The Sunshine Act escalates the war on physicians The media has feasted on the recent release of data by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that details payments made by the pharmaceutical and device companies to hospitals and physicians in 2013. This was part of the the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (PPSA) -- also known as section 6002 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010. What the ...

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A case that illustrates the good, the bad and the ugly of American medicine I had a recent conversation with an old friend about her elderly father that encapsulates a lot of what is both great and terribly wrong with health care in America today. Here are the basic facts: the man is in his mid-80s, retired from teaching school, and is active and vigorous, living in the community; he is cognitively intact. He has a ...

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After listening to a lecture, third-year students at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine were surveyed about distractions by electronic devices and given a 12-question quiz. Although 65% of the students admitted to having been distracted by emails, Facebook, and/or texting during the lecture, distracted students had an average score of 9.85 correct compared to 10.444 students who said they weren't distracted. The difference was not significant, p = 0.652. In ...

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If another case of Ebola emanates from the unfortunate Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the root cause analysts might mount their horses, the Six Sigma black belts will skydive and the safety champions will tunnel their way clandestinely to rendezvous at the sentinel place. What might be their unique insights? What will be their prescriptions? One never knows what pearls one will encounter from after-the-fact risk managers. I can imagine Caesar consulting a Sybil ...

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One catch phrase in health care reform is cost-effectiveness.  To paraphrase, this label means that a medical treatment is worth the price.  For example, influenza vaccine, or flu shot, is effective in reducing the risk of influenza infection.  If the price of each vaccine were $1,000, it would still be medically effective, but it would no longer be cost-effective considering that over 100 million Americans need the vaccine. Society could not ...

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As I finish my post-operative care routine for my 9-day-old patient, I notice that the cerebral oximetry machine is not picking up a strong signal. Despite troubleshooting, I am unable to figure out how to fix the problem, and I head to the Pixus to get a new sensor. Unfortunately, this one does not work either, and we must use a smaller sensor to pick up an adequate signal on ...

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Recently, my eldest son came home from college for a couple of days. Our home was in perfect harmony and rhythm. The duets (and quartets, if you count us parents) that had played over the prior month-and-a-half were once again trios and quintets. Five or six hands on the piano at a time. The clear brass joining in again with the bright woodwind and the deep bass. The voices in ...

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Pamela Wible: A eulogy to her father I believe we choose our parents before we are born. I hit the jackpot. I picked an unlikely pair -- a radical feminist and a guy named Ted Krouse. Mom wasn’t home much (she was finishing up her psychiatry residency) so I became head of the household. Dad always kowtowed to the strongest woman in the room. I was two at the ...

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Did you know that your digestive tract contains over 400 different types of bacteria? This complex ecosystem is called intestinal microflora. The concentration of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract increases dramatically moving from the stomach towards the colon. In humans, the intestinal microflora is vital in many important functions including digestion of nutrients and prevention of infection. Disruption of the “normal flora” can lead to many problems including diarrhea, bloating, ...

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Ebola is everywhere. Turn on the television, and you will see the headlines. “Ebola in America.” Or, “Hospital worker who handled Ebola is on cruise.” And then there is the “Ebola fears prompt parents to keep children home from school.” The headlines go on. Go onto Facebook or Twitter, and you will see Ebola as the most viewed article, or the most tweeted topic. Ebola is everywhere. Ebola is incredibly infectious. Ebola is ...

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Not too long ago I suggested hospice to a patient who had progressive cancer, although she likely had months to live.  “I don’t think it is time,” she replied, “hospice is for morphine.” “That is not how I see hospice,” I replied, “I think hospice is about getting the best care and support, even if there is no real treatment for the disease.  It is about living well, maybe better. Even ...

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While driving to work, I listened to Mike and Mike (a radio sports talk show). Mike Greenberg made a wonderful point about his job. He described what they do as “professional over-reactors.” They take every game and extrapolate, sometimes irrationally, about the implications of that game. Does this remind you of health reporting? A study appears in a serious medical journal, and the press “blows it up” as the next great advance. ...

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When treating neo Nazis, should physicians have a choice?What I found most disturbing about the man’s arm was not the deep, stellate laceration on the underside of his biceps. It was the swastika tattoo next to it. “Sir,” I said, “we’ll have you fixed up in no time. I’m going to numb up the wound, irrigate it, then repair the laceration with sutures and send you home on antibiotics and pain ...

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A recent case that I saw in consultation at the patient’s request highlights the pervasive problem of overdiagnosis and overtreatment of endometrial hyperplasia. This 46-year-old woman was diagnosed with simple hyperplasia without atypia within an excised endometrial polyp, for which both her gynecologist and pathologist recommended hysterectomy. The basis for this recommendation was a perceived increased risk of endometrial cancer, either currently lurking within her uterus or to be developed ...

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Go into any hospital today and notice that between every great nurse and patient sits a computer terminal. The quantified health movement has created the great digital divide, between the patient and everyone else. The nurse of old used to actually touch the patient. No more. Now, they wheel in a computer console, sit down and record the digital output of the wired up patient, every vital sign, every drug order or ...

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What I love about being an anesthesiologist I wear a lot of hats in my job.  Though I’m a physician who specializes in the practice of anesthesiology, I don’t spend all day every day at the head of an operating room table. Many days I spend in an administrative leadership role or conducting research studies.  These functions support the best interests of my patients as well as the science ...

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Every so often you have a patient in your practice that you sort of know, but really don’t. You’ve seen the name somewhere, but your mind draws a blank when asked about him. You may even have a vague idea of what he looks like, but if he were to bump into you on the street, you won’t even recognize him, despite the fact that you’ve been inside his heart ...

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Ebola: Whos looking out for the nurses? Being a nurse is a risky job.  Needle-stick injuries, violence, back injuries, and infectious disease are all potential threats.  But until recently, nursing was not usually viewed, like police work, or commercial fishing, as a life-endangering career choice. Those who risk their lives for their work go into it knowing the risks, and receive intensive training and protective gear. Not so the ...

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Nancy Snyderman shows indifference for her role as a medical communicator I wish Dr. Nancy Snyderman the best of health. I'm happy that she remains free from the deadly Ebola virus, and hopefully it will stay that way. It must have been extremely difficult for her to be under quarantine, especially since she was feeling healthy. It's simple: When you feel good, you want to be active. In Dr. Snyderman's case, she ...

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In June 2014, the first patient with Ebola arrived at Liberia’s county hospital, Redemption. As tensions grew around the city of Monrovia, administrators at JFK Hospital began to devise plans for handling patients with suspected Ebola. Officials from the CDC then came and gave us lectures. They discussed prevention of spreading and what our plans would be in the event of a potential outbreak. Before that moment, there were no ...

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