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June 02, 2009

Grand Rounds Vol. 5, No. 37: The June Is Bustin' Out All Over Edition

June is bustin' out all over . . . .  Lord knows my nose knows it, thanks to all the pollen in the air these days.  Check out the classic movie rendition of this set piece (well worth the eight-minute investment), let your coffee and/or antihistamines kick in, and then let's dive into the past week's medblogging, loosely categorized into insights of patient bloggers, provider bloggers, bloggers I've met in real life (the number keeps growing), bloggers following the money trail through the health care thicket, and bloggers who are or should be dancing and/or shirtless (watch the whole movie clip . . . on second thought, let's leave it at dancing).


Last time I hosted Grand Rounds, we delved into the origins of Valentine's Day, so even though we're a couple weeks shy of the vernal equinox, since June is bustin' out all over, the historian in me feels the need to touch on an ur-Spring nugget or two before we get going.  Where do these celebrations of Spring come from?

Attis was a Phrygian god, whose annual death and resurrection were mourned and celebrated at a Spring festival.  (On the other hand, the death and rebirth of the Sumerian Tammuz was a summer solstice thing rather than a vernal equinox thing.)  James Fraser, in The Golden Bough, wrote:

The annual death and revival of vegetation is a conception which readily presents itself to men in every stage of savagery and civilisation: and the vastness of the scale on which this ever-recurring decay and regeneration takes place, together with man's most intimate dependence on it for subsistence, combine to render it the most impressive annual occurrence in nature, at least within the temperate zones. It is no wonder that a phenomenon so important, so striking, and so universal should, by suggesting similar ideas, have given rise to similar rites in many lands.

What I best remember from The Golden Bough, though, is the tale of the king-for-a-year, who ascends the throne as a result of a cultic regicide, and ends his term the same way.  Great stuff.

For further reading linking The Golden Bough, The Holy Grail, Wagner's Parsifal, and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, check out Derrick Everett's article on The Waste Land.

I'm not certain that Rogers and Hammerstein had these themes in mind when writing Carousel.  Heck, who knows what they had in mind; they threw in a happy ending that wasn't in their source material (but hey, that's show business).  You, dear reader, certainly didn't have these themes in mind when you tuned in to today's edition of Grand Rounds.  Nevertheless, on with today's show.

Provider Bloggers

At Musings of a Distractible Mind, Dr. Rob discusses Atul Gawande's recent New Yorker piece on health care cost variations across the country (a good read, well worth the time), which focuses on McAllen, TX, a small border town that consumes far more than the average annual per capita amount of health care services.  Gawande loops in the Dartmouth Health Atlas folks, asks the hard questions about physician-owned facilities and financial incentives, and concludes that outfits like Geisinger, Intermountain, Kaiser Permanente and Mayo -- not-for-profit integrated delivery systems with salaried docs -- have the model we should strive to emulate systemwide.  Dr. Rob recounts his own experience with physician-owned facilities.  His conclusion is a folksy twist on Gawande's:

How do we fix it?  There are lots of good answers, and lots of dumb ones as well.  The bottom line is the bottom line, though.  How you pay docs will determine what happens.  It’s America, after all.  It’s what makes us great.  Right?

Right.  The thing is, guys, we've known this for at least forty years.

ACP Hospitalist reports on Sid Wolfe's new Public Citizen campaign to get hospitals to step up reporting of physician wrongdoing.  Bob Wachter, at Wachter's World, delves deeper into the problem, and says:

I’m proud to say that over the past five years, my hospital (UCSF Medical Center) has taken Leape’s challenge to heart, withdrawing clinical privileges (and filing accompanying NPDB reports) in several cases for behavior that, I’m quite confident, would have been tolerated a decade ago. This is progress. As Kissinger once said, “weakness is provocative.” As more hospitals take this tougher stance, I think we’ll see the boundaries of acceptable behavior shift everywhere. And patients will be safer for it.

Bongi, at other things amanzi, recalls a suboptimal experience in his training, when the "see one, do one, teach one" approach was reduced to "read an article about one, do one immediately afterwards."

At Providentia, Romeo Vitelli looks at the historical precursors to Jenny McCarthy and the current crop of anti-vaccinationists. 

Ken Cohn, a physician and consultant
(who I know in real life [IRL]), recounts a (positive) experience in asking health care administrators to consider ethics in physician-hospital relationships.

I take a baby aspirin a day, and Doc Gurley says I should keep on doing so, because I'm better off puking up blood than having a heart attack.

Seizures and how they have been misunderstood (epilepsy vs. demonic possession) is the subject of this week's selection from Mind, Soul and Body.

Suddenly becoming a first responder at 35,000 feet? On Your Meds' Barbara Olson takes you there.  (The blog is part of Medscape, so free registration is required).

NurseAusmed recounts difficulties in handling patient communications and managing patient expectations at Nursing Handover.

How to Cope With Pain takes a page from a book offering guidance to those who have lost their spiritual way and turns the advice to use for those facing physical, rather than spiritual, pain.

Web 2.0 meets the health care establishment, and KevinMD [IRL] observes that since health care is largely a business, this should not be surprising.  For a window into social media use by health care provider organizations, check out healthsocmed.

The anonymous author of Notes of an Anesthesoboist says it's hard for women doctors to make friends . . . perhaps they should introduce themselves as drug pushers instead?

John Crippen wants to, but the NHS Blog Doctor just can't look away from the kids pushed onto TV talent shows by 21st century stage mothers.

Paul Levy [IRL] goes another round with SEIU Local 1199 at Running a Hospital.

At UDM Solutions, David Siwicki provides a clinical perspective on deciding whether to prescribe opioids for chronic pain patients who use marijuana.

Nancy Brown offers sound advice on talking to teens about alcohol at Healthline's Teen Health 411.

Follow the Money

DrRich, at the Covert Rationing Blog, always follows the money, and this week the trail leads to the following unlikely destination: the American College of Surgeons encouraging malpractice suits -- against overseas surgeons offering services to medical tourists.

Big Pharma also always follows the money, and David Williams, at the Health Business Blog, remains perplexed over Pharma's failure to engage with the public via twitter.  (GSK has already responded to David's post, but in a way that doesn't exactly undercut his point.)  For a window into Pharma's engagement with social media, look no further than Shwen Gwee, who organized the Social Pharmer unconference in conjunction with the HealthCamp Boston unconference I co-organized in late April.  Speaking of social media, feel free to follow me on twitter: @healthblawg.  

Last week, I took a look at the proposed Medicare Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) updates for FFY 2010.  Among other things in the rule (including payments cut to the bone), I was surprised to see tucked away in there a tacit acknowledgement that the whole "no pay for never events" thing isn't really saving anybody that much money.

Lots of hospitals are touting new private rooms these days.  Seems to help patient care (lower infection rates, better sleep, more privacy), but despite the benefits, Jeffrey Seguritan at nuts for healthcare observes that the private room is being pushed by the AIA, and wonders whether health care dollars really ought to be spent these days on capital projects such as these.  (My brief response: these days, they really aren't, given the tight financial markets).

In a medblogosphere first, The Happy Hospitalist has publicly described an entry in the $10 million X Prize competition:

How do you [reduce health care costs dramatically]?  Here's my theory.  You can do more to affect health care costs by getting 10,000 people to change their lifestyle habits than you can by getting a few hundred docs to change how they document and collect data and prescribe some pills.

So here's what you do.  You bribe the public.  People are inherently lazy, but they respond well to piles of money.

For a fuller introduction to the X Prize competition: Scott Shreve [IRL] posted his twitterview on the X Prize with Bertalan Mesko (@berci) at Crossover Health Learn more about it there.

The big HITECH Act pot of money that everyone in health IT is itching to get their hands on is going to have some strings attached: chief among them are going to be definitions of "meaningful use" and "certified EHR."  Them that are likely to be certifying -- CCHIT -- have been the target of some possibly well-deserved pot-shots, and the gloves have come off.  See Gilles Frydman's [almost met IRL at the Health 2.0 conference in Boston a month or so ago] framing of the debate at and John Moore's [IRL] take at Chilmark Research.  

Health technology research and development yielded two bits of news this week: FDA approval of a handheld ultrasound unit, via Vijay Sadasivam's scan man's notes, and Ves Dimov's post at Clinical Cases and Images on the Rovio - a WiFi-enabled mobile webcam, which may be more attractive to medical users given the recent study that found patient satisfaction, physician satisfaction and diagnostic agreement (measured both between face-to-face and virtual vists, and between two face-to-face visits) to be similar for face-to-face and virtual visits.  (Yesterday's Boston Globe took a closer look at this study, virtual visits in general, and American Well in particular.)    

The health IT crowd is working on interoperability and portability of health information.  Google Health is one of the platforms that may enable folks to reach this holy grail.  Brian Dolan at mobihealthnews says that Google Wave, an open-source tool for communication and collaboration, looks like a killer tool for enabling Google Health to do more in terms of provider-provider and patient-provider collaboration.

Evan Falchuk's observation at See First on prevention: it ain't cheap; treatment of preventable disease is more expensive than the savings from avoided disease and complications, so we need to be talking about more than cost-effectiveness.  [Supposed to meet IRL soon.]

Patient Bloggers

For some reason, diabetics are very well-represented among Grand Rounds' usual suspects.  This week, they're turning into media critics as well, following President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supremes.  Amy Tenderich [who I also almost met IRL at Health 2.0] touched on the media frenzy regarding the nominee's Type 1 diabetes at The Diabetes Mine, as did Six Until Me's Kerri Morrone Sparling.  Not to leave Type 2 diabetes unattended, Rachel Baumgartel offers tips for the newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetic at Diabetes Daily.  (For those who care to immerse themselves in The Politics of the Sotomayor Nomination, the good folks at SCOTUSblog say come on in, the water is fine.)  For a taste of the difficulties faced by some diabetics traveling through airports with needles and curious liquids, head on over to Tim Brown's post at Shoot Up or Put Up

At Getting Closer to Myself, Leslie offers her reflections as a twentysomething with auto-immune disease, specifically a feeling of how she can't go home again to an idealized summer retreat.

Barbara Kivowitz describes a good day at In Sickness and In Health, and invites all of us to do the same.

Bloggers Who Are or Should Be Dancing

Val Jones [IRL] is pretty pleased with her high-deductible health plan (HDHP) - cash-only PCP combo.  I hope her husband is dancing after the office procedure scheduled on a dime last weekend . . . and I hope Dr. Val has all the releases for those photos stashed away somewhere.  It's a good solution for those with no chronic conditions, young kids, or other sources of regular interactions with the medical-industrial complex.  And no less a luminary than Clay Christensen says we're 5-6 years away from the tipping point (to mix metaphors) on HSA/HDHP combos, at which time we're likely to see a significant change in the economics of healthcare (with or without significant movement in DC).  For one example of where this may play out, see my recent post on retail health clinics.

No dancing for you if you're susceptible to one of the side effects of Cipro and its relatives (fluoroquinolones): tendon rupture.  There's a black-box warning regarding this, but many clinicians and patients are unaware, says Paul Auerbach at Healthline's Medicine for the Outdoors.

InsureBlog's Bob Vineyard shares good news for Cuba's pre-op transsexual population: coverage is here.  Surely cause for someone (patients, if not bloggers) to dance.

Well, that's the last dance . . . for this week.  See you around the medblogosphere, and next week at the next edition of Grand Rounds

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting


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Great stuff. Good compilation here. Glad to see you highlighted healthsocmed. Anyone reading this in health care on on Twitter should check out #hcsm chats on Sunday nights at 8pm CST.

And thanks for the info on Attis and Tammuz. I had never heard of those two. They may fit into a hospice presentation someday.

Wonderful edition!

Outstanding job, David!

Thank you so much for hosting, and for including our post.

Great edition! Thanks for including me - and yes, the diabetes bloggers represent in the medical blogosphere! We're a loud and rowdy crew. :)

Wow, what great, exhaustive list information. I'm really looking forward to sorting through all this - sure it might take hours, but not a bad way to spend the day. Thanks!

- Miss Waxie
a comic look at chronic illness - in a comic!

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