Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Patients Not Included * [Inclusion of Patients at a Medical Conference]

From the 25 October 2013 blog item By LESLIE KERNISAN, MD at The HealthCare Blog

 few weeks ago, I went for the first time to Stanford’s Medicine X conference. It’s billed as a conference that brings a “broad, academic approach to understanding emerging technologies with the potential to improve health and advance the practice of medicine.”

Well, I went, I saw, and I even briefly presented (in aworkshop on using patient-generated data).

And I am now writing to tell you about the most important innovations that I learned about at Medicine X (MedX).

They were not the new digital health technologies, even though we heard about many interesting new tools, systems, and apps at the conference, and I do believe that leveraging technology will result in remarkable changes in healthcare.

Nor were they related to social mediaehealth, or telehealth, even though all of these are rapidly growing and evolving, and will surely play important roles in the healthcare landscape of the future.

No. The most remarkable innovations at MedX related to the conference itself, which was unlike any other academic conference I’ve been to. Specifically, the most important innovations were:

  • Patients present to tell their stories, both on stage and in more casual conversational settings such as meals.
  • Patient participation in brainstorming healthcare solutions and in presenting new technologies. MedX also has an ePatient Advisors group to help with the overall conference planning.

These innovations, along with frequent use of storytelling techniques, video, and music, packed a powerful punch. It all kept me feeling engaged and inspired during the event, and left me wishing that more academic conferences were like this.

These innovations point the way to much better academic conferences. Here’s why:

The  power of patient presence

I wasn’t surprised to see lots of patients at Medicine X, because I knew that the conference has an e-patient scholars program, and that many patients would be presenting. I also knew that the director of MedX, Dr. Larry Chu, is a member of theSociety of Participatory Medicine. (Disclosure: I’ve been a member of SPM since last December.)

I was, on the other hand, surprised by how powerful it was to have patients on stage telling their stories.

How could it make such a difference? I am, after all, a practicing physician who spends a lot of time thinking about the healthcare experience of older adults and their caregivers.

But it did make a difference. I found myself feeling more empathetic, and focused on the patient and family perspective. And I felt more inspired to do better as a physician and as a healthcare problem-solver.

In short, having patients tell their stories helped me engage with the conference presentations in a more attentive and meaningful way.

Read the entire blog item here

 

October 26, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

[Reblog] In Medicine, More May Not Be Better

From the 23 October 2013 item at The Health Care Blog

 

…..

Physicians love being liked. They also love doing their jobs well. With other incentives, such as monetary returns, dwindling, the elation we get from satisfying a patient as well as providing them good care is what still makes being a doctor special. But is keeping patients satisfied and delivering high-quality care the same thing? And more important, can patients tell if they are getting good care?

Policymakers certainly think so. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid hospital reimbursements are now being tied to patient satisfaction numbers.

But the association between patient satisfaction and the quality of care is far from straightforward, and its validity as a measure of quality is unclear.

In fact, a study published in April and conducted by surgeons at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine showed that patient satisfaction was not related to the quality of surgical care. And a 2006 study found that patients’ perception of their care had no relationship to the actual technical quality of care they received. Furthermore, a 2012 UC Davis study found that patients with higher satisfaction scores are likely to have more physician visits, longer hospital stays and higher mortality. All this data may indicate that patients are equating more care with better care.

Although patients and their physicians generally have similar goals, that is not always the case. As a resident, who is not paid on a per-service basis, I have no incentive to order extra testing or additional procedures for my patients if they’re not warranted. But one study found that physicians who are paid on a fee-for-service basis and therefore have an incentive to deliver services — needed or not — are more likely to deliver these services (such as an MRI for routine back pain).

On top of that, as another study found, they also are more liked by their patients. It is no wonder then that the number of patients with back pain, one of the most common reasons for physician visits, are increasingly being overmanaged with MRIs and narcotic pain medications.

Consumer satisfaction is a metric that has been used extensively in other industries, and its increasing integration in healthcare may represent a desire to model medicine on industries that lead in efficiency, such as the technology, automobile or airline industries. But healthcare remains fundamentally different.

Consider Medicare’s initiative to have hospitals publicly report their patient outcomes and satisfaction data and have consumers compare them a la computers or SUVs. Of the 13 teaching hospitals within five miles of my apartment, the relationship between the quality of care and patient satisfaction was unclear. Within these hospitals, hospital mortality outcomes did not correlate with satisfaction ratings.

I’m a physician and I had difficulty making sense of the data, so how can we expect everyday people to use them in a meaningful way? Would they prefer a place where they or their relatives are likely to live longer, have a lower risk of readmission and have fewer infections, or a place where their pain would be better managed, their nurses more responsive and their bathrooms cleaner? Although ideally hospitals would score highly in both sets of measures, data suggest that is not necessarily always the case.

Patient visits can sometimes be like family dinners. They are probably not the best occasions to talk about Dad’s smoking habit or Mom’s Xanax addiction. But to maintain shared decision-making, clear and honest communication is vital. And in critical situations, most data suggests that patients want their physicians to be upfront about bleak issues such as life expectancy.

Yet a 2012 study by investigators in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that patients who were better informed about the grim nature of their cancer and the goals of their treatment were less satisfied with their physicians. Such findings put a physician in a quandary: a more informed patient or a more satisfied one?

Emphasizing patient satisfaction and offering incentives to hospitals and physicians to keep their patients satisfied are laudable. But trying to transform patient satisfaction into a catch-all quality metric may not be the right approach. What is really needed is for physicians to take the time to help patients identify the things they need, not just what they want.

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Read the entire article here

 

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a physician. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

October 24, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | 1 Comment

4 reasons why doctors should be outraged

From the 7 December 2012 article at KevinMD.com

4 reasons why doctors should be outraged

Outrage #1: Wasting time of skilled caregivers. Everyday skilled nurses and physicians’ assistants waste hours of time on the telephone either getting approval for medications that we prescribe for our patients or trying to fight a rejection for a medication we requested.

Outrage #2: Choosing a medication for cost, not effectiveness. A child cannot breathe because the acid and other nasty stomach contents come up from the stomach and inflame the airways without the right treatment. Although many of them might respond to one “preferred” drug, not all of them do. And, guess what? There is another “non-preferred” drug to which more of them will respond, but it is not allowed as a first line treatment, even in this critical airway situation. When there is an airway problem and the infant is choking, coughing, turning blue and not sleeping, or the airway is becoming progressively narrower, wouldn’t you want your child to have the medication that works more often? I know I would. The insurance companies call their approach “best practices” because most, but not more, might respond.

Outrage #3: Pretending we are giving care when we are not. So the one “preferred” (i.e. less expensive) medication also tastes really nasty. Many kids won’t take it at all no matter what flavor is used. So then families are told to mix it with their formula or juice or some other food and this dilutes its effects because it won’t work in that preparation.

Outrage #4: Pretending that patient diversity doesn’t exist. Different people respond to medication differently (? pharmaco-genetics). You know that’s true just from the way some of us fall asleep after one dose of Benadryl and others of us don’t get knocked out even with a whopping dose of morphine. We are in a real quandary when we have to fight (sometimes for weeks or months) to try another medication because the one we are allowed (first tier) doesn’t work. And then on the second or third tier, the family cannot afford it, doesn’t get the medication, and the child might go untreated. We have wasted money, time and have put the child in harm’s way….

….

Yes, I am angry about this. Very angry and very frustrated. I am tired of being told what medications to use, what tests I can order and even what surgeries to perform. I am “appealing” to one insurance company to be paid for an operation they said was not proven effective in children. Were they faced with the anatomy that I encountered and knew was the cause of the problem and required a different operation than planned? Another has denied payment for an assistant surgeon which I needed because we performed a difficult airway case!….

December 15, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment

When Patients Don’t Take Their Medicine What Role Do Doctors Play in Promoting Prescription Adherence?

 

About 10 years an area health care provider told me she did a study on prescription adherence.
The results included a shocking low percentage of folks taking their prescriptions as prescribed.
She said that no journal would publish the results, because the rates of adherence were so low. (This seemed odd to me, this reasoning).

I’ve been prescribed a cholesterol lowering drug, for being a bit over the HDL threshold. I decided to stop taking it, because after all I have read, I don’t really believe in either the tests, the thresholds, and the efficacy of the drug. No, I haven’t discussed this with my prescribing physician, but I think I’m going to catch hell on the next annual exam. For the past 5 years (age 58) I’ve only seen the doctor about once a year, just for the annual wellness.

 

From the Rand report summary

Analyses indicated that although physicians uniformly felt responsible for assessing and promoting adherence to prescriptions, only a minority of them asked detailed questions about adherence.

 

“Medicine left in the bottle can’t help.”

— Yoruba proverb

Lack of adherence to prescriptions (that is, patients failing to take medicine either as instructed or at all) afflicts medical care in the United States. Nonadherence affects up to 40 percent of older adults, especially those with chronic conditions, and is associated with poor outcomes, more hospitalizations, and higher mortality. The health care cost of nonadherence is estimated at $290 billion per year. Prior RAND research has shown that some nonadherence is cost-related and can be addressed through insurance benefit designs that keep copayments low.[1]

Physicians also play a key role in addressing nonadherence. Yet physician perspectives on their responsibility for nonadherence and strategies for promoting adherence are not well understood. A team from RAND; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of California, Davis, examined physicians’ views about their responsibility for medication adherence and explored how physicians and patients discuss nonadherence. The team conducted focus groups with physicians in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., and audiotaped primary care visits in Northern California doctors’ offices.

The results point to a contrast between what physicians believe and what they do:

  • Although physicians uniformly felt responsible for assessing and promoting medication adherence, only a minority of them asked detailed questions about adherence.
  • Although providers often checked which medications a patient was taking, they rarely explicitly assessed adherence to these medications.
  • Many physicians expressed discomfort about intruding on patients’ privacy to detect nonadherence. In the office, they rarely asked about missed medication doses.
  • Most cases of nonadherence detected during office visits were revealed through unprompted patient comments.

Physicians’ reluctance to intrude has important implications for the vast array of new information that is becoming available from pharmacy benefit plans, managed care plans, and other data repositories. In addition, the reluctance to inquire that the physicians described contrasts sharply with the physician role in the increasingly prominent concept of the medical home, where primary care doctors are envisioned as playing a central and active role in managing and coordinating care.

The authors conclude that addressing nonadherence will require a different approach than the one they observed in the study. Given the importance of patients’ shared responsibility, a new paradigm that clarifies joint provider-patient responsibility may be needed to better guide communication about medication adherence. In this context, developing new protocols to guide discussions of adherence is worth exploring.

 

 

September 13, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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