On a recent evening at Harvard Medical School, the Primary Care Innovation Challenge and Pitch-Off ,sponsored by WellPoint’s American Resident Project, brought together six finalists, primary care luminaries and trainees, and a host of hangers-on and camp followers for a couple of hours of demos and discussions. The tenor of the evening, which was in many ways a pep rally for primary care – not that there’s anything wrong with that — was best captured by the rhetorical question posed by Asaf Bitton to the primary care practitioners and trainees in the hall, “Are you going to be a playwright or a critic?”
The hoots and hollers in response made clear that these are not your grandfather’s primary care docs. The call to action was echoed by many of the speakers, notably community organizer turned primary care physician Andrew Morris Singer and Dennis Dimitri, both advocating for, well, advocating for primary care. Bitton’s opening also included the exhortation that proved to be predictive of the winner of the top honors from among the six pitches: Innovation in primary care is not about the technology; it needs to enable better human care.
Where: Harvard Medical School
When: September 16th, 2014
What: Primary Care Innovations Pitch Off
By 2015 the U.S. will need an additional 52,000 physicians to meet the country’s needs. Primary care providers are in particularly high demand for the valuable role they play in managing chronic conditions, providing preventive care services and leading patient-centric care delivery models. The health care community is coming together to ask: What does the future of primary care look like?
What innovations are already being implemented?
The Primary Care Challenge
For two months, we will be accepting submissions as part of the effort to raise the profile of innovative ideas in primary care delivery. Any U.S. medical student, resident or physician is encouraged to submit a description of a creative program that their practice has implemented around primary care delivery. A variety of prizes will be offered to finalists and participants, including an all-expenses paid trip to Boston for five finalists to share their proposals in-person with experts and peers at our Primary Care Innovations event.
Starting this month you can check out the Primary Care Challenge website for step-by-step instructions on how to submit your program and take advantage of this great opportunity. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on Twitter and use #PCC14
Most physicians agree that we have an ethical obligation to help educate our patients about what’s going on with their health, but what does that look like in a world overwhelmed with digital health information? And how do we budget appropriate time when we’re already struggling to balance shorter appointment times, more documentation requirements and busier clinic schedules?
It’s estimated that 72 percent of patients get a majority of their health information online. With an abundance of biased and incorrect information on the internet, our responsibility as physicians has evolved from simply teaching patients about their health conditions to now include educating patients on where and how to find and identify reliable health information.
This premise goes back to why I use social media. We have a responsibility to share, or at the very least be cognizant of, reliable health information in the realm where our patients seek it. In the olden days that looked like an exam room; today it looks like a Google search.
Here are four ways to efficiently help ensure patients have the resources they need to find reliable health information, despite cramped clinic visits and time constraints.
- Ask: How can you possibly know where patients find their information if you don’t ask? I have patients come in with birth plans all the time and quite frequently they’ve printed them out from a website with little-to-no additional research into the (often very specific) things they’ve requested. You can’t possibly know or understand their views unless you ask.
- Take 2: I understand how limited our time is. I’m a resident with a busy clinic and short, often over-booked appointment slots, but taking two minutes to discuss reliable health information with your patients has great potential for improving patient care and decreasing un-needed visits and calls.
- Prep: Have pre-written, condition-specific information for your patients and include curated links to additional reliable information for those who may want it. It’s as simple as a “dot-phrase” on most major EMR systems or a copy/paste file you can quickly email or print.
- Encourage: Encourage your patients to take control of their health by being informed. Encourage them to ask questions and explain things back to you, so you’re certain they have a grasp on it. Encourage them to share what they’ve learned in their searches.
Danielle Jones, MD is a a fellow of The American Resident Project, where this post first appeared. Danielle went to college at Texas A&M University (Gig ‘Em Aggies!) and completed her medical school at Texas Tech. Dr. Jones is interested in fertility medicine, social media and health technology. Currently, Dr. Jones is an Ob/Gyn resident in Texas, where she lives with her husband, twin baby girls and three crazy dogs
When it comes to discussing exercise with friends, family and patients, it seems that many of us are at a loss for words. What kind of exercise should we recommend? How much exercise is enough? How much is too much? How do I know that my patient is actually exercising? How do I prescribe exercise?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. adults should engage in moderately intense physical activity for a minimum of 150 minutes each week; this is equivalent to 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week . While it is relatively easy to keep track of the duration and frequency of exercise, it is much more difficult to quantify the intensity of an activity, let alone ensure that the activity is “moderate” for the entire 30 minutes.
In fact, in a 2008 study of women’s understanding of “moderate-intensity” of physical activity as presented in the popular media, the authors found it is not enough to simply hear and read a description of physical activity, but that it requires practice .
So, what are we to do? Should we have our patients log their daily activities? Should we have our patients show us sign-in sheets from the local gym?
It turns out that the dilemma of how to quantify physical activity has been a hot topic for more than 50 years. In 1965, a Japanese inventor developed the first pedometer to give people the opportunity to meet measurable goals and, thus, increase their physical activity. The device was called the Manpo-Kei (meaning “10,000 steps meter”) and it was based on research by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano that demonstrated that 10,000 steps per day allowed for a proper balance between the traditional Japanese caloric intake and the activity-based caloric expenditure of walking approximately five miles per day (the average person’s stride length is approximately 2.5 feet long, therefore 2,000 steps/mile) .
“Patient noncompliance.” I wasn’t very familiar with this term until I started my clinical rotations. But after just the first week, I started noticing that health care providers throw this phrase around all time.
We particularly like using it as an excuse. Why did this diabetic patient require a foot amputation? Why does this patient come in monthly with congestive heart failure exacerbation? Why did this patient suffer a stroke? It’s often simply attributed to patient noncompliance.
What bothers me the most about this phrase, though, is how it’s often stated with such disdain. We act as if it’s incomprehensible that someone would ignore our evidence-based recommendations. If the patient would only bother to listen, he or she would get better. If we were patients, we would be compliant.
But that’s simply not true. We are no different from our patients. We practice our own form of noncompliance. It’s called guideline non-adherence.
Despite the fact that many guidelines are created after systematic reviews and meta-analyses – processes we would never have time to go through ourselves – we, like our own patients, are often noncompliant.
Research on guideline adherence has been around since guidelines started becoming prominent in the early 1990s. Despite the many studies and interventions to improve guideline adherence, the rates of guideline adherence still remain dismally low.
I find this particularly disconcerting. Despite my own interest in research, it makes me question the value of research. Why do we spend millions of dollars to find a better intervention that does not change how most providers deliver health care?
In 2008, the IOM study on resident work hours came out and in the years that followed the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) subsequently implemented a gamut of “recommendations.”
As a medical student, I remember thinking it was a much needed change – why wouldn’t it be a good idea to improve patient safety and decrease resident fatigue?
Alas, as a newly minted intern growing up in the era of work-hour regulations, it’s become apparent that many of these changes may actually make life harder without achieving their main goal of improving patient care.
The 80-hour work week cap is fine; it’s been in effect on its own since 2003 and overall it seems to have made residency more humane. Most programs have found reasonable ways to limit work hours to this full-time-times-two amount, at least when hours are averaged over four-week periods.
However, the additional bullet point “recommendations” from 2010 seem to play out very differently in real life than they do on paper. Many of them seem to be arbitrary lines drawn in political sands hiding behind a facade of patient safety, but that’s another blog for another time.
So, what do the bullet point regulations look like in the hospital?
They look like: Interns can’t work 24-hour shifts.
So, what used to be a two-and-a-half shift weekend turns into a four shift weekend. At a four intern/year program like mine, that means instead of two people splitting the weekends and having a post-call day after 24 hours on, one intern is committed to night-float six nights/week for a month while the remaining three interns take the three leftover weekend shifts.
The result: Fewer hours at a time in the hospital, but more working days in a row and more days/month away from your family.