Sunday, February 17, 2019

Physicians

Physicians
The doctor is in ...

Comprehensiveness is Killing Primary Care

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By HANS DUVEFELT, MD

Dr. Hans Duvefelt

In most other human activities there are two speeds, fast and slow. Usually, one dominates. Think firefighting versus bridge design. Healthcare spans from one extreme to the other. Think Code Blue versus diabetes care.

Primary Care was once a place where you treated things like earaches and unexplained weight loss in appointments of different length with documentation of different complexity. By doing both in the same clinic over the lifespan of patients, an aggregate picture of each patient was created and curated.

A patient with an earache used to be in and out in less than five minutes. That doesn’t happen anymore. Not that doctors and clinics wouldn’t love to work that way, but we are severely penalized for providing quick access and focused care for our well-established patients.

Fixing America’s Health Care Reimbursement System

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A tempest is brewing in physician circles over how doctors are paid. But calming it will require more than just the action of physicians. It will demand the attention and influence of businesses and patient advocates who, outside the health industrial complex, bear the brunt of the nation’s skyrocketing health care costs.

Much responsibility for America’s inequitable health care payment system and its cost crisis is embedded in the informal but symbiotic relationship between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the American Medical Association’s Relative Value System Update Committee — also known as the RUC. For two decades, the RUC, a specialist-dominated panel, has encouraged national health care reimbursement policy that financially undervalues the challenges associated with primary care’s management of complicated patients, while favoring often unnecessarily complex, costly and excessive medical services. For its part, CMS has provided mostly rubber-stamp acceptance of the RUC’s recommendations. If America’s primary care societies noisily left the RUC, they would de-legitimize the panel’s role in driving the American health system’s immense waste and pave the way for a more fair and enlightened approach to reimbursement.

As it is, though, unnecessary health care costs are sucking the life out of the American economy. Over the past 11 years, health care premium inflation has risen nearly four times as fast as the rest of the economy. Health care costs nearly double those in other developed nations have put U.S. corporations at a severe competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace.

The Massachusetts Medical Society on Meaningful Use

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Massachusetts Medical Society President Dr. Dennis Dimitri sent the following comments on Meaningful Use Stage III and the Medicare Access and Child Health Reauthorization Act  to CMS on Tuesday. THCB is pleased to feature them for our readers.  If you agree, we urge you to share with your colleagues, your elected representatives and on social media. – John Irvine  

Dear Mr. Slavitt and Dr. DeSalvo:

On behalf of the 25,000 physician, resident and medical student members of the Massachusetts Medical Society I am writing to provide our comments on Stage III Meaningful Use as it relates to the Medicare Access and Child Health Reauthorization Act. It is our understanding that the AMA is submitting extensive and detailed comments on specific aspects of the Meaningful Use Stage III, including a proposed revision of the program which we strongly urge the Department to consider going forward. Our comments will highlight several of the overarching problems with the meaningful use program as currently constructed and its impact on practicing physicians and our patients.

To put our comments into context I would like to underscore that Massachusetts physicians were early adopters of Electronic Health Records. The MMS has been committed to helping our members understand and implement successfully EHRs for well over a decade. We were one of the founding members of the MA EHealth Collaborative (MAeHC) and continue to support this important project which helps physicians choose and implement EHRs in their offices. We understand well the promise of this technology.

Parsely Health Interview & Job Ad!

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A little while back I caught up with former Health 2.0er Robin Berzin. (I first ran this video interview on Facebook). She’s a functional medicine doctor and now CEO of Parsley Health, a direct pay/concierge functional medicine clinic that also uses lots of new health tech. It’s operating in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Robin has an interesting model and is also looking for help. (And I’m running this ad for love not money!) Any MDs out there wanting to try a new route, see her blurb below the interview.

Parsley Health is hiring top primary care doctors at its centers in NYC, SF, and LA. At Parsley Health we practice whole-person Functional Primary Care focused on nutrition wellness and prevention along with advanced diagnostic testing. In addition we are building a groundbreaking new technology platform for primary care and offer both virtual and in-person services. If you are a physician and are looking to join a collaborative modern practice please visit our job description here or email your CV to [email protected]. Preference given to board-certified internal medicine and family medicine trained MDs with additional training in functional medicine. Additional clinical training available.

Hospitals Can and Should Support Employees Who Are Victims of Domestic Violence: Here’s How

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By PATRICK HORINE

Every October we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an important opportunity to discuss this widespread social and public health problem and to take stock of what we can do better to protect victims of domestic abuse.

Unfortunately, the data shows us that health care is often a dangerous profession that is also rife with domestic abuse. Earlier this month a new poll of ER physicians revealed nearly half report having been physically assaulted at work (largely by patients and/or visitors in the ER). However, other data shows us that individuals in the health care professions – especially women—may be at greater risk of domestic abuse from a spouse or partner, while on the job as well. Data on domestic violence nationwide shows us one in four women are in a dangerous domestic situation, and one in four victims are harassed at work by perpetrators.  Women make up 80 percent of the healthcare workforce and an even greater percentage in most hospitals. When we do the math, this means one in 20 female healthcare workers are likely to be harassed or even assaulted on the job.

Furthermore, given that hospitals and most healthcare organizations are “open” facilities where anyone can walk onto the premises this further heightens the risk of a violent incident happening in the workplace. Over half of the homicides committed by intimate partners occur in parking lots and public buildingsNews stories like the ones about a California healthcare worked stabbed in the hospital parking lot by her estranged husband while her co-workers looked on are all too tragic and common.

California’s Proposition 46: Trial Attorneys Behaving Badly

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flying cadeuciiAfter more than a year of conspiratorial planning that would make Francis Underwood proud, California’s trial attorneys got a number assigned to an opaquely worded ballot initiative on Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits Initiative Statute As a result, “Proposition 46” could give California voters an unwitting hand in doing what this attorney group has been unable to accomplish after 40 years of inept legislative lobbying and dubious court challenges: undermine the state’s Medical Injury and Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA.

MICRA was passed in 1978 by a Democratic-dominated legislature and signed into law by then-governor Jerry Brown in response to the collapse of the state’s medical professional liability insurance market.  MICRA didn’t change the right of injured patients to obtain unlimited economic damages for all medical costs, lost wages and lifetime earnings. What it did was limit was non-economic “pain and suffering” damages to $250,000. Up until 1978, California’s trial attorneys had used this highly speculative class of damages to rake in a third of the multi-million jackpot jury awards. That made California physicians’ malpractice insurance unavailable at any price, leading many doctors to close their practices and leave the state.

That ended with the passage of MICRA. The market stabilized and in the decades that followed, billions in health care savings from lower professional liability costs were passed through to California’s patients.

Early last year, California’s physicians had heard rumors that a ballot initiative to undo MICRA’s non-economic cap was being planned.  Little did they know that California’s trial attorneys would take their cue from political consultant-bully Chris Lehane by opening their campaign with a mass mailing of anti-MICRA cadaver toe tags. That was quickly followed by the neighbors of pediatrician and then California Medical Association President Paul Phinney receiving deceptive postcards implying he was a drug dealer.

Months later, the ballot initiative – that was 100% underwritten by the trial attorneys and their allies at a cost of $2.85 per signature – landed on California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ desk.  The initiative’s authors cleverly disguised its quadrupling of the MICRA cap to more than $1 million (“to account for inflation”) and cynically camouflaged it between two conversation-changers:  1) mandatory physician drug screening and 2) mandatory uploading of the narcotic prescription history of every California patient to an online database. Naturally, Ms. Harris rewarded her trial attorney donors by making a mockery of the state’s single-subject rule and okayed it.

The Case for Case-Based Reasoning

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flying cadeuciiCase-based reasoning has been formalized for purposes of computer reasoning as a four-step process[1]:

  • Retrieve: Given a target problem, retrieve cases from memory that are relevant to solving it. A case consists of a problem, its solution, and, typically, annotations about how the solution was derived.
  • Reuse: Map the solution from the previous case to the target problem. This may involve adapting the solution as needed to fit the new situation.
  • Revise: Having mapped the previous solution to the target situation, test the new solution in the real world (or a simulation) and, if necessary, revise.
  • Retain: After the solution has been successfully adapted to the target problem, store the resulting experience as a new case in memory.

The complexities associated with programming and implementation of a knowledge management system based on case histories is both non-obvious and difficult, but ironically this is the actual process that an expert physician uses in his day to day clinical work.

The EBM Wars: When Evidence has a Price – The ECMO Trials (Part 2)

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By ANISH KOKA

The year was 1965, the place was Boston Children’s and a surgery resident named Robert Bartlett took his turn at the bedside of a just born baby unable to breathe.  This particular baby couldn’t breathe because of a hole in the diaphragm that had allowed the intestines to travel up into the thoracic cage, and prevent normal development of the lungs.  In 1965, Robert Bartlett was engaged in the cutting edge treatment of the time – squeeze a bag that forced oxygenated air into tiny lungs and hope there was enough functioning lung tissue to participate in gas exchange to allow the body to get the oxygen it needed.  Bartlett persisted in ‘bagging’ the child for 2 days.  As was frequently the case, the treatments proved futile and the baby died.

The strange part of the syndrome that had come to be known as congenital diaphragmatic hernia was that repairing the defect and putting the intestines back where they belonged was not necessarily curative.  The clues to what was happening lay in autopsy studies that demonstrated arrested maturation of lung tissue in both compressed and uncompressed lung.  Some systemic process beyond simple compression of one lung must be operative.  It turns out that these little babies were blue because their bodies were shunting blood away from the immature lungs through vascular connections that normally close off after birth.  Add abnormally high pressures in the lungs and you have a perfect physiologic storm that was not compatible with life.

Pondering the problem, Bartlett wondered if there was a way to artificially do what the lungs were supposed to do – oxygenate.  Twelve years later in 1977, while most pediatric intensive care units were still figuring out how to ventilate babies, a team lead by Bartlett was using jerry rigged chest tube catheters to bypass the lungs of babies failing the standard treatments of the day.  In a series of reports that followed, Bartlett described the technique his team used in babies that heretofore had a mortality rate of 90%.  A home made catheter was placed in the internal jugular vein and pumped across an artificial membrane that oxygenated blood before it was returned via a catheter to the carotid artery.  The usual hiccups ensued.  The animal models didn’t adequately model the challenges of placing babies on what has come to be known as ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation).

bartlett1977

Patient 1 developed a severely low platelet count, hemorrhaged into the brain and died. Patient 2 survived but was on a ventilator for 7 weeks.  Patient 3 developed progressive pulmonary hypertension and died.  Patient 4 died because of misplacement of one of the ECMO catheters.

The team improved, and mortality in this moribund population improved to 20%.  The pediatric journals of the day refused to publish the data because they felt ECMO for neonates was irresponsible.  Once published, the neonatology community came out in force against ECMO, and some penned editorials implying the children only became supremely ill because Bartlett’s team was incompetent.  The team persisted, as is anyone that is driven by the desperate need of patients.  None of this should be surprising.  The constant battle between skeptics and proponents is a recurring theme known to anyone with even a limited understanding of  medical history.  But this is where the story goes off the rails.

The Root Cause of Physician Burnout: Neither Professionals nor Skilled Workers

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BY HANS DUVEFELT MD Dr. Hans Duvefelt, A Country Doctor Writes, physician burnout

Too many specific theories about physician burnout can cloud the real issue and allow healthcare leaders to circle around the “elephant in the room”.

The cause of physician burnout isn’t just the EMRs, Meaningful Use, CMS regulations, the chronic disease epidemic or any other single item.

Instead, it is simply this: Healthcare today has no clear definition of what a physician is. We are more or less suddenly finding ourselves on a playing field, tackled and hollered at, without knowing what sport we are playing and what the rules are.

Historically, physicians have been viewed as professionals and also, more lately, as skilled workers. But we are more and more viewed and treated as neither. Therein lies the problem.

Please Choose One

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flying cadeuciiPlease choose one:

The three words blink in front of me on the computer screen.

Please choose one:
Patient is-

Male     Female 

I click FEMALE.

I watch as the auto-template feature fills in the paragraph for me based on my choices.

Patient #879302045

Patient is: 38-year-old female status post motor vehicle accident. Please acknowledge you have reviewed her allergies, medications, and past medical history.

I click YES.

Have you counseled her about smoking cessation?

I click NO.

A little animated icon of a doctor pops up on the screen. His mouth begins to move as if speaking. A speech bubble from a comic strip appears next to it.

“Tip of the day: smoking cessation is important for both the patient’s health and part of a complete billing record.”