As I walk into the hospital each day, I notice patients and families sitting outside on benches that are surrounded by large signs prohibiting smoking on hospital grounds. For over five years, a collaborative and concerted effort by Memphis hospitals has successfully made all the hospital campuses smoke-free. Now, in other states, hospital systems like Cleveland Clinic and Baylor Health Care have taken another bold step forward. They have stopped hiring ...

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One of my biggest pet peeves is taking over the care of a floor full of complicated patients without any explanation of their current conditions or plan of care from the physician who most recently treated them. Absent or inadequate verbal and written “handoffs” of patient care are alarmingly common in my experience. I work primarily as a locum tenens physician, traveling across the country to “cover” for my peers ...

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Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued two reports that are simultaneously scary and encouraging. First, the scary news: A national survey conducted in 2011 found that one in every 25 U.S. hospital patients experienced a healthcare-associated infection. That’s 648,000 patients with a combined 722,000 infections. About 75,000 of those patients died during their hospitalizations, although it’s unknown how many of those deaths resulted from the infections, ...

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A Southerner at heart, I find myself in love with places.  We are forever pining on about our family homes, our small town barbecue restaurant, the sound of some lake where catfish splash in the night, or the woods where our favorite treestand sits.  Sometimes our afflictions for place become the stuff of novels; Scarlett O’Hara is always associated with her beloved Tara just as Faulkner is ever infused into ...

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I covered one of the chief residents in our hospital for two days recently, seeing more than 40 patients in total. My off-the-cuff remarks on Facebook still apply: “Twenty-two inpatients later, it is time once again to declare my awe and admiration for all who do this work daily: hospitalists, housestaff, nurses, techs, custodial staff (et al., et al.). And, of course, the patients who are -- on the other side ...

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Earlier this year, I completed a medical rotation in Africa. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience. While I expected it might be difficult to acquire newer, more expensive medications and procedures, I had anticipated that, given limited resources, there would be some rationale in deciding which medications and procedures would be available. I was deeply mistaken in this assumption. During my time abroad, I watched several patients with heart attacks pass ...

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Hospital medicine has rapidly become one of the largest specialties in the United States. As the number of practicing hospital medicine doctors soars above the 30,000 mark and health care reform takes hold, the specialty finds itself at the forefront of American medicine. And for good reason. It is a young, dynamic, varied and flexible specialty that can be practiced in a number of different settings. Hospital medicine doctors are ...

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Where I’m from, you can have someone killed for $5000.  I will do it for $1110. I’m a hand surgeon. I practice (or practiced, by the time you read this) in an area that is what we often refer to as “underserved.”   Rather, the area isn’t, but the people I treat are.  I work in a large urban referral center that has a very high proportion of Medicaid as well as ...

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There are words in many languages that have no good English equivalent. During my work in Haiti, I’ve noticed my Haitian colleagues on occasion exhaling a phrase -- “tet chaje” -- which literally means “head charged.” More accurately, it describes a sense of being overwhelmed or conveying disbelief or frustration. Based on my limited experiences in the field, I can only begin to imagine the burnout that local providers face ...

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A version of column was published on March 5, 2014 in the New York Times’ Room for Debate blog. To remedy our fragmented health system, reformers want to consolidate health care.  President Obama, for instance, has praised integrated health systems like the Mayo Clinic as a model for national reform.  To that end, the Affordable Care Act drives more hospitals to become more Mayo-like by purchasing physician practices.  Today, about 39% ...

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