Conflicting state versus federal incentives confuse doctors I get paid by Medicaid to see patients. How much? Exactly $52.28 if it is an easy patient issue, like a cold, and $78.54 for a harder one, like a kidney stone. Who decides when the issue is easy and when it is hard? I do. But I have to follow some complex rules when deciding whether to bill a 99213 ...

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Nobody likes waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air. When you make a mistake in the emergency department, that’s exactly what happens. They come in all sorts of shapes and colors:

  • The sixty-year-old man diagnosed with a strained lower back muscle who comes back with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • The fifty-four-year-old Hispanic female with generalized malaise who goes into cardiac arrest from a missed myocardial infarction.
  • The two-year-old with ...

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I recently talked about how we might approach the idea of our own death. I wanted to start a discussion about how individuals engage with, think about and plan for the end of their life. In offering a medical perspective on what death is like, I hoped to stimulate self-reflection about this scary and foreign topic. However, when we think about death, we don’t just think about our own ...

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In an article entitled, ”Why the ER admits too many patients,” Dr. Michael Kirsch tries to explain that emergency department admissions are inflated due to emergency physicians acting in their own self-interest.  Many emergency physicians have read this and taken offense, feeling that his assertions point unfair blame on them for a significant portion of excesses in medical care and costs.  I share this visceral reaction in part, but ...

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British comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb imagines what a homeopathic ER would look like.  I love the "homeopathic lager" at the 2:20 mark of the sketch. Classic.

A few months ago, I walked into work on a late-night shift. One of the nurse practitioners came up to me and said, "There's someone you need to see right away." The patient was a woman of about 60, and it was clear that she was critically ill. According to her husband, she'd been diagnosed with cancer six months ago. It had metastasized throughout her body. Her oncology team made several ...

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A few months ago, the father of a primary care physician came into the emergency department with syncope.   He was 102 years old.  His age was more than double his heart rate.  That may or may not be bad but it certainly is often a reason for more testing.  The senior resident seeing the patient ordered an EKG, a battery of labs, a head scan,  and anticipated admitting the patient ...

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We practice distracted medicine everyday I have a shiny new Bluetooth device.  So now, as I zip around town, I can speak without my hands touching my phone. It’s relevant because our county is passing a ban on cell phone use, unless it is hands-free. This is a national trend, of course, and the catch phrase is "distracted driving." Everyone knows that distracted driving is bad. ...

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I have long been a fan of the Case Records of the Massachusetts General Hospital, which is published weekly in the New England Journal of Medicine. For many years, I made a point of recommending them to medical students and internal medicine residents as a model of concise yet comprehensive case presentations. No wasted words, no missing information, and none of the filler that trainees often added when they presented cases, such ...

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It is unethical not to be compassionate when you are a physician.  Treating people or their families poorly isn't helpful to anyone in a stressful situation.  But a big problem exists there - ethics is not taught in medical school.  Then again, neither is compassion.  So where do you learn them?  Can you learn compassion, or is it something you just have? Or don't have? She could have been anyone's grandmother.  White ...

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