Thanks to extraordinary advances in medicine, critical care providers can save lives even when the cards are stacked against their patients. However, there are times when no amount of care, however cutting-edge it is, will save a patient. In these instances, when physicians recognize that patients will not be rescued, further critical care is said to be “futile.” In a new study, my RAND and UCLA colleagues and I find that critical care therapies that physicians regard as “futile” are not uncommon in intensive care units, raising some uncomfortable questions.
Of course, we’re fortunate to have such fantastic technology at our disposal — but we must address how to use it appropriately when the patient may not benefit from high-intensity measures. When aggressive critical care is unsuccessful at achieving an acceptable level of health for the patient, treatment should focus on palliative care.
In our study, my colleagues and I quantified the prevalence and cost of “futile” critical care in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. This can be seen as the first step toward reevaluating the status quo and better optimizing care for critical care patients.
After convening a group of critical care clinicians to determine a consensus definition of “futile treatment,” our research team analyzed nearly 7,000 daily assessments of more than 1,000 patients.
We found that 11 percent received futile treatment, while an additional 9 percent received “probably futile” treatment.
So physician-perceived futile critical care is indeed prevalent. But what about the cost?
Continue reading “What to Do About Futile Critical Care”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Choosing Wisely, Costs, critical care, futile care, Neil S. Wenger, Physicians, Rand, UCLA
Sep 15, 2013
At a time when one in three Americans report difficulty paying medical bills, up to $750 billion is being spent on care that does not help patients become healthier. Although physicians are routinely required to manage expensive resources, traditional medical training offers few opportunities to learn how to deliver the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost. While the gap is glaring the problem is not new.
In 1975, the department of medicine at Charlotte Memorial Hospital initiated a system to monitor medical costs generated by house officers. In the Journal of Medical Education leaders of the Charlotte initiative described how simply being aware of how clinical decisions impact the costs of care could decrease inpatient length of stay by 21%. Over the last four decades there have been dozens of similar efforts to educate medical students and residents about opportunities to improve the value of care. Some interventions were simple like the one in Charlotte, and simply revealed the cost of routine tests to their trainees. Others provided more sophisticated didactics, interrogated medical records to give trainee-specific feedback on utilization, or creatively leveraged the hospital computer order-entry systems.
Continue reading “Teaching Value: Medical Educators Need to Take Charge and Help Deflate Medical Bills”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: ABIM Foundation, Choosing Wisely, Christopher Moriates, Costs, FutureMed, Medical Education, Neel Shah, Teaching Value and Choosing Wisely Competition, Vineet Arora
Apr 7, 2013
In May 2008, when the Roper poll asked a random sample of Americans “If your medical records and personal health information, such as test results and doctor’s instructions, were available to you online, how likely do you think you would be to access those records and information?” Sixty-five percent said they were somewhat, very, or extremely likely to access their records. In the February 2009 stimulus bill, Congress asked the Health IT Policy Committee “to facilitate secure access by an individual to such individual’s protected health information” and “… to facilitate secure access to patient information by a family member, caregiver, or guardian acting on behalf of a patient…”
CMS now proposes that in 2014, hospitals receiving the billions of dollars of Stage 2 federal EHR incentive payments must provide patients with electronic access to their hospital discharge information within 36 hours of leaving the hospital. CMS is not only asking hospitals to give patients reasonable access to their own current and actionable health information, but it’s also trying to help patients and families address the wasteful and dangerous rates of hospital readmission and failures in continuity of care that haunt American healthcare. But the American Hospital Association is arguing that “Establishing a web portal or other mechanism to provide patients online access to this magnitude of data is unrealistic and premature.”
Continue reading “Enabling Patients to Be Part of Their Care”
Filed Under: Health Policy
Tagged: AHA, Choosing Wisely, CMS, Data, EHR, Health IT Policy Committee, Meaningful Use, patient engagement, Stage 2 meaningful use
May 4, 2012
In case you missed it, a recommendation came out last month that physicians cut back on using 45 common tests and treatments. In addition, patients were advised to question doctors who recommend such things as antibiotics for mild sinusitis, CT scans for an uncomplicated headache or a repeat colonoscopy within 10 years of a normal exam.
The general idea wasn’t all that new — my colleagues and I have been questioning many of the same tests and treatments for years. What was different this time was the source of the recommendations. They came from the heart of the medical profession: the medical specialty boards and societies representing cardiologists, radiologists, gastroenterologists and other doctors. In other words, they came from the very groups that stand to benefit from doing more, not less.
Nine specialty societies contributed five recommendations each to the list (others are expected to contribute in the future). The recommendations each started with the word “don’t” — as in “don’t perform,” “don’t order,” “don’t recommend.”
Could American medicine be changing?
For years, medical organizations have been developing recommendations and guidelines focused on things doctors should do. The specialty societies have been focused on protecting the financial interests of their most profligate members and have been reluctant to acknowledge the problem of overuse. Maybe they are now owning up to the problem.
Continue reading “The Testing Glut”
Filed Under: Physicians, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Choosing Wisely, CT scans, EKGs, H. Gilbert Welch, Health care spending, legal system, Medical tests, overdiagnosis, recommendations, Smart Medicine, Unnecessary tests
May 3, 2012
Who doesn’t love a Top 10 list? Creating them is an art form. So when it was formally proposed by Dr. Brody in 2010 in the NEJM that each specialty create their own “Top 5 list” of unnecessary care, it seemed like a straightforward – if not downright provocative – suggestion.
“The Top Five list would consist of five diagnostic tests or treatments that are very commonly ordered by members of that specialty, that are among the most expensive services provided, and that have been shown by the currently available evidence not to provide any meaningful benefit to at least some major categories of patients for whom they are commonly ordered. In short, the Top Five list would be a prescription for how, within that specialty, the most money could be saved most quickly without depriving any patient of meaningful medical benefit,” he wrote.
And yet, thus far the only groups that have seemed to have taken him up on the suggestion have been the primary care specialties of Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Pediatrics – notably amongst the least compensated fields in health care.
This is a great start, but c’mon guys, where are the rest of you? Dr. Brody wrote you a “prescription.” We have a term for your behavior: “noncompliance.”
Not to say that there hasn’t been some progress. The ABIM Foundation has indeed put together an impressive list of organizations participating in their “Choosing Wisely” campaign. They also have begun to be instrumental in funding projects towards this goal. Costs of Care has highlighted far-reaching areas of non-value-based care, including a recent thoughtful essay about robotic surgery. We must now consolidate on these small gains and move this forward across all specialties in medicine.
Continue reading “The Letterman Approach to Cost Awareness”
Filed Under: Costs of Care, Uncategorized
Tagged: ABIM, Checklists, Choosing Wisely, cost awareness, Costs, UCSF
Apr 6, 2012
The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and nine other professional medical societies announced that doctors should perform 45 tests and procedures less often than currently done because there is no good medical evidence that they add any value. Specifically, a xray or other imaging for low back pain in an otherwise healthy individual or an EKG as part of a routine physical, just add a lot of unnecessary cost to the health care system as a whole and don’t provide doctors or patients any meaningful information that would be helpful in improving health or arriving at the right diagnosis and treatment.
The ABIM partnered with Consumer Reports to create a new campaign called Choosing Wisely and are joined also by collaborators like employers (the National Business Group on Health, the Pacific Business Group on Health), hospital safety (the Leapfrog Group), and labor unions (SEIU). The mission is simply to have doctors and patients deliver and receive care that is medically necessary, based on evidence, avoids harm, and minimizes duplication.
The real question is – will it work? Will doctors follow what their professional societies recommend?
Though Choosing Wisely is a laudable attempt to make medical care better quality, the truth is doctors won’t likely follow these guidelines from their medical societies. If it was that easy, we would not have this problem! Even today, it is still a challenge for the medical profession to have all doctors wash their hands correctly every patient every time, get immunized routinely against influenza, or even not to prescribe antibiotics for coughs, colds, and bronchitis due to viruses! What is more disturbing is that doing these basic interventions did not impact a doctor’s income. Some on the list of Choosing Wisely, however, will.
Continue reading “Will Doctors or Patients Bend the Cost Curve?”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: American Board of Internal Medicine, Choosing Wisely, Costs, EKG, Fee-for-service, Guidelines
Apr 6, 2012