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Free Drug Samples Or Hospital Hotels: The Greater Evil?

Many folks criticize pharmaceutical companies for providing physicians’ offices with free drug samples. They claim that this giveaway harms consumers because drug companies must raise their prices to cover the costs of these freebies. Of course, this is undeniable. Any business expense, such as payroll or advertising, has to be covered and is expectedly borne by the consumer. If a company chooses not to advertise, outsources manufacturing to a country with cheaper labor, offers limited benefits to its employees, then they can sell their product at a low price. In this hypothetical example, anemic sales may doom the company quickly.

Naturally, free samples are not really free. The rest of us pay for them. While this is true, I don’t think it is evil. Unlike the U.S. government, at least drug companies are covering their costs and not simply borrowing money every year to meet budget. Interesting concept.

Two of the community hospitals I work at have undergone transformations. One is owned by the dominant health care behemoth in Cleveland and has just completed a near $200 million renovation and expansion. The other smaller hospital is one of the few remaining Cleveland area hospitals that are still independent. I’d like to sneak there at night and hoist up a “Live Free or Die” flag up the flagpole, to delebrate its independent streak, but I’m sure that there are video cameras everywhere and that I would be in violation of several bylaws. The apt punishment might be that I would have to spend a cold Cleveland night chainedto the flagpole reading electronic medical record manuals out loud. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Concierge Medicine: The Cost Of Healthcare “Room Service” And Other Hospital Amenities

A per­spec­tive in [a recent] NEJM con­sid­ers the Emerg­ing Impor­tance of Patient Ameni­ties in Patient Care. The trend is that more hos­pi­tals lure patients with hotel-like ameni­ties: Room ser­vice, mag­nif­i­cent views, mas­sage ther­apy, fam­ily rooms and more. These ser­vices sound great, and by some mea­sures can serve an institution’s bot­tom line more effec­tively than spend­ing funds on top-notch spe­cial­ists or state-of-the-art equipment.

Think­ing back on the last time I vis­ited some­one at Sloan Kettering’s inpa­tient unit, and I mean­dered into the bright lounge on the 15th floor, stocked with books, games, videos and other signs of life, I thought how good it is for patients and their fam­i­lies to have a non-clinical area like this. The “extra” facil­ity is privately-funded, although it does take up a rel­a­tively small bit of valu­able New York City hos­pi­tal space (what might oth­er­wise be a research lab or a group of nice offices for physi­cians or, dare I say, social work­ers) seems wonderful.

If real healthcare isn’t an even-sum expense prob­lem, I see no issue with this kind of hos­pi­tal accou­trement. As for room ser­vice and order­ing oat­meal for break­fast instead of insti­tu­tional pan­cakes with a side of thaw­ing orange “juice,” chicken salad sand­wiches, fresh sal­ads or broiled salmon instead of receiv­ing glop on a tray, that’s poten­tially less waste­ful and, depend­ing on what you choose, health­ier. As for yoga and med­i­ta­tion ses­sions, there’s rarely harm and, maybe occa­sion­ally, good (i.e. value).

But what if those resources draw funds away from nec­es­sary med­i­cines, bet­ter soft­ware for safer CT scans and phar­ma­cies, and hir­ing more doc­tors, nurses or aides? (I’ve never been in a hos­pi­tal where the nurses weren’t short-staffed.) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

About Concierge Or “Boutique” Medicine

A recent piece in The New York Times wondered if the few patients who can afford to pay for additional attention and access to their primary care doctors in a concierge medicine or boutique medicine practice might be ethical since the extra dollars are used to support the traditional primary care practice that the vast majority of patients currently receive. 

Questions you might ask are:

– What is a concierge medicine or boutique medicine practice?
– Is it worth the money?
– Is the care better quality?
– Is it possible to get similar access and care by doctors not in a concierge or boutique medicine practice?

When you think of a concierge, you think about a fancy hotel staff person who answers questions and speaks various languages, books reservations to restaurants, events, and tours (even sold-out attractions) — right? The hotel concierge is your insider, someone who possesses intimate knowledge of the city and recommends must-see sites like a true local. You are personally cared for and pampered. Imagine, then, your physician providing the same attentive service. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Is “Minimally Disruptive Medicine” An Emerging Field?

I recently stumbled onto the “Minimally Disruptive Medicine” blog maintained by Dr. Victor Montori from the Mayo Clinic. I have to admit that the name caught my attention so I scoped it out.

According to Dr. Montori, “minimally disruptive medicine refers to the practice of medicine that seeks to design effective treatment programs for patients while minimizing the burden of treatment.”  He describes this as an emerging field.

I have to admit that I was simultaneously puzzled and intrigued. After all, how is this different from the way good medicine is practiced? I, for one, like to think that I create individually-tailored programs that meet my patients’ needs while minimizing their treatment burden. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Concierge Medicine: Not Just For Primary Care Anymore

Concierge medicine isn’t just for internal medicine or primary care anymore. It seems the concept is starting to take hold in cardiology, too:

Starting April 1, patients at Pacific Heart Institute can choose one of four plans for care. In the first option, they pay no “participation fee.” In the second option, called “Select,” they pay $500 a year for priority appointments, warfarin adjustments, defibrillator and pacemaker follow-up, notification of non-urgent lab, and test results, according to Pacific Heart Institute.

In the third option, called “Premier,” they pay $1,800, for everything in “Select,” plus e-mail communication with their doctor, same-day visits during regular office hours, priority lab testing and scheduling of diagnostics, free attendance at speaker seminars on cardiovascular issues, and a dedicated phone line to reach an institute nurse.
 
In the fourth option, “Concierge,” they pay $7,500 for everything in “Premier,” plus direct 24-hour access to a cardiologist via pager, e-mail, text message, plus the patient’s PHI cardiologist’s personal cell phone, annual personalized cardiovascular wellness screening, night and weekend access to a PHI cardiologist for hospital or emergency services, (regardless of whether he or she is on call) same-day visits with the cardiologist, evening and weekend office appointments and personal calls from the cardiologist.

-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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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