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Nurse Anesthetists: Allowed To Work Without Doctor Supervision?

New Jersey’s state health department is considering a rule that would allow nurse anesthetists to work without a doctor’s supervision, as long as there’s a plan to reach one in case of an emergency. New Jersey would join the 30 states that allow nurse anesthetists to work without direct supervision.

On the other end of the country, a California court upheld the state’s decision to opt out of a Medicare requirement that doctors be present while a nurse anesthetist works in order to be reimbursed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have allowed states to opt out of that requirement since 2001.

Since then, there has been no evidence of increased inpatient deaths or complications, researchers reported in the August 2010 issue of Health Affairs. Earlier this month, the Institute of Medicine reported that nurses should have a larger role in medical care, including anesthesiology.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Accountable Care Organizations: The Gathering Storm?

Those of you who’ve read this blog for any length of time know that I have been a pretty strong advocate for healthcare reform. This has been primarily motivated by my passion for universal coverage, but also with my frustration with the cost of the current healthcare system, the generally crummy outcomes, and the overall level of fragmentation in the whole affair.

Even today, I had to repeat blood tests on a cancer patient who came to the ER. He had had blood tests at the cancer center ACROSS THE STREET before presenting, but, so sorry, our computers don’t talk to theirs and it’s after 5pm now, so forget about getting those results. 

So it’s with a mixture of enthusiasm and dread that I consider the coming onslaught of accountable care organizations (ACOs). What are ACOs? They’re the buzzword of the day, that’s for sure. Everybody knows they’re the next big thing. They’re coming. We’ll all be in an ACO by next Tuesday for sure. It’ll be nirvana. Right? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

Medicare: Should It Pay Less For Less-Effective Care?

From its inception, Medicare has been agnostic about the effectiveness of different treatments when it sets payment rates. Once a treatment is found to be “reasonable and necessary,” Medicare establishes a payment rate that takes into account complexity and other “inputs” that go into delivering the service. But it is prohibited by law from varying payments based on how well an intervention works.

This would change under a “dynamic pricing” approach proposed by two experts in this month’s issue of Health Affairs. The article itself is available only to Health Affairs subscribers, but the Wall Street Journal health blog has a good summary.

The researchers propose that Medicare pay more for therapies with “superior” results and the same for two therapies with comparable effectiveness. A new service without any evidence on its relative effectiveness would be reimbursed in the usual way for the first three years, during which research would be conducted on its comparative effectiveness. If such research found that the service was less effective than other interventions, Medicare would have the authority to reduce payments. If it was found to be more effective, Medicare could pay more than for other available interventions. The WSJ blog gives an example of how this would work. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Emergency Rooms Overused For Routine Care

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (our government’s name for healthcare reform) may make our already crowded emergency rooms swarm with more patients.

A new study from Health Affairs shows that more than a quarter of patients who currently visit emergency departments in the U.S. are there for routine care and not an emergency. New complaints like stomach pain, skin rashes, fever, chest pain, cough or for a flare up of a chronic condition should not be treated in emergency rooms. They are best worked up and treated by an internist or family physician, preferably one who knows the patient. So why are these patients waiting for hours and spending up to 10 times as much money for emergency department care? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Does Defensive Medicine Cost Less Than Doctors Think?

Nothing polarizes the heath care debate more than defensive medicine. A recent study from Health Affairs will only add more fuel to the fire.

Here’s what I wrote a couple of years ago in USA Today: “When you consider that rampant testing is a major driver of escalating health care dollars, addressing defensive medicine should be a primary goal of cost containment.”

Is that still true? Well, yes and no. Read more »

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

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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