An excerpt from The Upstream Doctors: Medical Innovators Track Sickness to Its Source. There’s a story widely known in public health circles about three friends and a river. I retell it this way:

Three friends approach a wide, beautiful river leading to a waterfall. The idyllic scene is shattered by the cries of a small child in the water, flailing his arms while struggling to stay afloat. He’s fast approaching the ...

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In an ad-hoc poll among classmates, I recently inquired about the most important date (in 2013) to a 2nd year medical student. The overwhelming majority cited their respective USMLE Step 1 exam dates as most important, followed closely by the season finales of ABC’s Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. While the top three responses all are worth their respective weights, the one date that should bear the most gravity in the minds ...

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If you have been paying attention to US healthcare policy debates lately, you know that hospitals have a price problem. Walk across the street from one hospital to a competitor hospital, and you could easily find yourself facing a $30,000 increase in your medical bills. At one extreme for instance recent information shows that replacing your hip with a surgical implant might cost anywhere from $5000 to ...

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One reason is to apply an extra “facility fee” to patients’ bills. Another reason is that primary care docs generate a ton of money for the hospital.  A new survey was sent to hospital chief financial officers across the nation and based on data submitted by 102 facilities, it found that PCPs generate more annual revenue than specialists do. PCPs (defined in the survey as family physicians, general internists, and pediatricians) generated a ...

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I always believed that, if we could harness the entrepreneurial spirit of the American physician, we could be capable of great things. Physician decisions drive much of what is good and bad about our health care system. Their pens are the biggest driver of cost and their vigilance is the most significant driver of quality. It is a shame that physician-owned hospitals are accelerating the creation of a two-tier system ...

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“There are two diagnoses you will never make: those you didn’t think about, and those you have never heard of.” This quote, ascribed to many an attending physician over the years, underlies what has become on some levels a vitriolic discussion of primary care delivery in the United States today. It was recently highlighted by a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This article showed a real ...

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Several physicians have reached out recently to discuss attractive employment offers from health systems. They are invariably conflicted. They understand the trade-offs, that they’ll give up the autonomy they’ve become accustomed to in exchange for more money and fewer practice management headaches. On the down side, they’ll be accountable for generating significant revenues, sometimes independent of care appropriateness. Most also are aware that the same care services they provide now will ...

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I attended a medical staff meeting recently. These are required meetings and attendance is taken, as was done when we were in kindergarten. While some folks are interested in these meetings’ content, many are not and simply sign the attendance sheet and then slither out in a stealth fashion. Sly doctors grab their pagers and then leave hurriedly pretending that they were summoned to an urgent medical situation, when they ...

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The Baylor PCP chapter co-hosted a screening of Escape Fire at Rice University. I had heard about the film some time ago when it first came out and had always wanted to see it myself, but now I am convinced that it should be screened at every medical school orientation. The film provided a poignant portrayal of several all-too-familiar stories: the overworked, underpaid primary care doctor who cannot afford to spend ...

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Amid massive change in our healthcare delivery systems and seismic shifts in many regional markets, physicians are increasingly being faced with a simple choice: be acquired or become employed as part of a large healthcare system, or stay independent while offering a compelling service that hospitals and health systems value. The changes occurring in our care delivery systems have generated great interest, innovation, and yes, fear among many in healthcare, doctors ...

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