Our organization, like most health care providers, is working hard to improve the care we provide to our patients, while also striving to improve the lives of our physicians. All too often, a narrow view of the former can create conflict with the latter. For example, a reductionist view of clinical quality, which equates good care with performance on a small number of “objective” measures like mammography rates and hemoglobin ...

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I had the opportunity to participate in a day-long meeting sponsored by the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS). The goal was to help HRS develop recommendations for physicians and industry on providing patients access to information generated by wearable and implantable cardiac electronic devices.  The organizers invited me to provide the viewpoint of an educated patient. I can’t say how HRS will ultimately craft the guidance (and I am not involved ...

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A colleague recently sent me a link to the American College of Cathopathic Physicians a new organization whose mission “is to protect the professional autonomy and advocate for a full, broad scope of practice for DNPs as a ‘cathopathic physician’ completely equal in every way to our MD and DO counterparts.” I was, I admit, so stunned by the statement that I thought the whole thing might be an elaborate joke. It was only ...

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I am a terrible coder. I think I am a pretty good doctor, but when it comes to coding, the process of figuring out which billing code to pick to assign to a bill for an office visit, I am hopeless. No matter how many times I have had the rules explained to me, or how much feedback I have been given about specific visits, or which “pocket guide” to ...

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When I was a cardiology fellow back in the 1980s, I learned about a variety of early tools for evaluating heart health that had been displaced by the modern standards of electrocardiography (ECG, or EKG for the Deutschephiles) and echocardiography. One such technique – ballistocardiography – stuck with me, and may be making a comeback. Ballistocardiography is based on the observation that the mechanical action of the heart leads to subtle ...

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Every clinician knows that “framing” -- how we present information to patients -- has a big impact on decisions they make about their care. Even something as simple and apparently transparent as talking about survival versus mortality is important, with “a 90 percent chance of living” sounding a lot better than “a 10 percent chance of dying” even if both phrases convey the same estimate of risk. Things get even dicier ...

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Physician burnout has received a lot of well-deserved attention lately. Characterized by emotional exhaustion and professional frustration, it's tied to an array of adverse consequences, from physician suicide to poor patient outcomes. Organizations are waking up to the need to measure its prevalence and ameliorate its impact. There seems to be two broad schools of thought about the causes — and by extension, the fixes — of physician burnout. The first focuses ...

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A recent story in Crain’s New York Business cited the difficulty small independent medical practices face coping “with declining reimbursement rates from insurers, rising overhead costs and a torrent of new regulations that have come into play in recent years.” According to the article, only 26 percent of New York state physicians now own their own practice, compared with national rates of physician ownership of 76 percent thirty years ago. ...

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Policy makers who are responsible for shaping how the federal government (the country’s biggest payer of health care services) pays physicians are pushing CMS on a rapid path away from traditional fee-for-service (FFS). As I discussed last year, CMS intends to have 50 percent of its payments flow through “alternative payment models” such as ACOs and bundled payments by 2018, with nearly all of the rest of the ...

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The idea that we have to “change incentives” for physicians is all the rage. Oceans of ink are being spilled over the transition away from the traditional fee for service payment model to a menagerie of value-based ones. At the core of much of the discussion about how to make the transition is figuring out how risk-bearing organizations like large physician groups, health systems, ACOs and the like are going ...

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The first posting on my blog explained why I chose to name it “Auscultation.”  I wrote that I wanted to promote a conversation, and that listening was essential to doing so. I went on to write: “With an obvious nod to my being a cardiologist, I believe auscultation has long been an act that defines us as physicians and connects us in a profound way with our patients. The act of ...

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I spent a couple of hours today discussing a topic that has become increasingly important in the world in which we live, and which would have completely mystified an earlier generation of physicians. The subject was attribution. Simply put, how should one decide which patients “belong” to which doctors? On a more technical level, what algorithms should be employed to connect patients, or episodes of care for those patients, or ...

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There were several news stories recently that reported that Pfizer had abandoned its efforts to have its Lipitor brand of atorvastatin made available over the counter (OTC), without a prescription. I was never a big fan of OTC statins, but I was struck by the reason that Pfizer put out:

The study did not meet its primary objectives of demonstrating patient compliance with the direction to check their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol ...

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shutterstock_228580378 I have written previously about some “aha moments” that I have had as a clinician, when something that I knew was coming seemed to arrive with a thud in my own practice. I had another one of those moments a couple of weeks ago. I was finishing up with a new patient, and had explained to him and his wife my assessment ...

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shutterstock_195635468 I was driving to work the other day, and there was a story on the radio about the Congressional reaction to the latest recommendations for breast cancer screening from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Here’s the background. USPSTF published recommendations in late 2009 for the use of screening mammography in different age groups. For women between 40 and ...

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I had two experiences recently that reminded me that many doctors and nurses remain resistant to measuring and improving how patients experience the care we provide. One was a face-to-face discussion with a senior physician. The other was reading an article by a nurse. Both the doctor and the nurse denounced the growing focus on the patient experience by citing the threat to the quality of care, and I believe ...

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It has been known for a long time that “health care” -- all the stuff that we do, prescribe and provide -- is a minor determinant of how “healthy” any of us is. Overall health, or more technically, the variability in health outcomes, is much more dependent on the combination of genetics, personal behavior (think smoking and seat belts), environmental factors and socioeconomic status than it is on health care. I ...

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A recent piece in the New York Times profiled a young man with a remarkable medical history, and an equally remarkable approach to sharing it. I think it raises some profound issues regarding the self-monitoring movement and the “ownership” of patients’ health information, both of which have the potential to change our traditional practices in a big way. The guy -- Steven Keating -- is not your average Joe. He is a ...

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A few years ago, the United States Navy launched a new recruiting and marketing campaign using the slogan: “America’s Navy: A global force for good.” The line was apparently a flop, and the Navy threw it overboard for “protecting America the world over,” but I liked it. I thought it captured a deep truth about the Navy, which is that it is undoubtedly a global force and that the force exists for ...

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There are plenty of good reasons why thoughtful physicians are often unhappy with the current approach to measuring the quality of care they provide. Some, of course, object to the whole notion of quality measurement, but I believe they are in a shrinking minority clinging to an anachronistic mental model in which each physician defines for himself what constitutes high quality care. I have addressed this previously. But even those, ...

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