WhiteCoat

Diagnosis by Retrospectoscope

May 29th, 2014

The patient was crying and shaking her hands when she rolled through the doors on the ambulance stretcher. She had been sitting at work and developed severe chest pain. There was also a little shortness of breath thrown in because she felt as if someone was sitting on her chest. She said she had been upset over something that happened at work and was “stressed out.” The pain was right in the middle of her chest and felt a fullness in her neck. She was starting to get tingling in her fingers and thought that shaking her hands would help. Paramedics gave her aspirin and nitroglycerin which she said may have helped her chest feel better.
The nurse gave the paramedics a stink eye. “Come on, now. She’s 27 years old. She ain’t having a heart attack.”
Even though she wasn’t having a heart attack, the nurse still ordered an EKG. Doesn’t it figure. Something didn’t look quite right. Little bit of ST elevation in Lead I and aVL. May just meet criteria for MI. Also a little elevation in V1 through V3. Not the tombstones you typically see. Just a hint of elevation. And there’s some T wave inversion in the inferior leads as well. Since she’s 27, there’s obviously no old EKG for comparison.
“That’s concerning. She has some EKG changes that may be ischemic.”
The nurse was quick to counter. “Yeah, right. She needs some Ativan, not a cardiologist.”
“Well, you can give her some aspirin, some morphine, and a milligram of Ativan also. If nitroglycerin helped in the ambulance, give her another dose of that as well.”

EKG

Decision time. I’m moonlighting at a rural hospital and there’s no cardiologist available. Do I treat her like an 80 year old diabetic and fly her to the medical center 60 miles away? Or do I treat her for her anxiety and watch her? She technically meets the criteria for an MI, which puts you in a no-win situation. If you send her to the referral hospital and her pain goes away, everyone thinks you’re an idiot. If you keep her at your facility, on the outside chance there’s something serious that you didn’t act upon, you get tarred and feathered by everyone who looks at the case.

After receiving some morphine and Ativan, she’s a little out of it, but is still crying and having pain that she rates as a 4 on a 1-10 scale. I call the Metro General referral center and ask to speak to the cardiologist.
“There’s a 27 year old young lady with typical sounding chest pain and EKG changes that look ischemic. Can I fax you the EKGs to look at?”
“Family history? Smoker? Drug use? Other medical problems?”
“Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Can I fax you the EKG?”
“Hey, you’re there seeing the patient. I’m not. If you believe that the patient is having an acute MI, just send her here. What I say about the EKG doesn’t matter.” Actively avoiding looking at the EKG. In other words, “If I look at the EKG and say it looks like a 27 year old is having a heart attack, then I look bad. If I rely on your interpretation, then you get left holding the bag.”
Labs have come back and of course they’re all normal. Not even a little bump in the cardiac enzymes. Normal d-dimer as well. Chest x-ray looks fine. She is still crying in pain.
“Okay, let’s call the helicopter,” I told the nurse . “Grab some heparin and Plavix. We’re going to treat her as if she is having a heart attack.”
“Holy sh*t. Are you kidding me? She’s 27 years old.”
“Hey. Cardiac disease doesn’t discriminate. Let’s get this show on the road.”

I walked back into the room to talk to the patient. She was crying and talking on her cell phone.
“Your EKG looks like you may be having a heart attack. We’re going to have to send you to Metro General by helicopter.”
She stopped crying immediately.
“Holy sh*t. Are you kidding me?” I wanted to say “No, I’m serious as a heart attack” but cheap blog humor didn’t seem appropriate at that point. I explained to her what was going to happen and had her sign the necessary paperwork.
I went back into the office and completed her medical records which took about another 10 minutes.
I went back into the room, the patient’s mother was standing there. She looked at me and said “Can I ask you what is going on?”
“Sure. You probably heard the unexpected news. Your daughter has changes on her EKG that make it appear she is having a heart attack .”
“Hole-lee sh*t .”
I’m getting kind of sick of hearing that phrase by now.

About 20 minutes later, the helicopter crew was walking through the door. The nurse began giving them report. The patient was still having chest pain, so we repeated her EKG. It hadn’t changed from her initial presentation. The helicopter nurse gave me a quizzical look out of the corner of his eye. I gave the same quizzical look back at him.
Now I’m getting ticked off. Just be quiet and take your damn notes. You’re getting paid regardless of whether or not I know how to read an EKG.
They loaded patient on their stretcher and wheeled her back to the elevator leading to the helicopter pad on the roof.
As I heard the helicopter blades start spinning, I started to wonder whether or not I had documented the chart well enough to survive the inquisition by retrospectoscope that would be occurring the following day. We met all of our “quality” indicators including aspirin at time of arrival and EKG within 10 minutes. But how many people would still be sitting around the conference room table the next day asking what I was thinking?

Oh well, that part of the job. Everyone’s a genius once the diagnosis is known.

Just to rub it in, during my next shift, the nurse mentioned that she had seen the patient in the grocery store two days after we transferred her.

Such is the life of a pit doc, I guess.

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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 — 05-21-2014

May 21st, 2014

See more healthcare related stories from around the web at my other blog: DrWhiteCoat.com

19 year old Baltimore teen dies in hospital after involved in altercation where 5 security guards were unable to control him, police were called to hospital and used Taser on patient, then left once he had been subdued. Now State’s Attorney is looking into matter.

$25 million lawsuit filed against Las Vegas hospital when pregnant woman enters, has several symptoms and risk factors for tuberculosis on mandated screenings, but hospital does not evaluate or treat her for tuberculosis. She is then allowed to hold her newborn twins in the nursery without wearing a mask. All three patients ultimately die from tuberculosis.
Also of note is that there was a tuberculosis outbreak in the hospital at the time with at least 20 hospital employees contracting the disease.

Feds consider whether to spend billions of extra Medicare dollars to screen former smokers for lung cancer. Doing so could cut a high-risk patient’s chances of dying from cancer by 20%.
I remember someone in a position of leadership once saying that if we can save one life, it’s worth it. Therefore, spending this extra money should be a no-brainer.

At Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Great Britain, you can only have emergencies between 8 AM and 12 midnight. The emergency department is closed between 12 AM and 8 AM due to staff shortages. To be fair, it seems as if most patients have already gotten the memo on this issue. Severe cases are already referred to Lister Hospital which is 20 minutes away and the QE2 emergency department only sees 5-10 patients per night.

VA Medical Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming busted for “gaming the appointments system” to make it look as if patients are being seen within 14 days of an appointment request when they really weren’t. I’m sure the VA is alleging that this is an isolated incident.
Or maybe not
And if you want a good laugh, watch Jon Stewart’s discussion of the whole debacle.
His summary:”Somehow, we as a country were able to ship 300,000 troops halfway across the world in just a few months to fight a war that cost us $2 trillion.” But it takes veterans hurt in that war longer than that to receive “needed medical care or reimbursement, all while we profess undying love for their service.”
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

VA Chief Eric Shinseki grilled about issues in medical care in the Veteran’s system. To his credit, he did put three VA employees on leave after discovering that they may have contributed to the deaths of 40 patients. Of course if that happened in the public sector, the employees would be arrested and charged with murder by now.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

About a third of Australian patients waiting longer than 20 minutes in ambulances once they arrive at hospitals. In some hospitals, more than half of patients wait longer than 20 minutes.
Hopefully they’re not baking their statistics like the governments in some other countries do …

Doctor gets romantically involved with a patient who then commits suicide. Doctor removes medications and suicide note when he finds patient dead in her apartment. Pled guilty to obstruction of justice charge for removing evidence and now is being sued for medical malpractice and wrongful death.

I like this concept. Let’s expand it. If you’re unhappy with a hospital stay or an emergency department visit, do you have to pay? Heck no. If you don’t get perfect medical care, you should demand a refund. Where do these hospitals get off charging us for imperfect care?
If we’re not happy with our state or federal government, we shouldn’t have to pay taxes.
If we’re not getting good gas mileage, we should get a refund on our automobiles.
And if our bosses aren’t happy with our work, they shouldn’t have to pay us.
Others aren’t happy with the way that people on government assistance are utilizing their assistance, they get cut off.
Heck, if everyone just acts pissed at everyone else, everything could be free.

Is non-celiac gluten sensitivity all in your head? Study shows that the effects of having gluten in one’s diet may be due to FODMAPs and not duet just to gluten. Although the sample size is small, it’s an interesting concept. A diet low in FODMAPs has been shown to decrease the amount of gas and, in some cases, the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

This study will give the antivax crowd fits and nightmares. Patients with terminal multiple myeloma injected with enough toxic waste — er, um — measles vaccine to inoculate 10 MILLION people. They didn’t die. They didn’t get sudden onset autism. They didn’t even get Guillian Barre Syndrome.
They got better.
One patient remained relatively disease free at 9 months, the other developed worsening disease after 6 months.
I know. I know. It must be that small doses of toxic waste — er, um — vaccines, are lethal while large doses are curative.

Issues with large medical malpractice judgments in India where the author compared them to the Code of Hammurabi in 2030 BC:
“If the doctor has treated a gentleman with a lancet of bronze and has caused the gentleman to die or has opened an abscess of the eye for a gentleman with a bronze lancet and has caused the loss of the gentleman’s eye, one shall cut off his hands”
Wonder how maiming the healers affected the provision of medical care.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 05-13-2014

May 13th, 2014

Interesting story on how an Indiana hospital discovered the first case of MERS in this country. Patient came in with influenza like symptoms and was placed in negative pressure room immediately. By the time he was admitted to the floor and was interviewed by an ID specialist, everyone coming into contact with him was required to wear full gowns, gloves, and eye protection. MERS was suspected based on his travel history – he was a US resident working in a health care facility in Saudi Arabia.

Don’t ride in a car with pregnant drivers. During a woman’s second trimester, her odds of being in an accident that is bad enough to send her to the emergency department increases by 42%. By the third trimester, the risk is gone.

Obamacare health insurance tax could cost 286,000 Americans their jobs and result in $33 billion in decreased retail sales.
Well of course the right-wingnuts are going to say that. What do you expect?
Wait. The article was written in the official blog of the US Chamber of Commerce? Nevermind. Carry on.

Nice summary article about a physician’s duty to a suicidal patient. Dispels some myths and offers good basic advice. For example, HIPAA doesn’t prevent doctors from disclosing a patient’s psychiatric information if the patient is in imminent risk of self-harm.

Obamacare “MAY” boost hospital emergency department profits. Then again, when you consider that a vast majority of newly “insured” patients under Obamacare have what the article admits are “money-losing Medicaid” patients, that the hospital will have to spend more money to staff the departments to treat the “money-losing” patients, and that the hospital will have to pay more in insurance and consumables to lose this money, Obamacare also “MAY” put more hospitals out of business.
Oh, and I “MAY” have found missing flight 370 in the Sahara Desert.

Since Obamacare was implemented, emergency department visits for the Tenet Healthcare system haven’t seen any decrease in patients. In fact, the number of patients they are seeing in the ED is going up … as their profits go down

OK, I still can’t imagine how this show stays on the air. But this story just has to be repeated. Woman ends up in a hospital emergency department after putting pop rocks in her hoo hah before having sex with her paramour.
All I can do is shake my head and think about all the perfectly good politically incorrect jokes that are going to go unsaid right now.

Why would Americans travel to one of the most dangerous towns in Mexico? To get dental care. The dentist is an American who commutes to Mexico each day and offers care for about 30% of what it would cost in the US. She has low overhead and she has no malpractice insurance, so her costs are less — and she passes those savings on to her patients while still earning a good living.

Doctor and US Vet warns other veterans that their lives are in danger from the care being provided at VA Hospitals.
The medical chief of staff is Dr. Darren Geering. He is a physician but it appears he had no function for protecting the VA patients from this egregious action causing the death of at least 40 patients who were on a “secret waiting list” from which these patients died, waiting for any kind of medical care.

A couple of tangentially medically-related articles.

Jail starts doing body scans on inmates entering the facility. Finds dark object on scan of one perp’s lower abdomen. Turns out that he had a cell phone inside his rectum. The comment section to this article is a riot … must have had crappy reception … taking butt dialing to a whole new level … ring tone set to “”pbthpbthpbth”.

Survey shows that 1 in 9 people want an android child like the kid in the movie “A.I.” and that 20% of people would have sex with an “android.” One of the comments to the article downplayed the results, noting that 20% of the population would probably have sex with a baked chicken.
Now I can’t decide whether I’m hungry or want to watch some crappy Steven Spielberg movie.

 

Healthcare Update Satellite — 05-07-2014

May 7th, 2014

They’ve got “insurance” but they still can’t find anyone to provide them with dental care. In Oregon, dental problems are the second most common emergency department discharge diagnosis in patients 20 to 40 years of age and have a 25% repeat visit rate, costing the State more than $8 million annually — just in hospital costs. Problem is that Obamacare’s coverage doesn’t include adult dental care. Even if patients have Medicaid coverage, the reimbursements are so low that dentists won’t treat patients with that type of “insurance.” But don’t worry, everyone, 7.1 million more people now have health “insurance.” Full report can be found here (.pdf)

Belfast emergency department has 100 patients in its waiting room with one patient reportedly waiting 11 hours just to be evaluated. Strain on resources indeed …

New Jersey Supreme Court throws out a malpractice case against an emergency physician who failed to report suspected child abuse when child brought in for ingesting cologne. Child was discharged to parents who later abused the child. Placed in foster care and foster parents sued physician for failing to report suspected abuse as required by New Jersey statutes. The Appellate Court agreed with the parents. Fortunately, the Supreme Court had some common sense and noted that upholding such a decision, every accidental ingestion case presenting at a hospital’s emergency department give rise to a mandatory child abuse reporting obligation. New Jersey medical providers dodged a bullet with that case.

San Francisco General Hospital in the midst of a “culture of chaos” because hospital is failing to provide enough staff to care for the patients. Because the emergency department is short 23 nursing positions, the remaining nurses are often doing clerical and other work instead of caring for patients.
And I’m sure some member of the clipboard brigade will cite one of the remaining nurses for failing to make sure that patients were screened for domestic violence, tuberculosis, wearing seat belts, substance abuse, and guns in the house. Oh, and making sure that there are safety caps on all medication bottles, too.
Decreased staffing in the food services department has decreased quality of meals and resulted in long waits for patients to get meals because no one is available to deliver meals to patient rooms.
Another example of getting what you pay for in health care.

Patient wins $1.9 million judgment in malpractice case where Massachusetts oncologist diagnoses him with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma then order several rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. The patient never had lymphoma, but instead had an “immunodeficiency” that mimicked cancer.
Doctor claims his treatment was based on a pathology report. Pathologist found not negligent.

How often should you shower? Daily showering may not be as healthy as you’d think. Frequent showering may wash away the natural body oils that protect the skin from drying out and from bacteria. Then again, I imagine that most active people would rather sacrifice a little health to avoid smelling like a used tube sock.

Megan McArdle writes about the “ugly spike” in healthcare spending. Is the spike due to the effects of Obamacare or is it that there was a transient slowdown in spending related to the recession – which is now resolving … or neither … or both?

With healthcare reform and increasing “insurance” coverage comes more emergency department use. Happened in Massachusetts with RomneyCare and it is already happening in the US with Obamacare – regardless of what statistics you see.

Elderly patient sent to nursing home. Lives there three weeks before dying. Jury awards $90 million verdict against nursing home, agreeing with plaintiff’s attorneys that patient’s death was due to inadequate staffing in the nursing home and failure to provide patient with food and water.
Now verdict is under review by the West Virginia Supreme Court to determine whether medical malpractice caps apply to the verdict, which would reduce the award to $500,000 for non-economic (pain and suffering) damages. I wonder if the administrators were named in the suit.

Acute Incarceritis Revisited

April 29th, 2014

Monopoly Get Out Of Jail FreeIt has happened a few times recently. Just had another case of acute incarceritis.

A man was brought in by police after drinking a little too much and then beating the heck out of his girlfriend.

Police were called to the scene and the man was arrested for domestic battery.

While riding handcuffed in the back of the police car, it happened.

Loud wailing. His bad back just gave out on him again.

A state trooper brought him to the emergency department.

“I’ve got a bunch of slipped disks in my back and the pain is about a 15 out of 10 right now.”
His back looked fine and he had a normal neurologic exam.
When his back pain didn’t seem to make the impression he desired, he added “and I’ve got diverticulosis so bad that the surgeon wanted to take out my entire colon – but I wouldn’t let him.”A rectal exam showed good tone, normal sensation to the area, and no blood or mucous.
“And my blood pressure isn’t very well controlled, so it’s making my head hurt.”
“Your blood pressure is 137/66.”
“Well it shoots up unexpectedly and I haven’t been taking my medications. I almost hit 300 one time, you know.”
“Fortunately, it’s normal now.”
“And my chest is killing me. My heart is beating out of my chest.”
“The workup is still pending, but your EKG looks fine.
“Oh, and I have a bum knee. That’s bugging me too. I can barely walk.”
“You looked like you were walking pretty well when you came into the emergency department.”
“And what about this rash?”
“Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that just after you were picked up by police for beating up your girlfriend, you simultaneously developed the worst back pain, chest pain, knee pain, and abdominal pain you’ve ever had in your life – in addition to palpitations, high blood pressure, and a rash?”

At that point the state trooper interrupted.
“Doc, he was just going to spend the night in jail here, but as long as you tell me he’s not going to die on me in the car, my captain said that I can take him to South Metro State Prison where they have a medical ward.”
The patient quickly changed his mind. “I’m OK. The pain’s better.”
The trooper responded back “Naaaah. Can’t be too careful. You’re going to South Metro.”
“But I’m feeling better now! What the f***?!?”
At that point you could tell that the patient was trying to decide whether to come up with more symptoms in a last ditch effort to get admitted or whether he would plead some more so that he wouldn’t have to go to South Metro.

I walked out of the room.

As he was being discharged, and being led out the back doors in handcuffs, it sounded like the patient was taking the latter approach.

“I was just anxious, OK? Can’t a guy get anxious?”

The trooper just walked behind him with a grin.
“Just because you play the get out of jail free card, it doesn’t mean that you’re going home.”
And the patient just had to be thinking “now you tell me ….”

Monopoly Community Chest Go To Jail

———————–

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 04-24-2014

April 24th, 2014

Kudos to staff at Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL for its excellent management of a rollover bus accident with 27 kids. You all do us proud!

Stock up on your Norco pills now, folks. This study shows there’s no difference in pain relief when compared with codeine, and when the DEA changes hydrocodone to a Schedule II drug, the supplies will dry up quickly.

Mammography may be diagnosing too many cancers. The idea is that some of the tiny cancers found on mammography would never progress or threaten a patient’s life. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment is expensive and potentially dangerous. So the question becomes: Why are radiologists overcharging patients and insurance companies for reading these unnecessary exams and why are surgeons performing these unnecessary surgeries?
Hey ACR – kind of sucks when your own dumbass logic is used against you, doesn’t it?

Catholic Health Initiatives settles lawsuits relating to unnecessary heart stenting procedures performed by Dr. Mark Midei. Total payouts will be $37 million, with each patient receiving payment of at least $134,000.

Patient with potential measles left sitting with other patients at Rhode Island Hospital. Rhode Island Department of Health descends upon hospital and demands immediate action to prevent “potential harm to the public.” Hospital now must re-educate and re-train staff regarding “care and treatment, including emergency room assignments and required precautions, for patients presenting with contagious or potentially contagious conditions.” The patient presented with “flu like symptoms with fever (which is a symptom of the flu).” Given that every snot nose is a potentially contagious condition, there are going to be a lot of cases of “potential harm to the public” regardless of what training takes place.
All because some brainiac decided not to get immunized.
And the patient didn’t even have measles. Sheesh.

California malpractice cap could be raised from $250,000 to $1.1 million during November ballot vote.
Notice now: If you practice in California, get licensed in other states and start working on hospital privileges. California has officially become runner up to Florida for states in which you don’t want to practice medicine.

Florida Supreme Court rejects medical malpractice caps.

Kansas also planning to raise the limits on non-economic damages – from $250,000 to $350,000.

Pennsylvania considering increasing the standard for malpractice in emergency settings from simple negligence to gross negligence and increasing the standard of proof to “clear and convincing” as opposed to a preponderance of the evidence.
Cue plaintiff attorney wailing and gnashing of teeth in … 3 … 2 … 1 …

You have your robot’s lawyer call my robot’s lawyer and we’ll just see about that. How do human laws apply to robots performing surgeries?

Cleveland Clinic neurosurgeon wins $7.7 million malpractice judgment against Cleveland Clinic. The neurosurgeon was using a saw during surgery when a bone chip flew into his eye. During surgery to repair the damage, the Cleveland Clinic ophthalmologist damaged the neurosurgeon’s iris, making it impossible for him to ever practice neurosurgery again.
The big question in the comments section was whether the neurosurgeon was wearing protective glasses.

California family files malpractice suit after elderly family member declared dead of heart attack, placed in morgue, but allegedly was still alive. Morticians who received her body several days later found her face down in the body bag with broken nose and disfiguring cuts and bruises to her face.
Video about the incident here.

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.

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