Currently, in American health care, experts are wringing their hands in confusion.  I mean, people have insurance, right?  And yet, health care is still expensive and dang it, people just keep going to the ER.  Visits are climbing everywhere, and I can speak from personal experience when I say that we’re tasked with more and more complex and multi-varied duties in the emergency departments of the 21st century. I’m not a ...

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The observation versus inpatient distinction is rightly getting more media and public attention with each passing month. In a nutshell, for anyone reading who is not familiar with what this is all about, it’s essentially a way of categorizing people when they get admitted to hospital. You are either deemed an inpatient (basically a more complex case) or an observation (a less serious case). The individual reasons and checkboxes that have ...

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The United States far outspends peer countries on health care. When American politicians complain about these high health care costs, they often vilify pharmaceutical and insurance companies for profiting at the expense of the general public. As I wrote earlier, such vilification is misguided, pushing too much of the blame on individual actors rather than on the system that incentivizes individuals to act those ways. So what it is ...

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Because hospitals are expensive and often cause harm, there has been a big focus on reducing hospital use.  This focus has been the underpinning for numerous policy interventions, most notable of which is the Affordable Care Act’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), which penalizes hospitals for higher than expected readmission rates.  The motivation behind HRRP is simple:  the readmission rate, the proportion of discharged patients who return to ...

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Last year, several scandals unfolded involving the Veterans Health Administration. Close to home, the Fort Collins VA hospital falsified its wait times for clinic appointments. To meet the VA goal of clinic appointments within 14 days, the hospital instructed its clerks to “cook the books,” falsifying appointment records to give the illusion that the vets were being seen in a timely manner. Farther away in Phoenix, the local VA hospital had ...

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Just as the U.S. health care system is about to make performance measurement a central feature of … well, just about everything doctors do … some prominent and highly influential physicians are asking for a pause and reassessment. Writing for the New York Times, Dr. Bob Watcher argues that, "Two of our most vital industries, health care, and education, have become increasingly subjected to metrics and measurements. Of course, ...

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I’ve been following Marissa Mayer’s tenure for nearly four years at Yahoo.  Not just because I was initially tapped to lead athenahealth’s integration of another mature advertising-driven mobile company -- Epocrates -- but because Yahoo, with its complexity and technology legacies, and highly competitive, fast-paced market environment, reminds me of many of the country’s largest health care delivery systems. Both are facing significant headwinds to stay relevant in their respective industries ...

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The title of Noam Scheiber’s January 9, 2016 New York Times piece on hospitalists, “Doctors Unionize to Resist the Medical Machine,” skirts the bigger issue for doctors, which has less to do with contracts, salaries and labor relations, and much more to do with the question, “Is health care just another business, and if so, can physicians be managed that way?” I’m a silverback hospitalist, and when I started ...

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The American health care system is set up to care for a certain subset of the population -- sick people -- people with chronic disease, acute illness, acute injury, and complex disorders like cancer or metabolic issues. The problem is, this set up doesn’t create market incentives to care for the well effectively, or to identify those at risk for disease and efficiently and reliably intervene, at scale. To reconcile this cognitive dissonance ...

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Part of a series. Primary care needs to change. That change will need the concerted efforts of patients, doctors, and other constituents. Many are cynical and believe that no worthwhile change can ever occur; others are simply resigned. But optimism can be realistic with intense advocacy and simply taking the initiative to make change. This may surprise you, but change will only happen when patients along with doctors become ...

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