Home / Healthcare Updates / Healthcare Update — 06-27-2014

Healthcare Update — 06-27-2014

No more donations to the Red Cross for me … Red Cross hires lawyers to block disclosure of how it spent the $300 million it collected to help the victims of Hurricaine Sandy, calling the information “trade secrets.”

Bryan Preston warns that however bad you THINK the VA scandal really is, it’s worse.
Remember … VA Hospitals aren’t included on the federal government’s Hospital Compare web site

Georgia patient charged with stealing discarded needles and medications from a sharps container in the room. Doctor walked into the room to evaluate patient and found “used needles, syringes and vials of medicine were strewn across the floor.” Patient had syringes, used morphine bottles, and various prescription pain relievers in his pockets, states that he was trying to put them back in the broken sharps container.

States need federal money to afford to keep psychiatric hospitals open while feds cut payments. 10% of state psychiatric hospital beds closed between 2009 and 2012. Private hospitals have also reduced their psychiatric beds because Medicare and Medicaid typically pay less for inpatient mental health care than for medical care.
Good read at USA Today on how several patients learned to cope with their psychiatric illness.

Patients overwhelmingly prefer doctors who respond to e-mail, but only 25% of patients would be willing to pay a doctor $25 for the service.
The medical director for one of the groups, Dr. Robert Dickinson, stated that e-mail communications with patients are “like online banking.” I disagree. When a doctor provides advice over the e-mail, it usually amounts to providing free medical care.
I’m sure that more than 93% of employers would prefer employees who do their work via e-mail without getting paid for it, also.

Honey, I’m taking the kids upstairs for a swim in the toilet. Ten percent of all US beaches are “dangerously polluted” and deemed unsafe for swimmers. Most of the pollution is from sewage overflow and stormwater runoff.
There’s an intereactive map at the site so you can figure out whether you need to bring toilet paper to the beach to wipe yourself after taking a swim.

Price transparency in health care is great, but it may cost insurers money when consumers can compare rates … which is probably why Blue Cross lobbied hard to kill price transparency legislation in Washington State.

Opioid use disorders increase significantly in patients prescribed opiates for chronic noncancer pain. Acute dosing raised opioid use disorders about threefold regardless of the dose. Chronic dosing raised risk of opioid use disorders by 15-fold for low average daily dose and by 28-fold for medium average daily dose. Patients chronically prescribed high daily doses of opioids for noncancer pain were 128 TIMES as likely to develop opioid use disorders as those patients not prescribed opioids for chronic pain.
Hat tip to @IrfanDhalla via Twitter.

Artificial blood showing promise. Haem02 project creates blood that can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 years (currently, all blood donations must be refrigerated) and can be administered to anyone, regardless of blood type.
Plus … 4 out of 5 vampires think it tastes great.
I’ve been watching too many Supernatural reruns.

Great summary article about AC Joint Separations at Academic Life in Emergency Medicine

Taking patient satisfaction surveys to a whole new level. American Board of Internal Medicine now wants patients to rate their physicians as one potential prerequisite to the physician sitting for board recertification.
So hospital administrators aren’t the only ones who are clueless about statistical significance and statistical bias.
The ABIM is being run by idiots.

Dear Mr. Smith: You’re gym membership lapsed, you’re buying too many bags of chips at the grocery store, and you spend too much time at McDonalds. Please stop. Hospitals now hooking up with data mining companies to build impressive dossiers on patients’ habits. If you’re deemed “high risk,” you might just get a call from the hospital to change your ways.
Scary that companies such as Acxiom and LexisNexis are tracking all your credit card transactions and all the purchases you make with your store loyalty cards, then turn around and sell that information to health insurers.
“For a patient with asthma, the hospital would be able to score how likely they are to arrive at the emergency room by looking at whether they’ve refilled their asthma medication at the pharmacy, been buying cigarettes at the grocery store and live in an area with a high pollen count.” Medical providers could also judge the likelihood of someone having a heart attack by considering factors such as the type of foods they buy and if they have a gym membership.
Hello George Orwell.

VA nurse stripped of her nursing duties and supervisory role then banished to an office cubicle after reporting abuse in the VA system.
Among the nurse’s revelations were how a patient remained in restraints for 7 hours in violation of CMS guidelines and how another nurse had stolen 5000 vials of morphine, removed the morphine, and refilled the vials with saline before the medicine was given to cancer patients to treat their pain.

Parkland Memorial Hospital psychiatric emergency department accused of patient abuse. Patient spits at staff and is restrained. Continues spitting, so wad of toilet paper is put in his mouth.
Dr. Peter Breggin, a New York psychiatrist, commented in the article, stating that spitting is a “last resort of a terrified human being” and that the staff should have been trained to “back off” at that point. Then, when the patient harmed himself, he could be called as an expert to testify that the staff should have intervened instead.
From his own web site, Dr. Peter Breggin appears to be a professional witness whom I bet has never set foot in an emergency department and whom I also bet has rarely if ever been face to face alone with an out of control spitting patient. His opinions on this matter should carry little weight in real life.


  1. I think you meant to link here
    for that “Dear Mr. Smith” story on intrusive data-mining.

    But thanks for the synopsis, and the reminder that cash is king if you don’t want everyone else minding your business.

    The claims by the hospital that the data is sacrosanct under doctor-patient confidentiality is ludicrous, as under HopeyDopeyCare, your entire health info today is at the whims of what the IRS deigns to leak or lose tomorrow.

    It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see Mikey Bloomberg or the First Lady leading the parade to have the government “help” you cut back on large sodas and fatty foods by helpfully sending you letters from Uncle Sam, or direct-docking your paychecks when you buy too much junk food.

    “Yes, we can!”

  2. Re: emails, please recall that Optum charges $45 to your credit card for a “Kiosk consult.”
    $25 seems more than fair. This is just another reason why doctors should be paid for their time, not cpt codes.

  3. Maybe some of the $300 million is going towards the millions of dollars in fines they frequently pay the FDA for violations:


    • The fines, universally against Biomedical Services (Blood donation etc.), are paid directly out of the revenues of Biomedical Services from blood donations.

      IIRC, when the national blood supply (66% of which comes from the ARC) pre-HIV and Hep B screening started killing people, and leaving the organization liable, the two entities were separated financially so that Blood Services (now Biomedical Services) wouldn’t suck the entire organization under via multiple lawsuits, which was a serious concern in the late 1980s-early ’90s.

      For a better idea of where the money goes:

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