patients?

One of the supposed strengths of electronic medical records is better tracking of test data. In theory, when using more sophisticated digital systems, doctors can better follow the mountains of test results that they encounter daily.

But a recent study, as written in the WSJ Health Blog, says otherwise. Apparently, a study performed in 2007 found:

VA doctors failed to acknowledge receipt of 368 electronically transmitted alerts about abnormal imaging tests, or one third of the total, during the study period. In 4% of the cases, imaging-test results hadn’t been followed up on four weeks after the test was done. Another study, published in March in the American Journal of Medicine, showed only 10.2% of abnormal lab test results were unacknowledged, but timely follow-up was lacking in 6.8% of cases.

Consider that the VA has what is considered the pinnacle of electronic systems — their unified, VistA program that permeates all their hospitals and clinics. Apparently the problem is one of alert overload:

Hardeep Singh, chief of the health policy and quality program at the Houston VA’s health and policy research center, led both studies. He tells the Health Blog that doctors now receive so many electronic alerts and reminders — as many as 50 each day — that the important ones can get lost in the shuffle.

This is not unlike the alarm fatigue issue that I recently wrote about. Too much data — whether it is written or on the screen — can overwhelm physicians and potentially place patients at harm. Curating test results by prioritizing abnormals will really be the true power of electronic test reporting.

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

When Doctors And Nurses Don’t Get Along

What do you do when doctors and nurses don’t get along? A reader asks for my advice:

Hi Happy,

I have this problem and wanted some advice from someone with more experience dealing with this.

I have been bashed by nurses because they expect me to know all the bureaucratic issues, when you don’t have more than a month in the hospital. I have noticed that nurses get mad, when you give them an instruction  they don’t understand, or they aren’t used to, not because you are wrong, but instead, their lack of ignorance, or their narrow process of thought. One example of this is when they laugh at me cause i prescribed a generic medication of a common drug that they weren’t familiar with the generic name.

Days ago, a first-year family doctor was yelled at badly by some nurse because she filled in the prescription chart where she shouldn’t – she didn’t know because no one told her. I have seen that attitude several times from different nurses – they yell in a very unproper manner. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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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