Archive for the ‘Healthcare Update’ Category

Healthcare Update Satellite — 12-30-2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013

More updates on my other blog at DrWhiteCoat.com

North Las Vegas VA Hospital emergency department repeatedly “disrespected and mistreated” a 78 year old diabetic volunteer with more than 5,000 hours of service at local VA facilities. A few weeks after two visits for a colon problem, the patient died in a hospice. When the patient’s friend went to get video of the events from the emergency department, the footage had been erased.

What types of things do Australian emergency departments see on Christmas? Stonefish stings, jet ski accidents, inhaled foreign bodies … not that different from the US, although I had no idea what a stonefish was until I looked it up. Kind of reminds me of my sister.

Back in the US, some emergency physicians are noting “desperate” behavior during the holidays from patients looking to cope with loneliness – manifesting itself in excess drug and alcohol use, excessive sleep, and angry moods.
Other physicians see this behavior every day.

And back to Australia again … Now Press Ganey is “global,” ranking emergency departments in Australia.
Seems like the hospital in the article cut waiting times by doing a lot of things we already do in the US. One thing we aren’t doing, though is seeing patients in order of arrival instead of triaging patients first. Little uneasy with that concept.
“Yes, Mr. Dwyer, you do seem to be having a heart attack, but there was a family of four patients registered ahead of you in the emergency department who have all had runny noses and coughs for the past month and who haven’t had time to get into their family physician.”

Oooh. Can’t wait to see this show. [eyeroll] Sex Sent Me to the ER.
Let’s see. I’ll run down the entire season in one sentence: injuries from doing it where you shouldn’t be doing it, foreign bodies where they shouldn’t be, torn female parts, broken male parts, beatdowns after getting caught with someone else’s partner, and diseases. That about covers everything.
Aaaaand I wasn’t too far off. I found this article from the NY Post discussing other cases in this week’s episode. Stroke “mid-shag,” broken penis, painful orgasm, injuries, more injuries.

Want some sex-related medical news stories?
Florida patient has penile implant placed, then sues surgeon and anesthesiologist when he develops post operative infection requiring amputation of his penis, alleging that “doctors should have known that he was not a good candidate for the procedure because of his diabetes and high blood pressure.”
Beware the bad outcome.

Texas man sues manufacturer of a sexual enhancement supplement after man buys supplement at gas station en route to a hotel for a tryst with is “paramour.” During his episode of carnal knowledge, the man states he suddenly had severe penile pain and that his penis then allegedly began spraying blood over the sheets, wall, and mirror like some broken fire extinguisher. He then went to an emergency department where doctors allegedly had to deglove his member (i.e. pull off the skin like removing a glove from the fingers) in order to repair it.
The plaintiff’s treating physician definitively linked the sexual enhancement supplement to the man’s injuries. I’m sure that rough sex had nothing to do with it.
So keep this in mind, dear readers: Taking roadside erection aids may cause your penis to spontaneously snap in two. A treating physician and a plaintiff’s attorney have vouched that it can happen.

Get your flu shots while they’re still around. Latest round of media reports showing that “killer” flu is back in circulation cause increased demand for immunizations. Most of the confirmed cases of influenza are the dreaded H1N1 “swine flu.”
The CDC Influenza Map shows that most of the US has either regional or widespread influenza activity.

Or, if you’re not inclined to have a flu shot, you can just be fired instead. At Pennsylvania’s Horizon Healthcare Services (a group owned by Lancaster General Health, Reading Health System, PinnacleHealth System and Penn State Hershey) a pregnant nurse refused the flu shot for fear of inducing another miscarriage, offers to wear mask instead. Hospital system fires her anyway.

Emergency department in Wigan Infirmary in the UK increasing police presence during the holidays after more than 200 assaults have been reported by staff members increases from 98 last year to 106 this year. That’s twice per week where the staff is actually reporting the violence.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 12-13-2013

Friday, December 13th, 2013

More healthcare news from around the web can also be found on my other blog at DrWhiteCoat.com

Vacancy rate for physicians at hospitals nearly doubles in four years and vacancy rate for nurses at hospitals triples in four years. NPs and PAs also in short supply.
Even though I’m no Obamacare fan, I don’t think the provider shortage can be blamed on the new healthcare law as the Forbes article insinuates.
But if the shortage is because fewer people want to go into the medical field, there are going to be large problems in the future. It takes 11 years of secondary education to train a doctor. That’s a long time to wait if there isn’t enough medical care for all of the newly “insured” patients.

Cook County jury hits University of Chicago Hospital and two doctors with $15.5 million judgment after patient died during childbirth from undiagnosed placenta accreta.

Sticking up for Obamacare twice in a week? I must be falling ill. Kentucky family physician Stephen Kiteck puts ad in paper stating that he is closing his practice “due to the policies of Obamacare.
When he finally granted an interview, Dr. Kiteck said that a requirement to use electronic medical records were the reason he was retiring. The EMR requirement wasn’t part of Obamacare.
There’s still too damn much regulation in medicine anyway, though.

Epic fail? How much does the Epic electronic medical record system suck? Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center reportedly lost $16.8 million in direct expenses and another $53.7 million in indirect expenses just implementing the Epic system.

An IDC study shows that most docs are dissatisfied with EHRs and that the two most frequent reasons for EHR dissatisfaction involved lost productivity – spending more time on documentation (85 percent) and seeing fewer patients (66 percent).

Autisim symptoms improve with … hot tubs and intestinal parasites?

Seats of horror … infant high chairs responsible for an average of more than one emergency department visit every hour of every day. And the number of visits has increased in the past 10 years. Even worse: Regular chairs which account for four times as many ED visits each year.
How long it will be until the Joint Commission takes definitive actions and bans chairs in hospitals because they are a threat to patient safety? It’s for the children!

President Obama allowed insurers to temporarily keep insurance plans that don’t meet minimum coverage requirements under Obamacare. Aetna says “no way” and refuses to reinstate canceled policies.

Got bad vision? There’s an app for that. iPhone app helps users read letters 1.6 times smaller than they could before they started using the app. Amazing.

Saline, Michigan emergency department converts to an urgent care center effective next spring with about 45 people losing their jobs. In comments section, area residents are upset because the next closest emergency department 9 miles away is overcrowded and wait times are long.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 12-04-2013

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

What are the busiest hospital emergency departments? An American Hospital Association survey from 2011 published earlier this year is surprising (link to .pdf file). The 25 busiest hospitals in the US see more than 5 million patients per year. Florida Hospital in Orlando is the busiest in the US and sees 407,000 patients per year – an average of 1,100 per day.

Georgia Supreme Court rules that emergency physician’s to diagnose a pulmonary embolism in 15 year old football player who had arthroscopic knee surgery a week prior to ED visit can constitute gross negligence. The patient had pleuritic chest pain, a normal CXR, a normal EKG, normal pulse oximeter, and normal vital signs. He was discharged with a diagnosis of pleurisy. Two weeks later, the patient had chest pain and difficulty breathing. He was transported to another hospital and later died from a pulmonary embolism.
Georgia enacted laws to protect doctors who provide mandatory emergency care by requiring that any malpractice claims must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the physician engaged in “gross negligence” which is defined as failing to “exercise even a slight degree of care” or “lack of the diligence that even careless men are accustomed to exercise.”
The Appellate Court held that the emergency physician had provided some degree of care and therefore the plaintiffs could not meet the statutory burden of proving gross negligence. However, two “nationally recognized specialists” testified that the patient’s symptoms and history “constituted a classic presentation of pulmonary embolism” and that failing to order a chest CT scan and an ultrasound of the patient’s leg therefore must have constituted gross negligence.
Whacked out opinions like this are the problem with any attempts at tort reform. Courts and experts twist definitions to suit their own means, thereby rendering legislative actions moot.
If someone can get me the names of the experts and/or their opinions in this case, I would like to publish the expert’s names and discuss their opinions.

Teenage emergency department visits related to “ecstasy” or “MDMA” have more than doubled between 2005 and 2011. One emergency physician quoted in the article notes that the pills may be mixed with other substances and that taking the pills is “Russian Roulette at its best.”

Reporter on Obamacare describes how personally being in “coverage gap” affects her. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation graphic in the article, patients who earn between $11,490 and $45,960 are eligible for a marketplace subsidy. Patients who earn less than $5400 per year are covered by Medicaid. Patients who earn between $5,400 and $11,490 have no coverage. So what incentive does the law create for patients in the coverage gap who need medical care?

California hospital sued for wrongful termination after secretary fired when she reported sexual harassment against ED Director who allegedly spanked women’s bottoms and stuck his tongue in someone’s ear.

Interesting case. New Jersey statutes require that physicians have malpractice insurance with limits of at least $1 million or that they obtain a “letter of credit” for $500,000 if no such policy exists.
In a malpractice case involving reportedly botched surgery, the surgeon allegedly didn’t meet those requirements and didn’t tell the patients that he had no malpractice insurance. The patient sued and won a judgment for $930,000, but their claims against the surgeon for failing to disclose that he didn’t have malpractice insurance were dismissed.
Now the NJ Supreme Court has taken the case and is going to decide whether failing to disclose lack of malpractice insurance can constitute fraud in New Jersey.

Another successful lawsuit regarding da Vinci robots. This gynecologist was found liable for $110,000 after a da Vinci device reportedly malfunctioned and a plastic sheath was left in the patient’s abdomen after surgery. The foreign bodies were not found in the patient’s abdomen until a CT was performed more than three years after the patient’s surgery.

Patients gone wild. Family member of patient in Philadelphia emergency department punches nurse in the face after alleging that family member was not receiving proper medical care.

Taking patients gone wild to a whole new level. Minnesota obstetrician hunted down and murdered in his home by disgruntled patient who blamed physician for medical issue with which patient was born. The shooter, Ted Hoffstrom, was a 30-year-old attorney.

43 year old Army Veteran wins $8.3 million against St. Louis VA Medical Center in federal court after site from routine cardiac catheterization becomes infected, then “further negligence” caused severe brain injury, then patient’s leg became gangrenous and required amputation.

Interesting statistics about medical malpractice cases in Tennessee. In fiscal year 2013, there were 385 medical malpractice cases filed in Tennessee which was only 0.18% of all trial court filings (one in 555 cases). Despite this, Tennessee trial judges spent nearly 4% of their time on medical malpractice cases — 70% more than first degree murder cases which was the second most time-intensive type of court case.

University of Massachusetts settles malpractice suit for $4.25 million when child born with brain damage after obstetrician mishandled the mother’s labor and did not immediately agree to a mother’s demand for a Caesarian section. Of course, if the doctor had agreed to the mother’s demand for a C-section and there was a bad outcome, the doctor would have been sued for that, too.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 11-25-2013

Monday, November 25th, 2013

See many more medical news stories from around the web over at my other blog at DrWhitecoat.com

Nice synopsis by an Ohio State University emergency physician on how sinusitis can be mistaken for a primary dental problem … and how to use physical examination to help tell the difference between the two. Just don’t expect a sinus infection to get better with antibiotics.

Why one California emergency physician weeps for the future. The patient scenarios that you read about at the link will probably frustrate you as well. Included are patients who come to the ED because they don’t want to wait for referrals or for doctor’s appointments for routine matters and several patients who won’t fill prior prescriptions because someone else isn’t paying for their cost.

Wisconsin emergency department temporarily closes after SUV runs through wall of the department, injuring several people. Driver had to be transported to another hospital for treatment. Here’s a picture of the scene before the truck was removed.

Letter to the editor of a Buffalo, NY area newspaper wonders whether elderly and injured patients will have sufficient access to emergency medical care when Lake Shore Hospital closes, reportedly leaving 4 hospital emergency departments in a 3,000 square mile rural area of western New York.

Canadian Association for Emergency Physicians calls overcrowded emergency departments a public health emergency and warns that more patients could die if the government does not address the problem.

When Prince Edward Island’s Western Hospital staffed its emergency department with nurses and paramedics at night instead of closing the doors … hardly any patients showed up. The emergency department has been seeing less than two patients a night over the two weeks since the change was implemented. What conclusions can be drawn from the lack of patients? One commenter stated that patients are just deciding to drive to the next closest hospital in order to see a physician rather than being triaged and transferred to the other hospital anyway.
Would be interesting to see whether the patient volumes and demographics at the other hospital bear out that theory.

South Dakota jury awards $750,000 to estate of 79 year old patient who died from “unnecessary” spinal fusion surgeries. Award climbs to $933,000 with interest.
The way to prevent such suits in the future is to require second opinions to prove that surgeries are “necessary” prior to performing all non-emergency surgeries.

Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence goes to the emergency department for treatment of abdominal pain and is diagnosed with a “fulcer” instead of an “ulcer.” Must be kind of like “fretching” — which happened to be my first post ever in the blogosphere.

Mail order prescriptions decrease the number of diabetic patients visiting emergency departments when compared to patients who pick up their prescriptions at pharmacies. The study only looked at Kaiser Permanente mail order pharmacies, so the results can’t be generalized to mail order pharmacies in general. Being mostly PhDs, the authors have obviously not had to deal much with Medco shenanigans.

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos sending many kids to emergency department for a couple of reasons. First, the spicy seasonings are giving kids stomach aches. Also, when kids eat enough of them, the dye causes their stools to become red, making the parents think that the kids have blood in their stool.
Of course I was going to make a snarky remark that we should just ban Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to protect the children … then I read that several schools in New Mexico, California, and Illinois have already done so.
Yet another reason to weep for the future.

Memphis VA Medical Center being investigated after three patients died in its emergency department. One was given a medication despite having a documented allergy to the medication. Another was found unresponsive after receiving multiple sedating medications. A third had “critically high blood pressure that was not aggressively monitored” and died from a brain hemorrhage.

Finally, an Unaffordable Insurance Act quote for the week. A Twitter discussion about how often that Patriots fumbled the football morphs into a new term for fumbling: “Obamacared.” As in “The Patriots just Obamacared on the five yard line.”
The best comment to the thread: “If you like your new verb you can keep your new verb. Period.”

Healthcare Update Satellite — 11-20-2013

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

How do patients choose their physicians? New survey by the American Osteopathic Association shows that 65% use word of mouth. 50% use their insurance provider directories. 10% use hospital web sites. 9% use consumer review websites such as Yelp. Then 19% who want to gamble with their lives use physician rating sites such as Healthgrades.com. The most important factor in choosing a physician is whether that physician accepts the patient’s insurance plan.

Another example of the difference between “insurance” and “health care.” UnitedHealth cuts thousands of doctors from its networks. You can have the most expensive insurance in the country, but if few doctors accept it as payment or if the company doesn’t have sufficient providers on its network to care for its patients, “health care” will inevitably suffer. One doctor noted that “Fewer practitioners mean longer waits, longer drives, less convenience.” Another oncologist stated that “Patients battling cancer should be focused on their treatment, not on finding another doctor.”

John Edwards will be representing the rights of the disenfranchised once more. I can only wonder if, during all of his “channeling”, his wife tells him what an a-hole he is.

Remember the 2 year old Indonesian kid who was a 2 packs per day chain smoker? Well at 6 years old he’s finally kicked the habit. Now he’s reportedly an overweight junk food addict.

I wonder if there is a study comparing swimmers to non-swimmers … a 1:200 concentration of bleach in water (roughly 2 tsp of bleach per gallon of water), reverses aging of the skin and inflammation from diseases such as eczema. So far, the trials have only been done in mice, but researchers are also looking at whether dilute bleach can improve healing of diabetic ulcers. Stock up on bleach while you can … before it gets labeled as a drug by the FDA and the price goes up to $750/gallon.

Infants often have low body stores of Vitamin K, a vitamin that is needed for blood to clot properly. So infants are usually given a dose of Vitamin K to prevent bleeding. Risks of developing bleeding are 81 times greater in infants that don’t receive the Vitamin K shots.
In Nashville TN, there have been several incidents of intracranial bleeding in infants whose parents have refused to let them receive Vitamin K shots. Of course, the parents initially refused the injections due to fears of their children being exposed to toxins or getting leukemia from the shots, then the parents pled ignorance of the bleeding risks from not receiving the shot after their children had developed brain bleeds.
Jenny McCarthyism is still putting children’s lives at risk.

Police go to residence to investigate a complaint of a pig running around a property. They find an 11 year old boy handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck. His foster parents? A social services supervisor and an emergency department nurse.

Should the government be prosecuted for creating Healthcare.gov? Andrew Stiles believes so. After all, a commercial venture that is likely mislead consumers violates the Federal Trade Commission Act. The whole premise that people “can keep their healthcare plan” and the “dramatic underestimate[s]” of pricing on the site are just a couple of ways in which consumers have been misled on the site.

Doctor Christine Daniel gets 14 years in prison and a $1.2 million fine for selling snake oil to cancer patients. What she alleged was a herbal concoction to cure cancer was really just a mixture of suntan lotion and beef flavoring. Several patients died when they didn’t seek medical treatment and instead relied on Dr. Daniel’s promises.

Mental health care is in a crisis in Colorado. This report says that mental health patients make up almost half of the emergency department patients at Denver Health every weekend. When you cut funding for psychiatric care by 20% and cut the number of psychiatric beds by 30%, the patients with psychiatric problems don’t just disappear. When they can’t get help, they end up in the emergency department, in jail, or even worse. Could the Columbine or Aurora shootings have been prevented by expanding psychiatric care? Probably not. But one emergency department physician noted that for every “high-profile event that everybody knows about, there’s a hundred that were either near misses … or resulted in violence.”

Healthcare Update Satellite — 11-14-2013

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

See more news from around the web over at my other blog at DrWhitecoat.com

An example of the downside to government-run health care. Patients in Venezuela can’t get proper medical care. 300 cancer patients were just sent home when supply shortages and “overtaxed equipment” made it “impossible … to perform non-emergency surgeries.” 70% of the radiation therapy machines are inoperable. Basic supplies such as needles, syringes, medications, operating room equipment, X-ray film, and blood needed for transfusions are all in short supply. There is no anesthesia for elective surgery. Patients can no longer get organ donations or organ transplants.
The most important point in the article is that Venezuela’s constitution guarantees free universal health care to its citizens. They don’t just get government-mandated health “insurance,” they get free health care … and look what happens.
We need to be very careful about what type of health care system we ask for in this country. The government that has the power to give everything to you also has the power to take everything away from you.

Another example of what can happen with “free” medical care. Don’t have a heart attack after 5PM on weekdays or any time on weekends in Kaslo, British Columbia – the ED is closed. If your body doesn’t pay attention to those hours, you’ll have to travel an hour over mountainous terrain to get to the next closest hospital. Hope there’s no snow.

Interesting study in Annals of Emergency Medicine showing that sending daily text messages to poorly controlled diabetic patients improved medicine compliance (.pdf file). There was no statistical change in the HbA1c, but patients receiving text messages used the EDs less than the control population and patients actually liked receiving the messages. Kudos to the investigators for thinking outside the box.

LA County Medical Center board approves $7.5 million settlement to formerly homeless patient after patient was discharged from labor and delivery department at 39 weeks gestation with abdominal pain without being evaluated by obstetrician. Patient returned 12 hours later with ruptured uterus and child born with severe brain damage.

Idaho man suffers broken ribs after being hit by drunk driver … while playing cards in his living room. But there’s more to the story. The man’s dog went missing after the accident. A town resident found the dog wandering … near the emergency department of the hospital where the patient was taken. Happy and amazing reunion.

Entering the emergency department with atrial fibrillation? You have a 69% chance of being admitted according to this American Journal of Cardiology study.

Patients gone wild. Arizona man arrested for being aggressive with emergency department staff and trying to bite a male employee several times. Must have been a full moon.

Patient at Chicago-area Riveredge psychiatric hospital hangs herself with bedsheet. Hospital cited for putting patient in a room with a 7 foot ceiling and having the wrong type of vent covers which placed the patient in danger of “immediate jeopardy” by making it possible for the patient to hang herself.  Beware the bad outcome.

Another reason not to practice medicine in Florida. Predicted medical malpractice loss ratios in Florida for 2014 are highest in the nation – and more than nine times greater than the predicted loss ratios in states such as Indiana and Minnesota. Pennsylvania comes in second highest on the predicted loss ratio list. Check out the link a the top for other reasons not to practice medicine in Florida.

A pair of settlements paid by Iowa State underscore two important points. First, lumbar punctures are not complication-free. One 69 year old patient received $1.75 million after a lumbar puncture left him paralyzed in his lower extremities. In another non-medical case, a patient was awarded $125,000 for a retaliatory discharge from her job after she filed a workplace violence complaint. If hospital administrators take action against ED staff members for complaining about patient violence, there can be liability for doing so.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 11-04-2013

Monday, November 4th, 2013

See more medical news from around the web on my other blog at DrWhiteCoat.com

72 year old Connecticut patient awarded $9.3 million after being hospitalized for UTI, then given overdose of Lovenox. She developed intra-abdominal bleeding and required several surgeries and blood transfusions to correct the problem. She also developed a large abscess at the site of a central line insertion. Attorneys for the patient say that it was “an understatement” to say that the standard of care was violated.

One of the ideas behind providing more patients with “insurance” (not with “health care,” mind you) is that the insured patients will be less likely to use the emergency department. Untrue. When few doctors take the patients’ insurance, often the patients’ only option is to go to the emergency department. In addition, the emergency department is free for Medicaid patients. The Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon was quoted in the article. I’ve argued with Michael Cannon about his opinions in the past, but this time he is right on the mark when he says “Nobody spends (other people’s) money as carefully as they do their own.” In other words, with no skin in the game, patients have no incentive to limit spending.
The policymakers in Washington have no idea about the economics and incentives of this perverse system they are creating.

October 2013 study in Pediatrics shows that 10% of 14-20 year old ED patients at the University of Michigan admit to nonprescription opioid or sedative use.
My jaw dropped when I read that 12% of these kids had been prescribed sedatives but then I realized that it was 12% of the 5% of kids who reported using sedatives … or about 0.6% of the total patient population. That’s still a lot but it’s better than 12%.

InQuickER still allowing patients to schedule appointments in the emergency department and bypass other patients waiting in the waiting room. At some point a smart plaintiff attorney is going to realize that an EMTALA claim against a hospital using this service is a slam dunk.

Our national health care plan sucks so much that doctors are refusing to accept patients with government “insurance.” That, dear readers, is the difference between health “care” and health “insurance”: Health insurance is a false promise of obtaining health care. Virginia Democrat Kathleen Murphy has a solution to the problem, though: Force doctors to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Our government is getting awful comfortable “forcing” the private sector to engage in activities that go against acceptable business practices. Obamacare forces insurance companies to provide policy coverage that makes policies too expensive and that provides services many people neither want nor need. Then Obamacare forces insurance companies to offer policies to people regardless of their pre-existing conditions. But insurance means nothing without being able to provide the health care and that’s a business the government doesn’t want to be involved in. So now politicians are floating trial balloons about forcing doctors to treat patients. Hopefully, this idea gets shot down quickly and forcefully.

Too many nursing home patients being sent to emergency departments? A research letter to the editor of JAMA Internal Medicine shows that the number of visits for preventable causes increased 21% between and that the number of visits for non preventable causes increased 23% from 2001 to 2010. More than half of the “preventable” visits were due to either pneumonia or UTIs.

Saving money by cutting services. New York’s St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital plans to close its emergency department between 10am and 10pm in order to save more than $1 million per year. Patients needing emergency care will be directed to another hospital 5 miles away.

More on saving money by cutting services. Massachusetts’ North Adams Regional Hospital proposing closure of its psychiatric facility. The hospital is having financial difficulties and reimbursement for care of psychiatric patients is notoriously low. The hospital’s director of finance says that “Unless change happens, [the next hearing] won’t be about closing one unit, it will be about closing all the units.”

Michael Jackson’s former physician Conrad Murray is out of jail, but will he ever be able to practice medicine again?


Healthcare Update Satellite 10-28-2013

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Check out more updates on my newly refurbished blog at DrWhiteCoat.com!

Does homelessness affect use of emergency departments and hospitals? Absolutely.
According to this study of 1165 homeless Canadian patients in the American Journal of Public Health, when compared with a control population, homeless patients used the emergency department 8.5 times more often, were hospitalized 4.2 times more often for medical/surgical problems, and were hospitalized 9.2 times more often for psychiatric hospitalizations.
According to this accompanying study, the average ED utilization for homeless patients was 2 visits per year, but 10% of the sample population accounted for more than 60% of all ED visits.

Drug seeking behaviors permeate emergency medicine. Opiate overdoses resulted in more than 100,000 ED visits in 2009. Now more and more patients with Toradol “allergies” are being tracked and put into “non-medical” treatment programs.
In other words, keeping “The List” is becoming standard practice in many emergency departments.

Massachusetts Medical Board gone wild? Bariatric surgeon who has performed more than 6000 weight loss operations in his career and who reportedly has complication rates better than or equal to the national average has his license suspended because he uses open gastric bypass surgery rather than performing laparoscopic procedures and because he allegedly did not recognize and treat post operative complications in four patients quickly enough.
Interesting to note that bariatric surgery death rates range from 1 in 100 patients to 1 in 300 patients, meaning that it would be expected that this physician would have expected death rates of 20 to 60 patients in his career.
Even though four Harvard physicians have written letters supporting his care, the Massachusetts Medical Board declared him an “immediate and serious threat’’ to the public.
Medical board actions are becoming a larger threat to physicians than are malpractice suits and there are a lot fewer protections in place regarding those actions.

The hardest medical simulator ever? Surgeon Simulator’s controls are difficult and the gameplay is supposedly clunky, but the game is reportedly quite popular. Anyone tried it?

That will teach those uncaring emergency department staff members … Houston man gets fed up because staff weren’t taking his headache seriously enough, so he jumped into an ambulance in the parking lot and drove away, then crashed ambulance into an overpass.

Street drug MDMA, otherwise known as “Molly,” making inroads with recreational drug users. Some states seeing a 100-fold increase in use, with multiple overdoses and deaths. The number of ED visits related to MDMA increased to 22,498 in 2011.

Police in West Palm Beach, Florida (go figure) arrest emergency department nurse for refusing to draw blood from a suspected drunk driving offender, charge nurse with “obstructing justice.” Federal magistrate rules that such actions violate Fourth Amendment for false arrest. Nurse then sues West Palm Beach sheriff’s department for back pay.

Healthcare Update Satellite – 10-21-2013

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Setting the record straight about EMS myths. Well … really one myth … going to an emergency department by ambulance doesn’t mean you’ll go to the front of the line. The places that I work will frequently have patients who come by ambulance go directly to the waiting room. Other times when it isn’t as busy, the patients would have gone straight to a bed regardless of how they arrived. Calling an ambulance to try to game the system isn’t worth the expense.

One of the things people don’t think about when filing a lawsuit is called “subrogation.” If insurance has paid for care that is related to your lawsuit, they’re going to want to be reimbursed for the money they spent. If the government spent $250,000 on your care and you win a $500,000 malpractice suit, between the costs of suit, the attorney’s fees, and the government subrogation claim, you’re going to come away with very little money.
In this case, a patient is trying to block Oregon from taking $236,000 of her malpractice settlement – an amount that the state claims it paid for her care over 6 months. I’d like to see the itemized bill and receipts for that bill.
And if an insurance company is allowed to prevent a patient from receiving a “windfall” of a malpractice judgment, shouldn’t policyholders be able to prevent insurance companies from receiving a “windfall” of premium payments when the policyholders don’t use the insurance? You lawyers know of any “reverse subrogation” cases?

OK, these pictures are disconcerting. Now I’m going around looking at the size of senior citizens’ ears. How does a person’s appearance change with age? Ten photographic comparisons show that ears and noses get bigger, eyelids droop, and sun exposure kills a complexion. But the ear thing still weirds me out the most.

Dr. Ben Carson claims that Obamacare is “ the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery” and that it is “making all of us subservient to the government.”

The government that has the power to give everything to you also has the power to take everything away from you. Food stamp benefits set to be cut before the holidays. Maybe Dr. Carson was right.

Hospitals need to change their business models with the Unaffordable Insurance Act. Hospitals with better clinical outcomes and better patient satisfaction surveys will receive financial incentives under Obamacare.
For those of you who think that better outcomes and higher satisfaction are good measures of quality, be prepared to be transferred somewhere else when you’re a high-risk patient (hospitals won’t want to risk a bad outcome on your care) and remember the studies showing that highly satisfied patients are nearly twice as likely to die from their medical care.

United HealthCare fires “thousands” of doctors in Connecticut who are caring for Medicare Advantage patients. Slick move. United HealthCare took this action right before Medicare enrollment started, so that Medicare patients could enroll in the United HealthCare program and then find that there were a lot less physicians to take care of them. And when patients don’t have access to health care, they can’t utilize as many services … which means that United HealthCare doesn’t have to pay as much money for treatments and doctor’s visits.
United HealthCare stated that it was releasing physicians in order to build a “network of health care providers that we can collaborate with more closely ….”
But at least those seniors have medical insurance.

22 year old patient who was paralyzed after spinal surgery for scoliosis wins $4 million malpractice verdict … against law firm that represented her. According to the accompanying news article, a jury decided that the Virginia law firm of Paulson & Nace committed legal malpractice when they incorrectly filed the first complaint on behalf of their client, then
I find it odd that Paulson & Nace doesn’t have this $4 million malpractice verdict on their “Our Results” page. Must just be a web site programming glitch.
One thing that struck me about this article was the grace and determination with which this young patient is dealing with her disability. Very encouraging.

Why the Unaffordable Insurance Act won’t work.
“Many young people—who are two-thirds of the roughly 40 million uninsured—will prefer to pay the penalty ($96 in the first year) rather than buy coverage, especially since they can always [just purchase coverage] when they fall sick. That’s because Obamacare bans insurance companies from turning away patients with pre-existing condition or charging them rates much above what others pay—the so-called community rating mandate. Over time, this will unleash a downward spiral of adverse selection: Rising premiums will push more healthy people to drop out, leaving the insurance pool sicker, which, in turn, will cause premiums to rise further, which will require more subsidies from an already strained federal fisc—until the whole Rube Goldberg structure collapses.”
When you can jump into the insurance pool only when you’re sick, it kind of defeats the point of having insurance.

What’s wrong with the driver’s seats in Saudi cars? Leading Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan warned that medical studies show that driving cars “automatically affect[s] a woman’s ovaries and … pushes the pelvis upward.” Even worse, children born to women who continuously drive cars “are born with varying degrees of clinical problems.”
Riding in cars apparently has no such detrimental effects, which leads me to believe that the Saudis don’t know how to properly design driver’s seats.
And I can only imagine what the constant driving must do to Saudi men’s woo hoos. The horror!

Oregon law capping civil damages in all cases doesn’t apply to medical malpractice cases, but cap doesn’t apply to prenatal injuries. Recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling states that injuries to a child occurring during delivery are not considered “prenatal” injuries and therefore are not covered by the cap.

When a patient files a medical malpractice case, plaintiff attorneys can talk to the treating physicians without a defense attorney being present. However, defense attorneys are not allowed to talk to the treating physicians without the plaintiff attorney being present. A Florida malpractice reform evened the playing field by allowing both sides to discuss the case with the patient’s physicians. Now a judge has ruled that the Florida malpractice law is invalid because it conflicts with Federal laws.

Study shows that emergency physicians spend 43% of their clinical time entering data in a computer and 28% of their clinical time in direct patient care.
Those numbers pretty closely correlate with the mini study I did about 18 months ago.

The “Ottawa SAH Rule” published in JAMA has 100% sensitivity in determining when patients have a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Wonderful. Every one of patients with age > 40, neck pain, loss of consciousness, onset of pain during exertion, thunderclap headache, and meningeal signs has a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Are we not supposed to scan and LP patients who have fewer than six of those symptoms?
The real issue is that the rule doesn’t do a very good job in saying when people don’t have a subarachnoid hemorrhage … which is the question we need to answer in order to affect our clinical care. Caveats to applying the rule are contained in an editorial to the article by David Newman and Jonathan Edlow.

Georgia lawmakers attempting to overhaul the state medical malpractice system. Proposed system is a “no fault” system similar to worker’s compensation claims. If a medical injury occurs, a patient is compensated. No determination of “medical malpractice” is made. The bill’s proponents believe that under such a system, defensive medicine and subsequent litigation would decrease. If doctors’ names are reported to the National Practitioner Databank, the new law will increase defensive medicine and will increase litigation as doctors do whatever they can to keep claims from being reported.
When both the medical association and the bar association are against the proposed legislation, someone should get the hint that there may be a problem.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 10-09-2013

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Government getting pissed because providers are beating it at its own game? When feds started pushing electronic medical records and threatening to penalize patient, a funny thing happened … the amount of money the feds spent on healthcare increased by billions of dollars. Now Kathleen Sebelius and Eric “Fast N Furious” Holder are warning that doctors that copying and pasting patient data between patient medical record entries should not occur because it risks medical errors and overpayments. They promise to “prosecute health care fraud” and will “consider future payment reductions as warranted.”
In other words, if you type or write the same thing over and over again, you’re fine, but if you cut and paste you are a prima facie criminal.
When people with no clue about the inner workings of the health care system attempt to create laws regulating the system, increased costs will result.
Medicare recently implemented a rule requiring that full hospital admissions must be reasonably expected to require a “two midnight” stay in the hospital, requiring physicians to certify the medical necessity of such care, and imposing more costs on patients if they do not stay two midnights. Do they really think that there will be less admits? All that is going to happen (and that is already happening) is more thorough documentation of a patient’s condition and comorbidities – which will increase billing levels further and will increase costs. Oh, and look for an increase in the number of new symptoms requiring extended hospital stays if a patient is stable to go home before the second midnight. What’s that, the patient’s pulse oximeter reading suddenly dropped? Let’s keep the patient on telemetry and do pulmonary function testing tomorrow? Whats that? The patient developed chest pain on the second night? Now they’ll have to be admitted another day for serial cardiac enzymes. Spending will go up not down because of this rule. Mark my words.

Oregon surgeon criminally charged and loses her license after patient dies from reaction to anesthetic in doctor’s office during a cosmetic procedure. Doctor faulted for not having equipment in the office to respond to medical emergencies, for performing a procedure in her office at night without staff support, and for failing to respond appropriately to a patient in distress. When another patient experienced dizziness and tachycardia after a cosmetic procedure, prosecutors alleged that the doctor put the patient at “substantial risk.”
State medical board hearings are becoming as serious as medical malpractice lawsuits.

Fascinating case report in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine. Patient suffers from Auto-Brewery Syndrome, otherwise known as Gut Fermentation Syndrome. 61 year old patient is constantly intoxicated without drinking alcohol – sometimes reaching levels of 400. Overgrowth of a certain fungus in the man’s intestine causes fermentation of excess carbohydrates into alcohol. After treating the patient with antifungals and temporarily putting him on a zero carb diet, then re-colonizing the gut with probiotics, the symptoms resolved.
Even more interesting is that the responsible fungus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is used to ferment beer and antibodies against it are markers for inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
In addition, a related fungus, Saccharomyces boulardii, has been found effective in reducing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Clostridium difficile infections, and traveler’s diarrhea.
We have so much to learn about the microbiome in the gut and its effect on human health.

What happens when emergency physicians are routinely pressured to work overtime in high-stress and increasingly complex work environments? They leave. The UK’s NHS is concerned that there will be a staffing crisis in UK hospitals because fewer doctors are choosing to go into emergency medicine and more experienced doctors are leaving the country to practice elsewhere … which will increase the stress on the remaining physicians … which will cause more of them to leave … which will increase the crisis.
Who suffers? Patients.
But at least the care is free.

Interesting topic on Medscape discussion boards. Should a patient who attempted suicide be resuscitated in the emergency department? Or should the patient’s intent be honored?
Even more interesting is that much of the discussion focused upon liability associated with making the wrong decisions.
Another example of how human behavior is shaped by fear of liability.

Healthcare “superusers” are back in the news. This Kaiser article states that 1% of patients are responsible for 21% of all healthcare spending while 5% of patients are responsible for 50% of all healthcare spending. Reducing costs involves integrating their care.

What happens when relatives ask for information about an unconscious patient in the emergency department? Many times they get the “we can’t tell you anything due to HIPAA laws.” Such an assertion is not necessarily true. Disclosures in such situations are permissible, so staff can choose to do so based on their own discretion. But with increasing penalties for HIPAA violations under the HITECH Act, many practitioners choose not to take the chance. And don’t believe this attorney’s statement that “health care providers are only penalized when they act unreasonably.” Even incidental disclosures are subject to statutory penalties (see the HITECH Act link above) and the complaint of a HIPAA disclosure is easily enough to cause a hospital to terminate a healthcare provider’s job.
An example of what happens when we try to regulate (and or sue) our way to better health care.

According to this article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, more than one third of pulmonary emboli have a delayed diagnosis in the emergency department. Factors associated with misdiagnosis in patients admitted to the hospital included chronic pulmonary diseases such as asthma and COPD. Factors associated with misdiagnosis in patients sent home included fever, coughing up blood, and infiltrate on chest x-ray.

Wait times an issue in hospital emergency departments all over the world. Number of admitted patients waiting more than 24 hours to get a bed in Australian hospitals nearly triples in the past year.

An app to notify the emergency department about your symptoms before you arrive? I think this is a total waste of money. It is highly unlikely that there is going to be any ED “preparation” for a patient before the patient arrives. In many cases, the patients will be lucky if there is a bed available. And if forced to answer phone calls, all that will happen is that providers will be taken away from caring for other patients. While I think it may be an idea of limited utility, the docs who created the system and then sold it to Aetna are laughing all the way to the bank.

More on patients gone wild. St. Louis area’s St. Mary’s Hospital has had three attacks on emergency department nurses in two weeks. Two of the cases involved intoxicated patients.

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