It was bound to happen.
By “it,” I mean that the small group of speciality hospitals (usually orthopedic or cardiology-focused) across that country that are owned by doctors were going to have their “See! We Told ‘ya so!” moment.
Doctor-owned hospitals: How many are there? Two hundred and thirty-eight of them in the whole country (out of more than five thousand)–somewhere between four and five percent of the total in the U.S. (numbers courtesy TA Henry from this excellent piece).
What are the issues?
- ObamaCare effectively bans doctors from owning hospitals in the U.S.
- Those already in existence are grandfathered in under the law.
- We know that doctor-owned hospitals have higher average costs–hence the rationale for banning them under a law with the intent of “bending the cost curve.”
Cue the iron-o-meter:
In the most recent Medicare data (December 2012 report on “value-based purchasing“), doctor-owned hospitals did well in terms of achieving quality milestones.
Really well. Physician-owned hospitals took nine out of the top ten spots in the country. And in spite of their low relative number, forty-eight out of the top one hundred.
Continue reading “Doctors and the Means of Production”
Filed Under: Hospitals, Physicians, THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, doctor-owned hospitals, Hospitals, John Schumann, Physicians, the business of healthcare
May 7, 2013
Lost in the weeds of President Obama’s budget proposal is a 10-year, $11 billion reduction in Medicare funding for graduate medical education (GME). GME is the “residency” part of medical training, in which medical school graduates (newly minted MDs and DOs) spend 3-7 years learning the ropes of their specialties in teaching hospitals across the country.
Medicare currently spends almost $10 billion annually on GME. One-third of that is for “Direct Medical Education” (DME), which pays teaching hospitals so that they in turn can provide salaries and benefits to residents (current salaries average around $50,000/year, regardless of specialty; there are variances by region). No problem there.
The proposed cuts come from the Medicare portion known as “Indirect Medical Education” (IME) payments. Though IME accounts for two-thirds of the Medicare GME pie, it’s not easy for hospitals to itemize what exactly it is they provide for this significant amount of funding. Instead, hospitals bill Medicare based on a complex algorithm that includes the ‘resident-to-bed’ ratio, among other variables.
A 2009 Rand Corporation study commissioned by Medicare to evaluate aspects of residency training called on the government to tie IME payments directly to improvements in educational and hospital quality, lest the money be perceived to be going down a series of non-specific sinkholes. That idea has caught on, and legislators in both parties now see the healthy IME slice of Medicare education funding as a plum target for cost-cutting, as the direct benefits are difficult to enumerate, let alone quantify.
This has medical educators very worried that we will have to do more with much less (disclosure: I am one).
Continue reading “Will Your Health Insurer Pay to Train Your Doctor?”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: 2014 budget proposal, graduate medical education, Hospitals, Insurers, John Schumann, Kenneth Shine, Medical Loss Ratio, Medicare, Medicare spending, Physicians, Residency, United Healthcare
Apr 16, 2013
As a proponent of responsible DIY medicine, I love the idea put forth by Alex Beam in a column he wrote exploring the idea of writing your own obituary.
[The cynics chime in: "That's where you'll wind up if you try to "do" medicine yourself."]
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who died in February, had his obituary in the NY Times initially inked in 1996, more than a decade before he actually died.** Since he was a figure of historic importance, we can’t blame the paper for being well-prepared.
Folks interested in the do-it-yourself approach won’t likely need to go to such lengths to create their own obituaries. Columnist Beam gives a couple of great examples of folks that have made good on such efforts:
Continue reading “How to Write Your Own Obituary”
Filed Under: THCB, The Insider's Guide To Health Care
Tagged: C. Everett Koop, DIY healthcare, DIY medicine, End-of-Life, Garry Trudeau, John Schumann, obituaries
Mar 26, 2013
Readers know that I am skeptical of medical practices that defy logic, or as we say in the business, evidence. Among the most controversial issues that beguile all of us (patients and docs) is this business about the PSA test.
A loyal reader sent me a doctor-written column with the provocative headline “My Patient, Killed by The New York Times.”
First, keep in mind that the website that posted this, Mediaite, is all about the media covering (really fawning and dishing) itself. The purpose of this story, with its provocative headline, sad outcome, and mea culpa tone, is to generate “buzz.”
Then understand that this is a story of one patient who made an informed decision to forego PSA testing, based on the fact that he was an intelligent person without symptoms who’d read the literature (or at least responsible press coverage of said evidence). He did not want to open the Pandora’s Box (literally: crapshoot) that is PSA screening.
Yes, he wound up with advanced prostate cancer and subsequently died. Had he had his prostate removed or radiation to ablate his cancer, and wound up with horrible side effects (impotence, incontinence) would he value the trade-off?
I offer you the counter-anecdote of Ted, who in a discussion with me, insisted that he get a PSA test because his heroes Joe Torre and Norman Schwarzkopf told him to. When it came back at 4.10 ng/dL (threshold 4.00), he went for biopsy (what else to do?) which showed low grade, gland-confined prostate cancer. Fearful of the “C” word, he couldn’t live with the idea of doing nothing (“watchful waiting”) about his cancer. So he chose external beam radiation, with the hope that it would be less damaging than radical surgery.
Continue reading “Killed by The New York Times?”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: John Schumann, Prostate Cancer, PSA test
Feb 20, 2013
- Cause of death on this 1937 death certificate? “Senile gangrene.”
I’ve always had nagging doubts about filling out death certificates.
An excellent article in the trade paper “American Medical News” by Carolyne Krupa explores the “inexactitude” of the custom.
As Krupa points out, doctors are never taught how to fill out the documents. She quotes Randy Hanzlick, MD, chief medical examiner for Fulton County, GA:
“Training is a big problem. There are very few medical schools that teach it,” he said. “For many physicians, the first time they see it is when they are doing their internship or residency and one of their patients dies. The nurse hands them a death certificate and says, ‘Fill this out.’ ”
That’s pretty much how it works. Though sometimes the person that comes calling with the death certificate is a hospital clerk. And she will make you fill out the form carefully, using only ‘allowable’ causes of death.
Of course, everyone dies from the same thing:lack of oxygen to the brain. But you can’t list that. Nor can you list common “jargon-y” favorites like “cardiopulmonary arrest,” “respiratory failure,” “sepsis,” or “multi-system organ failure.” All of which are true, but too inexact to be useful.
It’s intimidating to be the one to “pronounce” someone dead, and be the final arbiter of the cause. Isn’t that why we have medical examiners/pathologists?
We don’t autopsy patients much anymore, a trend that concerns many in the industry but doesn’t seem likely to change. That leaves interns and residents (at teaching hospitals) and community docs (in the real world) in charge of filling out these important statistical and historic documents.
Continue reading “Quantified Death”
Filed Under: Hospitals, THCB
Tagged: allowable causes of death, autopsy, Death Certificates, John Schumann, Medical Education, medical examiners, pathology, Physicians
Jan 28, 2013