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Blogging For Clean Water

This year’s topic for Blog Action Day [was] water. Many of us take clean water for granted, but even in the United States we are finding more and more that our drinking water is contaminated with prescription drugs. Dry years put our water reservoirs at risk and often result in mandatory restrictions on water use.

I am guilty of taking water for granted. I do try to use a full load when washing my clothes. I do turn off the water while brushing my teeth. I don’t water my lawn regularly. But I am still guilt of taking it for granted. I expect clean water to be there for me to drink and use for bathing.

Clean water is not the norm for many in the world. Nearly one billion people lack basic access to safe drinking water. That’s nearly 1 out of every 8 of us. Organizations like CharityWater.org are trying to bring clean wells to areas in Africa that lack clean water.

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*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Stem Cell Face-Lifts?

It’s been almost a month since the LA Times ran the article by Chris Woolston entitled  The Healthy Skeptic: Stem cell face-lifts on unproven ground. It’s well written and presents a fairly balanced view. While I am a fan of stem cell research, I think the “claims” are often put ahead of the science.  This is one of those times. I can’t find any decent articles to support the claims of the plastic surgeons doing “stem cell face-lifts.”

My view is echoed in the article (bold emphasis is mine):

Rubin says he’s excited about the potential of stem cells in the cosmetic field and beyond. Still, he adds, there are many unanswered questions about the cosmetic use of stem cells, and anyone who claims to have already mastered the technique is jumping the gun. As Rubin puts it, “Claims are being made that are not supported by the evidence.”

While researchers in Asia, Italy, Israel and elsewhere are reporting decent cosmetic results with injections of stem cell-enriched fat, Rubin says that nobody really knows how the stem cells themselves are behaving. He points out that fat injections alone can improve a person’s appearance, no stem cells needed.

Rubin believes it’s possible that injected stem cells could create new collagen and blood vessels — as they have been shown to do in animals studies — but such results have never been proved in humans. And, he adds, the long-term effects of the procedures are an open question.

Stem cell face-lifts could someday offer real advances, says Dr. Michael McGuire, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and a clinical associate professor of surgery at UCLA. But he believes that scientists are still at least 10 years away from reliably harnessing stem cells to create new collagen and younger-looking skin. Until then, promises of a quick stem cell face-lift are a “scam,” he says.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) issued a statement two weeks after the article first appeared. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

When Doctors Opt Out Of Medicare

I opted out of Medicare several years ago. This means I don’t see Medicare patients other than in the emergency room when I’m on unassigned call. I don’t submit bills to Medicare or to those patients. I just let it slide.

Last Wednesday I received the following letter from a large radiology group in my home town:

September 2010

RE:  PECOS Enrollment

To our referring physicians and their office managers:

At __________we have begun a project to identify ordering physicians who are not enrolled in Medicare’s Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS).  Our purpose is to remind physicians of the importance of enrollment to them and to us.

Beginning in January, 2011 those providers filing Medicare claims listing an NPI number on the claim of an unenrolled provider will have their claims denied.  This would apply to any claim you send in and to any claim we submit for services provided to your patients because we are required to list your NPI number on our claims.  This applies both to patients referred to our private offices and the hospitals where we provide radiology professional interpretations or services.

So, you can see our effort is not purely altruistic.  We have a financial interest in reminding you of the importance of PECOS enrollment.  In trying to ascertain whether you are enrolled, we are using an online program you can find at www.oandp.com/pecos.  Simply enter your NPI number in the entry block and press enter.  If you enter a valid NPI number, your name will appear and beside it will be a symbol indicating where Medicare recognizes your PECOS enrollment.

Since Medicare is continually updating the files, we may have accessed the system before your enrollment was completed.  We will continue to monitor the situation in hopes you will enroll if you intend to continue seeing Medicare patients.  If you have already enrolled or have no plans to enroll, please excuse our intrusion.

Sincerely,

This bothers me. It is not likely that I will be sending them any patients from my office, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional patient with my name on their chart in the ER. If I need to take a Medicare patient to the operating room from the ER, will the hospital not get paid? Will the anesthesiologist not get paid?

Will my non-participation in Medicare affect my fellow healthcare providers receiving payment? If so, that is just not right. I voiced this concern to Senator Blanche Lincoln shortly after receiving this letter. She agrees with me. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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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