OP-ED

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.27.35 PMAt 3PM EST on December 10, 2014, medical and dental students at over 70 schools participated in the “National White Coat Die-In.” The event was organized on Facebook and spearheaded by students at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine who described the event as “a demonstration in response to the events in Ferguson and New York because #BlackLivesMatter.”

Across the country, there have been numerous protests against the grand jury’s decision in Fergurson, Mo. not to indict officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenage boy. Similarly, in Staten island, NY, the grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, using a banned chokehold.

Continue reading “#Whitecoats4Blacklives”

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Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 2.27.00 PMI was enjoying drinks last week with Jody Holtzman (AARP)Terry Booker (IBC), and Doug Ghertner (change:healthcare) at a wonderful conference sponsored by Oliver Wyman. Jody was waxing eloquent about how every start-up needs a strategy for the senior population, when – after a few too many drinks – I emphatically told everyone at the table that I had the senior market cracked. I had experienced first hand the ills of the American health care system for seniors and had identified the perfect solutions.

My father-in-law grew up on a small, Kosher dairy farm outside of Pennsylvania (insert Jewish farmer joke here). He is 72 years old, he was about 40 pounds overweight, he has been widowed for about four years, and, about 30 minutes after my mother-in-law passed away, he started dating a woman that my wife never quite accepted, which is akin to saying that Russia is watching events unfold in the Ukraine from the sidelines (and to be clear, I don’t condone either position).

In January of this year, he was jumping from a backhoe onto a helicopter pad (don’t ask), fell 6 feet, and shattered his heel. The heel is a terrible bone to break in general (poor circulation) and, in particular, for someone who is older and a bit overweight (my goal is to not use the word “patient” once in this article because we aren’t patients, we’re people). Continue reading “Starvation: The Cure For the Obesity Epidemic. Or Will Esther Dyson Be My Next Mother-In-Law?”

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flying cadeuciiJust as the Bear Stearns implosion presaged the 2008 financial crisis, the events of the last few days, building on earlier events, are presaging the collapse of the “pry, poke, prod and punish” outsourced, vendored wellness industry.

For those readers still living in Biosphere 2, here is a brief review of how we got here.  First among the precursors was Honeywell’s completely voluntary self-immolation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  We’re not sure how their benefits consultants failed to advise  that all they needed to do was offer a simple wellness program alternative that didn’t require medical exams, and there was no way they’d get hit with an  EEOC lawsuit. But, then again, no one ever went broke underestimating the ability of benefits consultants to misinform their clients.

Second, the Business Roundtable (BRT) decided to go to the mat with the President over this EEOC-wellness issue.  They are essentially demanding to retain their Constitutional rights to deplete their treasuries while harming and alienating their employees without intrusion from the pesky EEOC. Continue reading “The Wellness Industry’s Terrible, Horrible No-Good Very Bad Week”

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Martin SamuelsPundits abound when it comes to health care plans. They come from many different backgrounds: conservatives, liberals, academics, business people, doctors, politicians and more often all the time various combinations of these. But they all have one characteristic in common. They all want a different kind of health care for themselves and their families than they profess for everyone else.

I am acutely aware of this as I am in a position that demands that I find special appointments for them. A day virtually never passes when I don’t receive requests (often many in a single day) for me to either see these people myself or arrange for their special care elsewhere, including other parts of the county and the world. My own personal ethical code of conduct prevents me from mentioning their names or anything that could identify them. Suffice it to say that I have yet to see a single exception to this principle.

Continue reading “The Anti-Hypocrisy Rule”

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C-Dif

No one wants a hospital-acquired infection—a wound infection, a central line infection, or any other kind.  But today, the level of concern in American hospitals about infection rates has reached a new peak—better termed paranoia than legitimate concern.

The fear of infection is leading to the arbitrary institution of brand new rules. These aren’t based on scientific research involving controlled studies.  As far as I can tell, these new rules are made up by people who are under pressure to create the appearance that action is being taken.

Here’s an example.  An edict just came down in one big-city hospital that all scrub tops must be tucked into scrub pants. The “Association of periOperative Registered Nurses” (AORN) apparently thinks that this is more hygienic because stray skin cells may be less likely to escape, though there is no data proving that surgical infection rates will decrease as a result.  Surgeons, anesthesiologists, and OR nurses are confused, amused, and annoyed in varying degrees.  Some are paying attention to the new rule, and many others are ignoring it.  One OR supervisor stopped an experienced nurse and told to tuck in her scrub top while she was running to get supplies for an emergency aortic repair, raising (in my mind at least) a question of misplaced priorities.

Continue reading “Germs. The Pseudoscience of Quality Improvement”

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Mean Joe SmithThere’s a mantra in healthcare right now to “drive patient engagement.” The idea is that informed and engaged patients play a crucial role in improving the quality of care our health system delivers. With the right information, these healthcare consumers will be more active participants in their care, select providers based on quality and value metrics, demand appropriate, high-quality, high-value services and choose treatment options wisely after a thorough process of shared decision-making.

This drive for patient engagement often fails to recognize one important truth: Our healthcare system inadvertently, yet potently, discourages engagement. It ignores the fact that the patient is already the most engaged person in healthcare. The patient bears the disease, the pain, the scar – and, ultimately, the bill. In our search for greater engagement, we must realize what the comic strip Pogo said years ago – “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Continue reading “Why We’re Getting Patient Engagement Backwards”

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Bob WachterThe policy known as Meaningful Use was designed to ensure that clinicians and hospitals actually used the computers they bought with the help of government subsidies. In the last few months, though, it has become clear that the policy is failing. Moreover, the federal office that administers it is losing leaders faster than American Idol is losing viewers.

Because I believe that Meaningful Use is now doing more harm than good, I see these events as positive developments. To understand why, we need to review the history of federal health IT policy, including the historical accident that gave birth to Meaningful Use.

I date the start of the modern era of health IT to January 20, 2004 when, in his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush made it a national goal to wire the U.S. healthcare system. A few months later, he created the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), and gave it a budget of $42 million to get the ball rolling.

Continue reading “RIP Meaningful Use Born 2009 – Died 2014???”

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flying cadeuciiFor a while now, I’ve been working on an ebook about making digital health more useful and usable for older adults.

(Don’t hold your breath, I really have no idea when it will be done. I can only work on it for about an hour every weekday.)

In reflecting on the health innovation conferences and conversations in which I’ve participated these past few years, I found myself musing over the following two questions:

1. What is health?
2. What does it mean to help someone with their health?

Three Components

After all, whether you are a clinician, a health care expert, or a digital health entrepreneur, helping people with their health is the core mission. So one would think we’d be clear on what we’re talking about, when we use terms like health and health care.

But in fact, it’s not at all obvious. In practical parlance, we bandy around the terms health and health care as we refer to a wide array of things.

Actually defining health has, of course, been addressed by experts and committees. The World Health Organization’s definition is succinct, but hasn’t been updated since 1948:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

A more recent attempt to define health, described in this 2011 BMJ editorial, proposed health as “’the ability to adapt and self manage’ in the face of social, physical, and emotional challenges.”

This left me scratching my head a bit, since it sounded more like a definition of one’s resilience, or self-efficacy. Which intuitively seem much related to health (however we define it), but not quite the same thing.

I found myself itching for a definition of health that would help me frame what I perceive as the health – and life – challenges of my older patients.

Continue reading “Health Care for Dummies (and Innovators): In search of a practical definition of health”

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flying cadeuciiThe Dallas/Fort Worth Healthcare Daily ran a fascinating excerpt from the Steve Jacob’s book So Long, Marcus Welby, M.D.* The excerpt contained some very interesting assertions and statistics. For example:

  • Consultant PwC, relying on that Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, estimated that malpractice insurance and defensive medicine accounted for 10 percent of total health-care costs. A 2010 Health Affairs article more conservatively pegged those costs at 2.4 percent of healthcare spending.
  • In a 2010 survey, U.S. orthopedic surgeons bluntly admitted that about 30 percent of tests and referrals were medically unnecessary and done to reduce physician vulnerability to lawsuits.
  • A 2011 analysis by the American Medical Association found that the average amount to defend a lawsuit in 2010 was $47,158, compared with $28,981 in 2001. The average cost to pay a medical liability claim—whether it was a settlement, jury award or some other disposition—was $331,947, compared with $297,682 in 2001.
  • Doctors spend significant time fighting lawsuits, regardless of outcome. The average litigated claim lingered for 25 months. Doctors spent 20 months defending cases that were ultimately dismissed, while claims going to trial took 39 months. Doctors who were victorious in court spent an average of 44 months in litigation.
  • A study in The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that by age 65 about 75 percent of physicians in low-risk specialties have been the target of at least one lawsuit, compared with about 99 percent of those in high-risk specialties.
  • According to Brian Atchinson, president of the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA), 70 percent of legal claims do not result in payments to patients, and physician defendants prevail 80 percent of time in claims resolved by verdict. Continue reading “A Culture of Overtreatment”
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Montoya

“Prepare to Die”, said Inigo Montoya to the six fingered man.

Reimbursement, prepare to die.

Doctors get reimbursed? Interesting….

Do Lawyers get reimbursed? Do accountants get reimbursed? When you send your check to pay for your Aetna premiums, are you reimbursing them?

The last time I checked, the act of being reimbursed implies that a person gave money and awaiting for someone to give them the money back.

Let’s take a quick look at Webster’s Dictionary.
reimburse |ˌrē-imˈbərs|
verb [ with obj. ]
repay (a person who has spent or lost money): the investors should be reimbursed for their losses.

• repay (a sum of money that has been spent or lost): they spend thousands of dollars that are not reimbursed by insurance.
#wtf
How did it come to pass that doctors don’t get paid, but reimbursed?

Continue reading “Reimbursement, Prepare to Die!”

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