Most of the time I feel as though I am running in quicksand attempting to bring patients to a place of grace and dignity in dying. On occasion, there is someone who jerks me out of my quicksand and plants me squarely on stable shore and then proceeds to show me what grace and dignity in the face of death really look and feel like. Please meet Mr. Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson had long, lacy ...

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You know it’s going to be one of those days when one of the first tweets on vacation inquires about the closest hospital. Victor, one of my 11-year-olds, had something in his eye courtesy of a big gust of wind outside of Westminster Abbey. He was complaining enough to let me flip his eyelid and irrigate his eye on the square in front of Big Ben. (I’m sure several people thought ...

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If you’ve ever worked in an emergency room, you’ve likely treated a victim of human trafficking. We all have, often without knowing it. With nearly thirty million people in modern-day slavery around the world, there are more slaves today than at any point in history. Human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion” for the ...

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The New York Times had a front-page story about the growth of urgent care clinics nationwide. These are the places that are often referred to as “minor emergency rooms,” or “doc-in-a-box” outfits. Their value proposition is simple: You don’t need an appointment. The costs are “reasonable,” and much more transparent than usual medical care at a doctor’s office, emergency room, or hospital. Best of all: They can treat a majority of acute conditions and ...

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We hear a lot about the death of the independent physician practice. But perhaps the more important discussion is about the death of practicing medicine independently. That is, the days when individual physician groups could operate their businesses and treat patients independently and without regard to the surrounding network of other physicians, nursing facilities, health networks, social workers, case managers, and other support is over. It doesn’t matter whether the physician ...

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When I was a medical student, I worked with an non-government organization (NGO) in Rwanda to provide medical care to women with HIV. Nearly all had witnessed their family members murdered during the genocide, and many became afflicted with HIV as a result of rape. Our initial focus was on getting antiretroviral therapy to these women, but we quickly realized that while it was important for them to have access ...

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Not long ago, Tracy Hume, a freelance writer who lives in Greeley, Colorado, sent me an email posing this question: "Do ER-affiliated urgent care providers ever try to escalate patients to the ER when it is not medically necessary?" It seems that over the July 4th weekend, Tracy’s teenage son was complaining of a headache, nausea and abdominal pain, and was vomiting. He doesn't complain much, she said, so thinking that ...

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I thought the most important thing I had learned while working in the emergency department as a first-year medical student was to bop and weave.  The impeccable foot skills I harnessed as a youth lacrosse player were put to great use- to stay out of the way.  The quiet whisper of a nurse trying to slide behind me, and -- BAM -- back against the wall.  I can hear the ...

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In a recent posting Dr. Kaylan Baban mused about the ubiquity of scribes and some of the reasons behind this growing phenomenon. Among them were the usual suspects: increasing patient loads leading to decreased visit times with the provider, increasing non-clinical demands monopolizing time that would be better spent actually practicing medicine, and improved legibility of notes, which are now the patient's property and are used for a ...

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Emergency department directors measure value in their departments with a number of metrics that are tracked religiously: door-to-provider times, ambulance drop-off times, left without being seen rates, length of stay for discharged patients, diversion hours, and 72-hour returns all come to mind.

These  metrics clearly measure the performance of the emergency department, what to they do, if anything, to measure the value of care being provided? These metrics are often ...

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