We believe integrated will triumph fragmented every time. -Steve Jobs Two articles recently got my attention. The first was an interview by Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of the Permanente Medical Group with my favorite author and thinker Malcolm Gladwell. On Pearl’s blog, he answered Gladwell’s request to tell people what is was like to be a doctor. The second was a NPR article, “When Facts Are Scarce, ER Doctor Turns ...

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The worst news in health care is not antibiotic resistance, drug-drug interactions, hospital acquired infections, lack of communication between systems of medical records, and certainly not the alarming rate of obesity in our youth. The worst news is the increasing number of dissatisfied physicians. The physician, also known in the system as a "provider," has been the direct target of assault by the government. The logic has been that if the physician ...

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There's a bit of buzz in the news recently over President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy. It's worth pausing here to note the last truly consequential surgeon general:  Dr. C Everett Koop single-handedly carried out the entirety of the Reagan Administration's AIDS response (to be clear -- this is true because of how little the Reagan administration did, not because of how much Koop did); fought hard ...

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My home hospital is small. In a town of just over 20,000 people, this hospital has 25 beds and is designated "critical access" by Medicare because it is felt to be necessary to the health care of the community. Critical access is a designation which was introduced in 1997 when modernization of Medicare payment systems threatened to close a large proportion of hospitals in small communities which were unable to ...

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Fulfilling every stereotype, I sat at my grandparents’ house in southern Sweden, sipping elderberry juice out of an IKEA glass and eating meatballs with lingonberry jam. It was Christmas Eve, and I was enjoying a getaway from the rigors of medical school. However, it wasn’t a complete escape, as my grandparents loved talking about medicine and the differences between health care in the United States and Sweden. In this particular conversation, ...

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In my near-decade of practicing emergency medicine I have yet to receive a letter from a hospital congratulating me on how few CT scans I’ve ordered. Nor have I ever received a special award for diverting a potential admission to an outpatient referral instead. Rather, the push has always been the opposite. Fee-for-service models encourage the opposite behavior, and trying to do the most evidenced-based or cost-effective thing is not ...

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Legislative bodies are moving with unprecedented swiftness to ensure we lead healthier lives. From bans on soda to bans on fast food, from mandates on health insurance coverage to mandates on EMR use, from bans on trans fats to mandates on care delivery models, our governments (federal, state, and local) are supposedly helping us live well. But our current approach to health care is about as scientific as our approach to fashion -- ...

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Frontline caregivers across the United States -- and in many other countries, no doubt -- are bombarded by multiple quality improvement (QI) projects. A clinical unit might simultaneously be engaged in efforts to reduce readmissions, eliminate hospital-acquired infections and other complications, increase hand-hygiene compliance, improve performance on core measures, and enhance the patient experience. The demands brought by participating in all of these efforts risk overwhelming health care professionals, who ...

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Most people, regardless of their political leaning, can agree that the market for health care in the United States isn’t really working well. Take one step further, though, and disagreement rapidly ensues. On the left, the common understanding is that a market failure has occurred, and that the proper thing to do is have government intervene to correct that failure -- usually by expanding public insurance programs, subsidizing private insurance, and ...

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Malcolm Gladwell hasn’t written much about American health care. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been thinking about it. And it sure hasn’t stopped many of his powerful ideas like “tipping point,” “outlier” and “blink” from gaining entry into the national health care debate. In his most recent book, “David and Goliath,” Gladwell reshaped our perspectives on the underdog and highlighted our tendency to over-value certain strengths. In the health care ...

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