Future of Hospital Medicine

The Future of Hospital Medicine is SHM’s pipeline program for trainees. Here you will find blog posts by medical students, residents and their advisors exploring a career in hospital medicine. To learn more about SHM’s Future of Hospital Medicine program, visit: www.futureofhospitalmedicine.org.

You Have Lowered Length of Stay. Congratulations. You’re Fired.

For several decades, providers working within hospitals have had incentives to reduce stay durations and keep patient flow tip-top. DRG-based and capitated payments expedited that shift. Accompanying the change, physicians became more aware of the potential repercussions of sicker and quicker discharges. They began to monitor their care and as best as possible, use what measures they could ascertain as a proxy for quality (readmissions and hospital acquired conditions). Providers balanced the harms of a continued stay over the benefits of added days, not to mention the need for cost savings. However, the narrow focus on the hospital stay, the first three to seven days of illness, distracted us from the out weeks after discharge. With the acceleration of inpatient episodes, we cast patients to post-acute settings unprepared for the hardship they would face. By the latter, I mean, frailty risk, more reliance on others for help, and a greater need…

We Are All Accomplices In The Great American Coding Swindle

"Membership in the American Academy of Professional Coders has risen to more than 170,000 today from roughly 70,000 in 2008." "The AMA owns the copyright to CPT, the code used by doctors. It publishes coding books and dictionaries. It also creates new codes when doctors want to charge for a new procedure. It levies a licensing fee on billing companies for using CPT codes on bills. Royalties for CPT codes, along with revenues from other products, are the association’s biggest single source of income" Aint that something? Okay, I would rank Elizabeth Rosenthal up there with Atul Gawande and Lisa Rosenbaum in the pantheon of standout healthcare writers active today.  They are all docs and have more skill in their writing pinky than I have in my entire body. They have a unique talent in stitching together narratives that speak to both docs and patients in their language--and do it within…

US Versus Foreign Trained Docs: Who Saves More Lives?

Yeah, I know the headline drew you in.  I sleuthed ya---but I have a reason. A study out in BMJ today, and its timing is uncanny given the immigration ban we are now experiencing. First, to declare my priors. I will take an IMG to work by my side any day of the week.  You need to be twice as smart, motivated, and industrious to make your way to American shores. The paper:   The researchers analyzed data on 1.2 million hospital admissions of Medicare patients aged 65 and over between 2011 and 2014 and for 44,227 internists. The average age of patients was 80, and the most common causes of death were sepsis, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The difference in results was slight, but I post the tables if only to show, at least based on this sample set, at worst, IMGs are equal to, and best,…

New ABIM MOC Two-Year Plan for Internal Medicine Threatens the Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine

After two years of study and conversation with the Internal Medicine community, the American Board of Internal Medicine announced just before the holidays that it has landed on a “next step” for maintenance of certification. In a video message to the members, CEO Dr Richard Baron says, “Medicine today is transforming at a rapid and dynamic pace, and ABIM is transforming with it.” If you recall back in October, I wrote about the ABIM surveying the membership around the different options of an “every two year test plan”, “an every five year plan”, and keeping the current ten-year plan. The ABIM has announced that the two-year plan will be offered as a choice in 2018 for Internal Medicine, or diplomates can opt to stay with the current ten year plan. What we know now is based on a December announcement that can now be found on the ABIM website. The…

ER Docs And Out Of Network Billing. Are We In The Same Boat?

This recent article in the NYT and the NEJM study precipitating it widened the (malevolent) coverage of the fees paid by patients and insurance companies to out of network physicians.  If you are not familiar with the issue, doctors working in hospitals--who may not participate in the plans the hospitals accept--separately bill the insurance companies for higher than average charges.  Since there is no upfront negotiated discount, typically found when docs belong to a plan, the insurance company may or may not pay the asking fee.  If they do not, the often sky-high balance becomes the patient's responsibility.  From the patient's point of view, the process makes no sense; if a hospital participates in their plan, so should the docs. Not so.  Hospitals do their thing.  Professional do theirs. The problem of balance billing and out of network providers does not reside in one or two states, and the practice touches…
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