Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Prediction: Physicians Will Retire Earlier And Earlier Because Medicine Is No Longer Fun

I wonder if we’re in danger of stifling fun in medicine.

Certainly there are still fun things to do in medicine (ablating a pesky accessory pathway safely, for instance). But as I watch the newly-minted medical school graduates emerge from their long, sheltered educational cocoon, I wonder what their attrition rate will be from medicine once they see our new more-robotic form of health care community.

There is a social camaraderie in medicine when you train. Maybe it’s the “misery loves company” syndrome. In medical school you stick together through thick and thin because few others understand what you’re going through. You strive for the day when, collectively, you earn the designation of “doctor of medicine.” There’s a strength in numbers.

But as our work flows become regimented, our geographic coverage areas more dispersed, and our hours more fragmented, I’ve seen the loss of the collegiality of the doctor’s lounge being replaced with the coldness of e-mail blasts. I’ve seen the loss of summer picnics with my colleagues’ families replaced with “Doctor Appreciation Day.” After work get-togethers that included our spouses and kids are have long since gone – most of us just want to get back home to re-group for the next day ahead. Read more »

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

Why Industry Largess Is A Necessary Part Of Good Healthcare

Largesse: (Form thefreedictionary.com):

1. a. Liberality in bestowing gifts, especially in a lofty or condescending manner.
b. Money or gifts bestowed.

2. Generosity of spirit or attitude.

Two days into last week’s Heart Rhythm Society meeting, Propublica, an independent online investigative journalism-in-the-public-interest endeavor published a series of high profile articles as part of their Dollars for Docs series. Their marquee piece, published prominently in the USA Today, chronicled the strong financial ties (the ‘largesse’) that bind medical societies to industry. Reporters Charlie Ornstein and Tracy Weber highlighted the meeting’s ‘mansion’-sized exhibits, intense advertising, and the fact that most of the opinion leaders, officers of medical societies and guideline writers, the experts, have financial ties with medical device companies. More than half of HRS’ revenues came from industry.

Well.

I’ll offer four simple thoughts about all this conflict:

1. Nothing about industry influence at medical meetings is new news. I have been attending medical meetings for nearly twenty years, and industry has always been there. And here’s something you don’t read much about: it was far worse then. That’s all I will say about that. I won’t tell you how cool it was seeing the Charlie Daniels Band play at a medical meeting for free.

You can quibble with the extent of these current-day “cozy” relationships, or the glitz of exhibits at our gatherings, but you should also know that there is progress. The show is now out in the open. There is infinitely more disclosure. Smart people are now watching, tweeting, and reporting. Any doctor who’s been around more than a few years will agree that things have grown increasing more transparent. Which I believe is an improvement. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Cardiologists Not Needed: A Nurse And A Computer Will Do

Wait…

Before reading any further, I would like to issue a warning. If your ideas about healthcare delivery are of an older ilk; if you cling white-knuckled to past dogma, please stop reading now. What follows may cause your atria to fibrillate.

Last month I wrote that the best tool for treating atrial fibrillation (AF) was to give patients information—to teach them about their AF, its complications, role of lifestyle factors and the many treatment options. I didn’t say this was easy. In fact, thoroughly explaining AF takes nearly the same time it takes me to isolate the pulmonary veins–a lot longer than the 10 minutes allotted for a typical office visit. (Remember: of a 30 minute office visit, I have to review your chart, listen attentively to your story, examine you, and complete the e-record. That doesn’t leave much time for teaching.)

I was serious about the role of education in AF therapy, but I didn’t have any hard data to support such a bold claim. All I could offer was 15 years of experience on the front lines of treating AF—cardiology’s most expensive and prevalent disease.

But now I have found some real-world data to support the thesis that good teaching translates to better AF outcomes. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Physicians Pressured Not To Order Tests, Then Sued If They Don’t

Cardiologists in Connecticut are standing up to the lack of liability protection in the state’s new low-income health plan called SustiNet:

The SustiNet program would create large pools of people, including those who can’t currently afford health insurance, that would theoretically drive down premium costs by competing with the plans of private insurers. Among other cost savings, it would designate a single doctor or practice for each patient, to reduce emergency care use, and create new “best-use” procedures for a variety of ailments to reduce the number of tests doctors order.

But a key provision of the plan was that doctors, in return for following the new procedures and ordering fewer tests, would be protected from malpractice suits if the outcome of a case was not favorable for the patient. However, with backing from the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, that provision was removed from the SustiNet bill two weeks ago.

Cardiologists are considered a particularly important group for the new best-use procedures because they tend to order a battery of expensive tests when patients show signs of heart trouble. If specialists like them failed to participate in the SustiNet program, cutting medical costs could be more difficult.

On Tuesday, the Connecticut chapter of the American College of Cardiology withdrew its support for the bill and said that it would circulate an open letter to House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy saying that it could not support the bill without the malpractice protection.

As screws continue to get tightened on doctors’ ability to order tests thanks to third-party oversight bodies, look for more physicians to play hardball about liability limits at both the state AND national levels.

Doctors are being forced to do do their part to control health care costs as a result of our increasingly government-controlled health care initiatives. It’s high time for the trial lawyers’ to do the same. And there’s already precedent to doing so: just look to the legal protections military doctors enjoy when caring for their members. While legal recourse still exists in the military, the challenge of suing the government on behalf of their employees thwarts frivolous claims.

-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.


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

Physician Salaries Increase In Academia And Primary Care

Academic faculty physicians in primary and specialty care reported slight pay increases, according to the Medical Group Management Association.

Go. by Shayne Kaye via Flickr/Creative Commons licenseThe organization’s Academic Practice Compensation and Production Survey for Faculty and Management: 2011 Report Based on 2010 Data, annual compensation for internal medicine primary care faculty physicians increased by 6.84% since 2009, and increased 4.46% between 2008 and 2009.

Median compensation for all primary care faculty physicians was $163,704, an increase of 3.47% since 2009, and median compensation for specialty care faculty was $241,959, an increase of 2.7% since 2009.

Department chairs and chiefs received the greatest compensation, $292,243 for primary care faculty and $482,293 for specialty care faculty. Primary care professors received $190,815 in compensation and specialty care professors received $268,786. 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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »