WhiteCoat

Healthcare Update Satellite — 04-16-2014

April 16th, 2014

Ouch. Tree trimmer using chainsaw mistakes his neck for a branch and shows up in the ED with the chainsaw embedded into his neck and shoulder. Trauma surgeons removed the saw and the patient is expected to make a full recovery.

You think eating all of that nasty salad and tofu is doing you any good? Think again. Vegetarians may have lower Body Mass Index, but they’re twice as likely to have allergies and they are 50% more likely to have heart attacks and cancer. The silver lining is that vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status. Does that mean that meat costs too much or that eating vegetables will make you rich?

It is both scary and disappointing that this story is even in the news at this point in civilization. Measles is spreading rapidly across New York City’s Lower East Side. Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated since unvaccinated patients who are exposed to the virus have a 90% chance of getting the disease and up to 33% of infected patients can suffer some type of complication such as pneumonia or encephalitis … which is why civil and potentially criminal liability should attach to those who refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children.

A Canadian hospital emergency department so overwhelmed that an elderly patient allegedly develops bedsores while waiting five days for a hospital bed after being admitted. As horrible as it sounds, it is unlikely that five days laying in a bed would cause bedsores “full of pus” and “almost down to the bone”. Those had to be there before the patient arrived.
But a wait of 5 days for a general medical hospital bed is still pathetic.
More hospital closures and more ED patients in the US every year. Is this a look into the future of US healthcare?

California’s Palm Drive Hospital goes bankrupt and plans to close its doors. Board members base the decision on falling Medicare/Medi-Cal reimbursements, competition from other hospitals, significant loss of patients and the general costs of health care. Community members “pleaded with the board to reject the proposal to close the emergency room.”
Unfortunately, many people are learning the hard way that health care insurance and timely health care access are two very different things. Create a hostile environment to services and you won’t have those services any more.

Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal is shooting for a big fat “F” on the next ACEP report card. Louisiana got a D in the latest ACEP report card due to high rates of uninsured and lack of access to primary care. Now Governor Jindal is proposing a flat-rate triage fee for emergency departments that is “significantly less than the cost of providing care.” Look for such a plan to increase the number of “triage out” patients in the emergency department.

Arizona patient gives multiple names to emergency department staff in attempt to obtain pain medications. Now 27 year old Emily Ingerick … or is it Deborah Peel … or is it Jim Dwyer? Whatever her name is, she’s spending the night in the Greybar Motel … sans pain medications.

FedEx employee is exposed to nontoxic food additive powder at home, but develops breathing problems and vomiting. Goes to Methodist University Hospital emergency department where hazmat crews unnecessarily shut down hospital emergency department for three hours to decontaminate it from a substance that was “not hazardous in any way.”
What a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Is Chicago the gun death capital of the US? Last weekend four people were killed and 37 people were wounded in Chicago gun violence … which makes no sense at all because Chicago has such strict gun laws.

Good news and bad news. If you’re looking for a new job and have a scienctifically-oriented mind, going into medical laboratory science may be something to look into. At least according to this article, there is a desparate need for lab techs in Northeastern Louisiana, and one of the people interviewed for the article notes that there is a shortage of lab techs nationwide.
The bad news is that if the University of Louisiana can’t find more students to fill its spots, the program may disappear, which would have a negative impact on health care in the area – including emergency departments that depend on quick turnaround for lab tests.

Why isn’t this show off the air yet? Sex sent me to the ER turns to “sexism” sent me to the ER when doctor passively watches patient get beaten by wife in the ED after patient thrown out of third story window by prostitute when he tries to write her a check.

Income Comparisons – Teacher vs. Physician

April 15th, 2014

Who makes more money over the course of their career – a high school teacher or a doctor?

Doctors are obviously paid more.
However, when you also consider that doctors work 1.5 times more each week than other Americans, that doctors spend an average of 42,000 to 50,000 hours (20-24 years of full time work equivalents) just to become a doctor, and that doctors pay almost $700,000 for their educational debts, the net hourly wage of doctors versus high school teachers shows that, on average, teachers earn about 3 cents per hour more than doctors over the course of their careers.

And these calculations don’t even consider the licensing fees, licensing exam fees, DEA fees, malpractice insurance premiums, continuing medical education fees, hospital staff dues, costs of running an office … and also assumes that the doctor doesn’t get hit with a multimillion lawsuit judgment.

[Also see this related post: http://www.er-doctor.com/doctor_income.html]

Teacher Salary vs. Doctor Salary

Healthcare Update Satellite – 04-08-2014

April 8th, 2014

See more healthcare-related news from around the web on my other blog at DrWhitecoat.com

Emergency physicians more likely to miss signs of strokes in young patients – often headaches with dizziness. Those misdisgnoses may account for 40,000 to 80,000 preventable deaths each year.
Of course, the answer to save lives is to perform MRIs/MRAs on everyone with those symptoms.
Until some beancounter tells you that the MRIs and MRAs are “unnecessary”. Then you’re a bad doctor for ordering the tests. So you don’t order as many tests.
Then you miss a stroke and the news media references a journal article about missing strokes with those same symptoms, points to your care and tells everyone what a bad doctor you are.
Then some administrator tells you that your failure to order a test that missed the uncommon presentation of a disease cost them a million dollar settlement.
Then you order more tests to keep from missing another case of a stroke.
Then the beancounters tell you that your testing is unnecessary …

Kansas City area pain clinic gets hit with $2.88 million verdict when patient commits suicide due to pain from MRSA meningitis. Clinic physicians allegedly performed spinal injections through an abscess that had formed on the patient’s back and seeded his spinal canal.

Speaking about pain, the American College of Medical Toxicology meeting had research showing that there was a 65% increase in opioid prescribing for headaches. For hydromorphone (Dilaudid), the increase was 450%. Investigators noted that “we are concerned that providers are prescribing these medications, despite guidelines recommending against their routine use” but also noted that patient satisfaction scores and regulatory requirements (pain is the fifth vital sign, right Joint Commission?) are likely driving these prescribing trends. These types of unintended consequences are exactly what happens when you have clueless people trying to regulate health care.

Physicians finding it more and more difficult to deal with online trolls. “Because the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 prevents doctors from discussing patients, disgruntled and anonymous individuals can pick fights over their quality of medical care with little chance of being successfully hit back, leaving physicians almost powerless to defend themselves. In some instances, aggravated patients use that advantage to mount calculated attacks with the intention of inflicting irreparable damage to careers and reputations.”
Anyone willing to donate to a Kickstarter campaign to create a HIPAA compliant web site for doctors to rate patients?

Physician describes how he prescribes more Adderall and Dexedrine to increase his satisfaction scores on Yelp. He also notes how he “hasn’t advised a single patient to exercise regularly or maintain a healthy diet since 2011, saying he learned his lesson after receiving a devastating one-star review.” Courtesy of the Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

Former nurse jailed for 20 years for killing her infant … by breastfeeding. The woman was taking morphine for chronic pain due to a car crash and prosecutors convinced a jury that there was sufficient morphine secreted in the woman’s breast milk to kill the infant. A pathologist testified that there was enough morphine in the infant’s system to kill an adult.
Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends using morphine over other pain medications when breastfeeding.

How can you spot a psychopath? This article gives 20 psychopathic traits and also gives a good discussion of what makes a psychopath. “These people lack remorse and empathy and feel emotion only shallowly … it’s like colour-blind people trying to understand the colour red, but in this case ‘red’ is other people’s emotions.”

Breath-actuated nebulizers and traditional handheld nebulizers showed no difference in clinical effectiveness when compared in the emergency department. Guess which one is more expensive.

We’ve Been Facebooked — Part 1

April 6th, 2014

4-6-2014 2-50-29 PMI’m developing an increasing dislike for certain forms of social media.

Fortunately, this first incident didn’t happen to me, but the nurses who endured the onslaught were still twitching the following day when I came into work.

The day before started out as a pleasant day, or so they said. Even pace. Good flow of patients. No holding patients in the emergency department. Waiting room nearly empty. Nurses got to take their lunch breaks. One of those days that you leave feeling refreshed. But those days are subject to change without notice.  And change, it did.

Lumbago Joe hobbled in the front door.

Lumbago Joe was a well built guy in his forties. Rough around the edges. Always walked with a limp on hospital grounds. It was almost pathetic to watch him come in the door. Chronic back pain. Surgeries didn’t help. He refused further surgeries because they only made his back worse. He had seen so many doctors who told him they couldn’t help that he kept a copy of his latest lumbar spine MRI on his iPhone. That damndable iPhone. He’d even show you pictures of his bodybuilding days many years ago. He used to be in great shape. The thing about Lumbago Joe was that when he was off hospital grounds, he was different. See him in the store and he was lifting cases of beer with no problem. In the bars he would dance the cha-cha – unless he saw someone he knew from the emergency department … and he knew EVERYONE from the emergency department. Knew their names, knew their significant others. Sometimes even knew their work schedules. So when Lumbago Joe knew he had been sighted, suddenly he’d catch himself, grab his back and put on a show, pretending he didn’t see the hospital personnel. Or sometimes he’d come up to say hello, mentioning how well his pain was in control after getting those 8mg of Dilaudid in the emergency department the other day. Yeah, Lumbago Joe was like a modern day medical Verbal Kint (by the way, if you’ve never seen the movie the Usual Suspects, don’t click the link, stop reading this right now, go rent the movie or pull it up on NetFlix, and thank me later).

So Lumbago Joe slowly limped back to his assigned room. As luck would have it, Lumbago Joe’s favorite doctor was working that day. Yes, Dr. Feelgood was in the house.

Dr. Feelgood works a few days a month at several different hospitals. He doesn’t like to spend all his time at one place and likes the “freedom” of working at several hospitals. Nice guy. Fairly good clinician. Gets great patient satisfaction scores. And boy does he write. You come in with pain, you get Dilaudid. If you even may have pain when you leave, you get Percocets for home use. Finger sprain? Dilaudid. Ankle sprain? Dilaudid. Toothache? Dilaudid. Have Narcan on standby if your back is bothering you or if you have a migraine. Yes, despite being only a part-time physician, Dr. Feelgood is at the top of the leaderboard for both Dilaudid prescriptions and for Narcan use. Little old ladies probably don’t need 4mg of Dilaudid for back pain … but they get it.

Lumbago Joe got a spring in his step … er, um … in his hobble when he caught a glimpse of Dr. Feelgood’s combover while Dr. Feelgood sat at the desk charting. The triage nurse would even recount how it initially appeared like Lumbago Joe was going to stand upright and say “Hi” to Dr. Feelgood, but caught himself and began to limp even worse.

Dr. Feelgood didn’t disappoint.
“I’ve got this,” he told the other doctor on duty.
He went into Lumbago Joe’s room and a few minutes later he came out and started pecking away at the computer.
New orders up. Start an IV line. Dilaudid 4mg IV push. Valium 10mg IV push.
To put that into perspective, 1mg of Dilaudid is the analgesic equivalent to between 6mg and 8mg of morphine.
While most people would have suffered a respiratory arrest shortly after receiving the medications, Lumbago Joe was up and walking around, back straight with perfect posture. He smiled and shook Dr. Feelgood’s hand, thanking Dr. Feelgood profusely for his kindness.
Lumbago Joe was discharged home a half hour later with a prescription for thirty Norco tablets.

To show his appreciation for the care he received, Lumbago Joe posted a Facebook update.
Apparently a Facebook “friend” of the ED secretary was also friends with Lumbago Joe. The ED secretary was therefore able to see what Lumbago Joe had posted after he left the emergency department. This makes no sense to me, but that’s because I currently do not and never will use Facebook. In fact, I call it Fecesbook. Anyway, suffice it to say that the secretary was able to see Lumbago Joe’s posts.
“Just left Metro General Hospital pain-free for the first time in several weeks. Thanks to Dr. Feelgood for his excellent care.”

About 30 minutes later, the waiting room was filling up. Sixty minutes later, it was full. Fifteen patients registered within the 90 minutes after Lumbago Joe left. Looking through the names of patients, it was like a class reunion for Ridgemont High. The complaints were overwhelmingly pain-related. Headache. Migraine. Toothache. Fell down the stairs – back pain. Low back pain. Abdominal pain. Headache. Back pain. It was a flashmob of misery.
The odd thing was that the waiting room patients in all their misery were laughing and joking … until the doors leading into the emergency department clicked then swung open. Then there was an eerie silence as the next name was called and the next patient was brought back holding a random body part in terrible pain.
The rest of the day and evening were filled with long waits and lots of opiates.

One nurse, still twitching as he recounted the afternoon, simply stated “That Lumbago Joe character facebooked us real good, he did.”

I just smiled and shook my head, being thankful that I wasn’t working that day and thinking how ironic it was that the provision of medical care would even lead to creation of such a term.

———————–

This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 04-02-2014

April 2nd, 2014

See other medical news on my other blog at DrWhiteCoat.com

Liberal use of blood transfusions may increase the incidence of serious infections. I don’t have access to the entire article, but wonder if the study also looked at overall mortality. In other words, is the increased risk of developing a serious infection outweighed by preventing more deaths from severe anemia (lower oxygen carrying capacity, increased cardiac demand, etc)

Traumaman … Traumaman goes wherever a trauma can. Sprayable nanofibers may soon replace sutures and may revolutionize trauma care. I imagine it’s only a matter of time until the idea is weaponized. One splat in the face and you’re through.

I’m with Skeptical Scalpel and SurgeryWatch on this one. If patient satisfaction and doctor ratings are of such value to the medical industry, we really need to expand the concept to other industries as well. Enter Airline Pilot Ratings. One of you flyboys hits turbulence and you’re ratings are through. If my ticket price is too high, you’ll be lucky if I give you a single “fair” rating on your whole report card. And if there are any delays, I mean ANY delays … I’ll give you friggin negative numbers. You hear me? NEGATIVE! Oh, by the way, I don’t like how your voice is muffled when you talk on the speaker. You get points off for that, too.
Yep. That’s how all enterprise should work.
Next up: Patient ratings.

Can charm be taught? Meet this generation’s version of (a female) Dale Carnegie and decide. The article is long, but well-written and enjoyable, so grab a cup of coffee before clicking on the link.

Another hospital closes its doors. Hospital board votes to close North Adams Regional Hospital in Massachusetts with only three days’ notice. The hospital had previously been open for 129 years. Nearby Berkshire Medical Center is going to attempt to preserve services at the hospital, but a source for funding has yet to be identified.

Give me the girl. Judge gives permanent custody of a Connecticut girl who is hospitalized in a Massachusetts hospital to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. “Closed-door juvenile court hearings late last year” allegedly proved that the parents were unfit to handle their child’s complex needs. It probably didn’t help that the girls dad was being a tool, failing to work with healthcare providers, threatening the social worker assigned to the girl’s case, and calling hospital personnel “Nazis.”
But if these types of things are sufficient to take custody of a child away from the parents, then we’re a few virtual reality computer programs and a holodeck away from the real life Hunger Games.
Another story on this case in the Boston Globe.

Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (the “other” ACEP) tries to get Wikipedia to open up its policies to encourage more articles about topics such as Emotional Freedom Techniques, Thought Field Therapy, and the Tapas Acupressure Technique. Wikipedia co-founder responds rather thoughtfully.
“If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals—that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse.” It isn’t.”
Lunatic charlatans, eh? If advancing directives without having work published in reputable scientific journals and without those directives resulting form replicable scientific experiments is what defines the term, then the Joint Commission, Press Ganey, and most of the people who created Hospital Compare fit the definition.

Right on, brother. A leading neuroscientist asserts that ADHD is not a disease, it’s a label that is used to prescribe dangerous medications to children. The medications given to ADHD patients cause long-term changes in the brain and “their rewards systems change.”
Maybe that’s why some people call Ritalin and similar medications “kiddie cocaine.”

Another interesting article about the human microbiome. Certain bacteria in a woman’s vagina may protect against HIV infection. In the study, patients with bacterial vaginosis and taking an antiviral medication had significantly reduced antiviral activity while those patients with healthy vaginal bacteria and treated with the antiviral produced significantly less HIV.

High school teacher forced to resign after taking a 20 year old student (an adult capable of consenting to the actions) to the emergency department for an undisclosed problem and then paying for the cost of the student’s medical treatment.
Huh?

Bwaaaaaaah. District Court Judge Carter Schildknecht has open and closed door meetings with hospital administrators after her husband had a heart attack in the emergency department at Medical Arts Hospital. Ellis Schildknecht apparently had a gag order imposed by his wife as he remained silent during the meeting … and because of HIPAA laws, the hospital can’t respond publicly to the Judge’s complaint, leaving District Court Judge Schildknecht’s vague question “Is this the reputation that you want our hospital to have in this community?” out there for debate.
Saving the life of a patient suffering from a heart attack? Yes. That’s the reputation we want.
Perhaps you could order that your husbands files be released to the public so everyone could review the care that you deem so deficient and worthy of contempt.

Happy Doctors’ Day

March 30th, 2014

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According to the Southern Medical Association,

Doctors’ Day was first observed in 1933 as a way to honor the profession. Initially, it involved mailing cards to physicians and their wives and placing flowers on the graves of deceased physicians.
It wasn’t until 1958 that the US House of Representatives adopted a resolution commemorating Doctors’ Day.
In 1990 several Mississippi legislators drafted a bill to make March 30 National Doctors’ Day.  George Bush signed this bill into law later that year.

A red carnation has traditionally been used as the symbol of Doctors’ Day.

Give your doctor a fist bump today.

Excuses

March 27th, 2014

ekg-jiggle

I recently got into a rather … shall we say “colorful” … discussion with another doctor about lawsuits. I’m involved in another one. This one is even more screwy than the one I wrote about before. But this lawsuit isn’t finished yet. I expect that it will be over with in the next few months, but I’ll have to wait and see about that.

The discussion centered around medical records, which were one of the issues in my lawsuit.

The other doctor believed that what people write in the chart plays a big part in whether a doctor is successfully sued. In other words, the doctor believed that medical providers largely have the ability to document themselves out of a lawsuit.

I, on the other hand, asserted that charting generally does more harm than good. Sure, a well documented chart may make a doctor look more thorough and conscientious, but in the end if a diagnosis is missed, experts and jurors will work backwards from the diagnosis to determine all of the things that a doctor should have done to arrive at the diagnosis. If it’s a difficult diagnosis, documentation *may* save you. But if it is a disease where a patient manifested a couple of symptoms – even if those symptoms were nonspecific – documentation won’t do much. Electronic charting also provides a LOT more information, so it gives plaintiff attorneys more opportunity to show inconsistencies within a patient’s complaints, review of systems, and physical examination. Create an inconsistency by checking the wrong box or accidentally clicking “yes” instead of “no” and you look like either a careless schlubb who couldn’t be bothered to do an accurate exam or you look like someone who’s documenting an exam you didn’t perform in order to bill more money.

Then I started thinking. You know where that leads.

Suppose that a patient came to the emergency department with chest pain. He has a couple of risk factors for heart disease. His chest pain wasn’t classic cardiac pain, but he had chest pain. His EKG didn’t show any acute changes, but sometimes they don’t when someone has angina. His blood tests were normal, but again, blood tests often are normal when someone has angina. The pain gets better, so the emergency physician sends the patient home with a diagnosis of “chest pain” and instructs the patient to follow up with his doctor. But the patient doesn’t live that long. He dies that night from a heart attack.

Of course there’s going to be a lawsuit because a patient died from a heart attack after going to the emergency department with chest pain. I’m not going to argue whether or not the physician should have been sued. I didn’t give enough information in this example for anyone to make that determination.

My question is this: Given this scenario, is there anything about the chest pain patient’s history or physical exam that the physician could write in the chart to lessen the likelihood that he would be sued? If you were jurors, what types of things would sway your opinion (if anything) and make you decide that the doctor shouldn’t be liable for missing a heart attack in a patient complaining of chest pain? If the medical professionals were acting as expert witnesses, what documentation (if any) would make it more likely for you to conclude that the doctor complied with the standard of care?

I’ll let you know my thoughts once I read some comments.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 03-25-2014

March 25th, 2014

Patients gone wild. Really wild. 70 year old Brookdale Hospital nurse Evelyn Lynch gets knocked to the ground by patient Kwincii Jones and has her head stomped. She was knocked unconscious and suffered severe facial fractures. Also underwent brain surgery, so it is likely she suffered a brain bleed or has brain swelling as well.

Congratulations to the antivaccination movement for increasing the worldwide incidence of pertussis and measles. Measles and mumps are now “crushing” the UK. Patients with “religious exemptions” to receiving vaccinations were reportedly the source of one recent California pertussis outbreak.

Rise of the machines. I thought I was pretty good at spotting patients in fake pain. Turns out that most observers are only slightly better than chance at picking out fakers from the real deal. This computer program can achieve 85% accuracy in picking out patients who are truly in pain just by analyzing their facial expressions. Of course, watching the surveillance video of people skipping in the parking lot, then limping into the ED hunched over in “pain” is also a dead giveaway.

Machines are also pretty darn good at sniffing out cancer. A device called BreathLink can detect changes in a woman’s breath that suggest breast cancer and has a diagnostic power similar to mammograms. The device may also be able to test for tuberculosis.
The article also has a neat table about the odors different disease processes cause. Did you know that rubella may cause your sweat to smell like freshly plucked feathers or that schizophrenia may cause your sweat to smell like vinegar? Typhoid fever may cause your skin to smell like fresh-baked bread.

Wrapping that rascal is more and more important lately. The CDC is warning that gonorrhea may soon become untreatable. The “love dart” – otherwise known as an injection of Rocephin – has been a stalwart of treatment and now gonorrhea is showing resistance to this class of medications as well. Another article on the topic in The Verge here.
By the way, do you know what you get when you kiss a parakeet? Chirpes … fortunately that’s still tweetable.
Stop groaning. That thar’s funny and you know it.

What do you do if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer? Take a deep breath. Own it. Don’t run to consult Dr. Google. Dr. Peter Edelstein has some more suggestions here.

Utah Senate passes bill allowing doctors to prescribe Narcan to third parties to administer to patients who may be suffering from opiate overdose.
Initially, I had problems with this idea. Would people be able to inject it IM or assemble the intranasal administration assembly? How would the lay public deal with patients who are suddenly thrown into withdrawals?
Then I thought that it would be better to at least attempt to reverse an opiate overdose and deal with the consequences rather than having a patient die.
So why require a prescription? Shouldn’t Narcan just be made over the counter?

Rhode Island emergency department becomes first in nation to incorporate Google Glass into patient care.

Call of Duty – Dialysis Edition. 14-year-old Norwegian kid drinks 4 LITERS of an energy drink over 16 hours so he could stay awake playing Call of Duty. Ends up in a coma in a hospital for two weeks with “kidney failure” but is expected to respawn and live to fight another day.

Many people in New York contracting rare skin infection called Mycobacterium marinum. All of the 30 cases diagnosed were in people who were handling seafood.

Trying to change the message again. Obamacare architect Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel asserts that “you don’t need a doctor for every part of your health care.” If you like your high school sophomore with a 16 hour course in basic first aid, you can keep your high school sophomore with a 16 hour course in basic first aid.

The “Punch” Line

March 19th, 2014

BoilerQ: How do you get a room full of little old ladies to all use obscene language at the same time?
A: Yell “BINGO!”

When elderly patients blurt out obscenities, most of the time it takes everything I can do not to laugh out loud. No offense intended. I just get flashbacks of my mom sitting and putting her fingers in her ears while watching scenes in certain movies or seeing her gasp in shock if an F-bomb catches her off guard. I don’t expect to hear obscenities from someone who just rolled by me with a walker. For example, a while ago I posted a story about one lady from a nursing home who caught me off guard with an MF-bomb.

But this post came about from another patient encounter that made me reflect about how the things that doctors say to patients can affect a patient’s perception.

Enter the elderly patient who hobbled past the nursing station and into a treatment room with the help of her walker. As soon as we saw the chief complaint of “rectal pain” pop up on the tracker, everyone hoped it was a hemorrhoid and not a stool impaction. The other doc pretended he didn’t see the patient go by and headed into another room to see a different patient. I put my name under the “assign doctor” tab and went into the room to see her.

“Hi! I’m Dr. WhiteCoat. How can I help you today?”
“I’m having pain in my rectal region, doctor.”
Then her husband jumps in “She had surgery to fix a fissure a few days …”
Esther got upset. “You let ME tell him, Herb. It’s MY rectum.”
Herb shut up.
“I had surgery to fix an anal fissure a few days ago and I’m still having pain in the area – especially when I go to the bathroom.”
I got some more history and then had her get undressed so I could look at the area. While she described what had taken place over the past few days, she was obviously upset about her outcome.
Esther wasn’t a petite woman and she wasn’t quite as mobile as most patients. The nurse had to help her get into a gown and then helped pull down Esther’s pants. I could immediately see why Esther was having pain. There was extensive bruising to the inner aspects of both buttocks.
“Have you told your surgeon about this?” I asked.
Despite having a spine contorted from years of progressive osteoarthritis, Esther managed to twist herself sideways to give me a stern look and resolutely state “I am never talking to that goddamn sonofabitch again in my LIFE!” She then flopped back onto her stomach on the bed.
Herb started to chime in. “We went to Dr. Rectum’s office yesterday and …”
Esther’s voice, muffled from the pillow, still cut him off. “Herb, it’s MY body. Shut up.”
Herb shut up.
“I saw the bruising yesterday, so we went to Dr. Rectum’s office yesterday to ask him about it.” She explained. “That sonofabitch told me that my butt was so big he had to have two fat guys from the hospital boiler room come and pull my butt cheeks apart so he could finish doing the surgery.”
Herb grinned.
I raised my eyebrows at him and softly shook my head.
“OK, Esther, we’ll get you some medicine for the pain and I’ll give one of our other surgeons a call.”

The other surgeon who covers for Dr. Rectum was out of town, so I ended up talking to Dr. Rectum himself.
“Bruising is normal after surgery like this.” He said. “Hers was a little more than usual, but she’ll be fine. Part of it is because of her size. We had a little difficulty retracting her buttocks. Tell her to take it easy on the opiate pain medications and continue the Sitz baths and cool compresses like we discussed. She can see me in a few days if she’s still having pain.”
“She’s pretty upset with you,” I told him. “She said you told her that her butt was so big that you needed two men from the hospital boiler room to come and hold her butt cheeks apart.”
“I told her that the traction from the tape we use is what probably caused the bruising. I jokingly told her that it wasn’t like two men came in from the boiler room had to hold her buttocks apart. And I never said anything about the size of her rear end.”
“That’s not how she remembers it. She’s refusing to ever see you again.”
“I’ll call her to apologize. My gosh. That didn’t go very well, did it?”

I told Esther what Dr. Rectum had said.
More profanities. No change of heart. She remembered what she heard, she didn’t think it was funny, and she was NOT ever seeing Dr. Rectum again.

Dr. Rectum is a good doc, but his misguided attempt at humor torpedoed the care he provided … and he was lucky that the patient didn’t complain to the administrators about her perception of a statement that men from the boiler room came into a surgical suite while she was under anesthesia.

So Esther was discharged with some stool softeners and a few pain pills.

As she was getting dressed, Herb nudged me and whispered “I thought it was pretty damn funny when she told me.”
I smirked a little and whispered back “Any good comedian knows his audience.”

Making cracks about the posteriors of hearing impaired little old ladies – definitely not doctor’s office material.

———————–

This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 03-04-2014

March 4th, 2014

Science reporter Miles O’Brien suffers a freak accident while packing equipment after a reporting trip. Case falls onto his arm and causes bruise/injury. The following day, pain and swelling in his arm got worse. The day after that, he was being rushed to the operating room for compartment syndrome. His blood pressure dropped during surgery and the surgeon had to amputate his arm.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Miles.

Patients who have had strokes are 50% more likely to have iron deficiency anemia as are control populations. Authors suggest a couple of possible mechanisms for the correlation including decreased oxygen delivery and a secondary thrombocytosis, but no one is quite sure why the risk increases.

Eastern Ontario Children’s Hospital asks patients to stay away unless they have a “true emergency”. The hospital is just too busy.

New Hampshire hospital employee makes “offhanded” comment about strangling and shooting man who was divorcing her daughter. “Antagonistic” co-workers notify police that she was making homicidal threats. Police then come and arrest her and take her to hospital emergency department … where she waits six days before a bed in a psychiatric hospital opens up. She is discharged from the psychiatric hospital the following day. Now she’s suing for false imprisonment and wrongful discharge … from her job, not from the hospital.

The good news is that we have these tests to give us a better idea of your medical “frailty.” The bad news is that if the tests are abnormal, you’re substantially likely to die sooner. Tests include alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, albumin,  very-low-density lipoprotein particle size, and citrate. Those whose tests were in the highest 20% were 19 times more likely to die in the following 5 years than those whose tests were in the lowest 20%. Patients whose tests were in the 99th percentile had a 23% likelihood of dying in the next 12 months and 49% likelihood of dying within the following 5 years.
So … do you still want to have the testing done?

78 year old farmer takes a nap, then wakes up with a bunch of people at a funeral home trying to embalm him. Coroner was called to the house, said the patient had no pulse, and declared him dead. Family surmises that the patient’s pacemaker stopped working.
I’ll say.

Maybe a better title to this article would be “The Way We DON’T Pay Primary-Care Doctors Is Insane”. Some people commenting on the article are advocating use of NPs and PAs to replace the primary care physicians.

Paul Hsieh writes a nice article in Forbes about whether you can trust what’s in your medical records. Uses the case of a Dragonism where “DKA” was transcribed to “BKA” to illustrate the point that sometimes erroneous information can be unintentionally propagated in future medical record entries. Also gives some good advice on patients can minimize errors in their records. Best suggestion: Obtain copies of your medical records and request copies of all testing performed on you.

Louisiana patient sues cardiologist for failure to stent which allegedly resulted in permanent disability when the patient suffered a heart attack a few weeks later.

Should Zohydro be removed from the market? Ten milligrams of hydrocodone in one pill. Opponents are concerned that it will cause further addiction and deaths from drug overdoses. Proponents say that patients may need it for proper pain relief.
Another important issue is whether many doctors will even be willing to prescribe it with the increasing number of criminal actions against physicians whose patients die from drug overdoses.

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