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11 Healthcare Predictions For 2011

Here are 11 things that are absolutely going to happen* in 2011 (they’re in no particular order….or are they?):

1.  There will be no big compromise between President Obama and the Republicans on healthcare reform. Why? Because the law is such a massive collection of, well, stuff, that it is pretty much impossible to find pieces of it that you could cut a deal on, even if you wanted to. And no, the federal district court decision on the individual mandate doesn’t change my mind…and in fact may breathe new life into other parts of the law). State governments, insurance companies, and private businesses have made all kinds of important and hard to reverse choices based on the law as is. There’s not much of an appetite outside of people trying to score political points for making big changes.

2. No major employer will drop their health benefits. No major employer is going to outsource their healthcare benefits to the government any time soon. Employers — particularly the big self-insured employers that pay for healthcare costs as a bottom-line expense — see their benefits as an integral part of their business and competitive strategies. As Congress looks at this issue more closely, they will learn this.

3. Time that doctors spend with patients will be less in 2011 than earlier years. It’s a long-term trend, and the factors that create this problem aren’t getting better. The latest government data show that the average doctor visit features face to face time with the patient of 15 minutes or less. With an aging population, increasing numbers of people getting health insurance, and no influx of new doctors, this problem will keep getting worse. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Healthcare’s Facebook

[Recently] the Wall Street Journal‘s front page story exposed a significant privacy breech of online personal information via the world’s most popular social networking site, Facebook:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

How could they? Imagine the nerve of marketers using Facebook ID’s to develop profiles on people using little socializing games! Facebook has a privacy policy! I was assured that if I set my privacy settings to “maximum,” this would never happen! To which I say: “Duh!” When it comes to money, people get awfully creative.

So while Facebook grapples with its latest public relations nightmare, we should realize our electronic medical record app vendors are doing exactly the same thing. Worse, it’s perfectly legal, even though each of use has been assured our privacy settings are set to “maximum” through the reassurances of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA). Read more »

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

Doctors And “Alarm Fatigue”: Potential For Patient Harm?

The hospital is never a quiet place. Walk through the wards on a typical day and you’ll hear a cacophony of alarms, bells, and other tones coming from both computers and medical equipment.

American Medical News recently discussed so-called “alarm fatigue.” They cite a study showing find that “16,934 alarms sounded in [a medical] unit during an 18-day period.” That’s astounding, and for those who are wondering, that’s about 40 alarms an hour.

It’s not surprising that doctors become desensitized to these alarms, and that has potential to harm patients, as physicians may miss legitimate, emergent findings. Read more »

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

Electronic Medical Records: What Is “Meaningful Use?”

Quiz:  What does the term “meaningful use” mean?

A.  Using something in a way that gives life purpose and leads to carefree days of glee.

B.  It depends on your definition of the word “term.”

C.  It’s not mean. It’s really nice.

D.  A large number of rules created by the government to assess a practice’s use of electronic medical records (EMRs) so that they can spur adoption, give criteria for incentive rewards, and have physicians in a place where care can be measured.

E.  Job security for those making money off of health IT.

The answer, of course, is D and E. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

Patient Tests, EHRs, And Medical Homes: The Price Isn’t Right

Healthcare reform is forcing medical students to learn about the financial costs of the tests they order, as well as their clinical importance. Once a taboo topic, it’s being openly taught to students to prepare them for practice.

At Harvard, one physician in training duplicated television’s “The Price is Right” to keep his peers guessing at the costs of tests on a patient’s bill. Molly Cooke, FACP, a Regent of the College, encourages doctors to consider the value of the tests they order as they deliver care. (Kaiser Health News, New England Journal of Medicine)

The price isn’t right for electronic medical records. Even $44,000 in stimulus money isn’t enough to make doctors jump into using computers. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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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