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flying cadeuciiThe recent Health Affairs Blog post by Al Lewis, Vik Khanna, and Shana Montrose titled, “Workplace Wellness Produces No Savings” has triggered much interest and media attention. It highlights the controversy surrounding the value of workplace health promotion programs that 22 authors addressed in an article published in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine titled, “Do Workplace Health Promotion (Wellness) Programs Work?”  That article also inspired several follow-up discussions and media reports, including one published by New York Times columnists Frakt and Carroll who answered the above question with: “usually not.”

There are certainly many points of contention and areas for continued discussion on this topic. It turns out that Lewis et al. and I agree on many things, and there are other areas where we see things differently. Continue reading “The Value of Workplace Health Promotion (Wellness) Programs”

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Optimized-SalwitzIt is a heart pounding, head spinning, edge of your seat page-turner; the sort of rare saga that takes your breath away as it changes you, forever.  It hints at a radically different future, a completely new world a few years away, which will disrupt the lives of every man, woman and child.  Available now, from the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), Office of the Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, is finally, without further ado; the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020.

You think I am kidding.  A satirical dig at another monstrous, useless, governmental report?  Absolutely not.  The concepts outlined in this blueprint will transform healthcare.  It is a tight, clear, document, which at only 28 pages, delivers almost as much change per word as the Declaration of Independence.  This may be the most powerful application yet of computerized information technology.

If you want to know where healthcare and health IT are headed, The Plan is absolutely worth a read.

I have only one complaint; it is coated with too much sugar.  Restricted by policy structure and jargon, the report does not go far enough.

Continue reading “Grading the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan”

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HAT TIP: @Bob_Watchter, @Rosskopel

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Erick & Linda von Schweber started SurveyorHealth around the time Health 2.0 started back in 2007, with the BHAG of massively improving medication safety using some very complex technology. And it has taken them a long time to embed themselves in the bowels of some huge health care organizations and to start getting traction. But it is finally happening and the impact may be substantial. I interviewed Erick and he gave me a comprehensive demo and update on their latest results. If you care about drugs and clinical care, this is compelling (if not lightweight!) viewing. (I suggest you switch to full screen for the demo).

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flying cadeuciiHere it’s argued that we need to retire the health care fallacy, “We spend more on health care than other rich countries but have worse outcomes.” The fallacy implies U.S. health care is deficient in spite of being costly. Indeed our health care costs too much, but there is little evidence that our care is less effective than care in other countries. On the other hand, there’s plenty of evidence that our social determinants of health are worse.

The argument segues off a recent article by Victor Fuchs. The case is presented by using a simple linear model to explore how life expectancy might change when we substitute the numbers of other countries’ determinants of health for U.S. numbers. After making these substitutions and holding health care spending constant the model predicts U.S. life expectancy is right there with the other OECD countries, 81.6 years compared to their average 81.4 years. This what-if modelling makes clear what should be obvious but the fallacy hides, that health care is only one part of population health.

The Fuchs Essay 
Victor Fuchs’s recent essay1 impressed me. He wrote of the lack of a positive relationship between life expectancy and health care expenditures (HCE) in OECD countries. A chart was included for empirical support. I liked the idea behind the chart which demonstrated his point using data from select countries and our 50 states. Professor Fuchs has written on this topic for years (e.g., in his 1974 book “Who Shall Live?”). I posted on the fallacy in March 2013 but was not as nuanced.2

Continue reading “We Spend More on Health Care Than Other Rich Countries but Have Worse Outcomes?”

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Earlier this week, we reported on the current rates of influenza-like illness (ILI), based on data from roughly one million patient visits on the athenahealth network. That report showed a steep increase in ILI rates for the week ending Saturday, December 13 (see previous post). It’s not certain that this season will be as severe as that of 2012-2013 (data for pediatrics suggests that is a real possibility); however, providers are testing for flu more consistently than previous years, and prescribing antivirals more often.

Our data shows that the number of flu tests ordered, per patient visit in which ILI is diagnosed, has risen each of the past two years (Figure 1, graph A). This season, providers are ordering flu tests at a rate of 0.53 tests per visit with an ILI diagnosis, compared to 0.37 for last season and 0.34 for 2012-2013. (Note: There can be multiple tests per patient visit, e.g. Type A and B.)

Continue reading “Flu Report: Providers Prescribing Antivirals at Higher Rate”

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Bilateral Mastectomy Evidence

Benefit:

There is none. No women with DCIS have been included in a randomized controlled trial.

Harm:

Cosmetic outcomes are unclear; Second operations to fix the cosmetic outcome may be needed, but reasonable estimates for harm and complications do not exist as bilateral mastectomy has not been systematically studied in DCIS. A paper in Annals of Surgery found that out of 600 women at one institution, 42% of 209 women undergoing bilateral mastectomy had complications versus 29% of 391 women undergoing unilateral mastectomy (42-29% = 13%, added harm). Serious complications of bilateral mastectomy occurred in 14%; 4% with unilateral(14-4% = 10%, added harm).

Trade-off:

There is no trade-off between benefit and harm. Since there is no benefit, only harm is possible. Informed medical-decision-making requires a trade-off between added benefit and added harm. This is not the case for DCIS and bilateral mastectomy.

Continue reading “I Have DCIS, Should I Have a Bilateral Mastectomy?”

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flying cadeuciiA physician friend commented recently that he was being ‘meeting-ed to death’ and wondered if it was intentional. It turns out, he was on to something.

One of my colleagues has a neighbor whose sister’s piano tuner has a friend whose cousin is married to a nationally respected medical institution’s CEO. We were provided a copy of that institution’s management training course, on the condition that her identity not be revealed.

Here is the section on meetings:

Meetings as a Tool for Physician Control

Meetings are the ideal method for turning actively engaged and therefore troublesome physicians into apathetic sheep who are easy to manage.

Continue reading “A Secret Playbook to Torment Doctors”

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Vivek Murthy

In defiance of dire predictions, children haven’t been sent to workhouses and women haven’t been chained to utensils after the GOP gained strength in the House and the Senate. And Vivek Murthy, the unabashed Obamaphile, was finally confirmed Surgeon General.

To be honest, I always thought the controversy surrounding Murthy’s nomination because of his stance on gun control was rather daft. Stopping doctors from pontificating over guns, such as the Docs versus Glocks legislation, is like banning me from trying to convert Pope Francis to Hinduism. The legislation is a parody not just for its own sake but because what it seeks to prevent is parody as well.

Murthy’s first challenge is to raise the position of the Surgeon General from that tokenism of a career UN bureaucrat to something vaguely useful. Which means Murthy must resist the call of banality, the banality of ideology and the ideology of making all of mankind’s imperfections public health problems.

Continue reading “Advice to Vivek Murthy: Be Nonpartisan, Use Common Sense and Move Americans”

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 More people are getting coverage…but there’s a shortage of doctors. So CVS Health is making health more affordable and accessible. With over 900 MinuteClinic locations for walk-in medical care, open nights and weekends.

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