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AHRQ: Please Get A Social Media Strategy

Last night, I saw a commercial produced by the federal government.  Called “Questions are the Answer,” it’s a call for patients to be engaged in their medical care, to ask questions of their doctors in order to be sure of their medical condition.

The commercial was excellent – it showed a man asking dozens of increasingly arcane questions about a cell phone he was thinking of buying.  Then, it showed him in his doctor’s office, apparently after getting a diagnosis.  “Do you have any questions?” the doctor asks.  “Nope,” says the man.

The government agency that produced the commercial is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  There are a series of other videos and tools that can help you be a better, more informed consumer if you get sick.

The only catch:  it’s almost impossible to find any of this great material.   Read more »

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

Consumer-Directed Healthcare Leader, OptumHealth, Wants To Influence How Patients Choose Their Care

robwebb1OptumHealth is one of the largest health and wellness companies in the United States, providing services to about 58 million people. It is the umbrella organization for 12 consumer-directed healthcare companies recently purchased by UnitedHealth Group. I caught up with the CEO of OptumHealth Care Solutions, Rob Webb, at Health 2.0 to find out what they’re up to and how they’re hoping to contribute to healthcare reform.

Dr. Val: What does Optum Health do?

Webb: We work with about 300,000 people a day. We’re focused on the consumer-provider interaction and we try to help consumers make better decisions in four key areas: 1) help them find the right provider for their needs,  2) to provide them with an unbiased set of information about what their treatment options are 3) optimize their pharmaceutical regimens and medication compliance and 4) help them improve their lifestyle choices. In the past we focused a lot of our efforts on #3 because it’s so tangible and there’s an entire PBM (pharmacy benefits management) industry to help. Read more »

How Should We Define Medical Malpractice?

Ezra kindly responds to my post from Friday with a more reasoned stance than “just don’t commit malpractice.” His response, however, boils down to two main theses:

  1. Frivolous Lawsuits are not as common as generally thought, and
  2. Standardization can reduce the opportunity for error and thus decrease the frequency of medical malpractice suits.

Well, yes, but I’m not sure that addresses the typical physician’s complaints regarding the current med-mal system.

For example, the “frivolous” moniker is a pretty ambiguous term, especially to doctors’ loose understanding of legal terminology. To a physician, a “frivolous” case is one in which there was no error — where the standard of care was met, but perhaps the outcome was bad. Or to put it another way, doctors tend to feel that when they are vindicated in court, it’s prima facie evidence that the case was frivolous. This conviction is bolstered by the little-recognized fact that physicians win the vast majority of cases that actually go to trial, and the vast majority of claims filed do not result in a financial settlement. Read more »

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

Quality-Based Medicare Payments: Will They Kill Private Practice?

It’s the holy grail of physician payment reform: ending fee-for-service payments to doctors and, instead, pay doctors based on the quality of care they perform. Remarkably, Congress feels they’ve found the answer:

Thus, the new language in the Senate Finance bill would finally connect Medicare reimbursements to quality, as opposed to volume.

The measure gives the secretary of Health and Human Services, working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the power to develop quality measurements and a payment structure that would be based on quality of care relative to the cost of care. The secretary would have to account for variables that include geographic variations, demographic characteristics of a region, and the baseline health status of a given provider’s Medicare beneficiaries.

The secretary would also be required to account for special conditions of providers in rural and underserved communities.

Additionally, the quality assessments would be done on a group-practice level, as opposed to a statewide level. Thus, the amendment would reward physicians who deliver quality health care even if they are in a relatively low quality region.

The secretary of Health and Human Services would begin to implement the new payment structure in 2015. By 2017, all physician payments would need to be based on quality.

Wow. That sounds great! But there’s just one problem…

… how do we define “quality?”
Read more »

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

Interview With Paul Levy: How To Protect Yourself In The Hospital

My friend and fellow blogger, Paul Levy, is the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston. He was recently listed as one of the “top 9 people to watch in healthcare” – thanks to his pioneering efforts on behalf of patient safety and transparency of hospital quality data.

I recently interviewed Paul to get his take on how patients can plan for a safe hospital stay, and what Paul is doing at BIDMC to advance quality care for all. Many thanks to Johnson & Johnson for the unrestricted grant that allowed me to create the videos.

Check out Johnson & Johnson’s YouTube Health Channel for more great videos.

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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