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CMS “Never Events” Incentivize Physicians To Avoid Caring For High Risk Patients

In 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it would no longer pay for the treatment of “never events,” i.e., certain medical conditions in hospitalized patients which the Feds deem to be universally avoidable under all circumstances. These conditions included:

* Decubitus ulcers
* Two kinds of catheter-associated infections
* Air embolism
* Mediastinitis after coronary bypass surgery
* Transfusing patients with the wrong blood type
* Leaving objects inside surgery patients
* In-hospital falls

Then, having been delighted with the results of its original list (or dismayed that healthcare costs continued to skyrocket despite its original list) CMS subsequently proposed declaring several new conditions as “never events,” including: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

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*

Employee Health: The First “Benefits Package” Blog Carnival

Welcome to The Benefits Package — the very first employee benefits blog carnival. After healthcare reform, employee benefits move to center stage as one of the most important issues facing Americans.

So what are employers, insurers, and the government really doing to rein in healthcare costs, get their employees to live healthier lives, and improve healthcare quality?

The Benefits Package is the first-ever blog carnival dedicated to these issues. With benefits executives starting to make the leap into the blogosphere, The Benefits Package will highlight the best insights and opinions on this important subject. You will discover new blogs, learn new things, and hopefully think about issues a little differently. I’ll host the first couple of Benefits Packages, and then others will take their turn.

Below you’ll find a terrific set of posts by some true thought leaders. If you like what you see, please submit a post of your own next time. Enjoy the first Benefits Package!

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At the Health Business Blog, David Williams explains why mini-med plans aren’t as bad as some people would have you believe.

At Hank Stern’s Insure Blog, Mike Feehan explains how the federal government makes private coverage more expensive in a way that makes its own coverage cheaper.

Jen Benz of the Benz Communications Blog explains that companies who fail to put their benefits information online are making a big mistake. Read more »

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

Getting Quality And Profit Out Of Medicine

Looking for a great story about the state of hospital care in America? Look no further. The Health Care Blog has a great article by hospitalist Dr. Robert Wachter that sums it up nicely. It’s about money. Thats how hospitals get paid. That’s how everyone gets paid. It will always be about money. We don’t pay doctors, nurses, or administrators with smiley faces and candy canes. We pay them with cold hard cash. For example:

One of the physicians, an invasive cardiologist, stopped me in my tracks. “Actually, our hospital already provides a tremendous amount of support and feedback,” he said. “When I perform a catheterization or angioplasty, a hospital staff member watches the entire procedure, she sometimes suggests mid-course corrections, and as soon as I’m done she provides me detailed feedback on whether I met all the best practice standards.”

“Wow,” I said. “Your hospital is really taking quality seriously!”

“Oh,” he replied, mischievous smile on his face, “she’s not from the quality department. She’s from the billing department.”

The question should not be how do you get profit out of medicine. The question should be how do you get quality into profit. We need profit. The last thing you want in this country is universal VA health care. Trust me on that. Americans would never stand for it. But how do you get both? Read more »

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

Why Comparing The Performance Of Doctors Is Trouble

Who do you think is likely to be a better doctor: A board certified graduate of one of the top medical schools in America, or a non-certified doctor trained in a foreign country?

If your answer is “I have absolutely no idea,” then you’re probably spending a lot of time looking at the “report cards” that pass for measures of health care quality. And you’re probably confused.

Researchers in Pittsburgh studied 124 process-based quality measures in 30 clinical areas. These process measures are the state-of-the-art ways in which government and private insurers are checking up on the quality of medical care. They include things like making sure patients with heart problems are prescribed aspirin, and that women get Pap smears. The researchers compared these measures against other, simpler measures, like medical education, board certification, malpractice claim payments, and disciplinary actions.

The result? You couldn’t tell the differences among doctors. Read more »

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

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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