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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What if Other Parts of Life Were Like Healthcare?

Health care is bizarre. Anyone who spends significant time in its ranks will attest to the many quirky and downright ludicrous things that go on all the time. But I am not sure people realize just how strange our system is. Perhaps it would be interesting to see what it would be like if other parts of our lives were like health care.

1. Get up in the morning

The first thing that happens in your day is that your alarm fails to go off. Although you have major things happening, nobody ever has explained to you exactly what you are supposed to do and when. You watch the morning TV show and it seems that some experts say you should go to school while others say you should avoid school at all cost. You call a friend who says that she knows someone who went to school and it destroyed their liver. Another friend goes to school every day and is just fine.

Tea leaves by by allaboutgeorge via FlickrConfused, you turn to the Internet and go to a Web site that explains that you should base your schedule on the pattern of tea leaves in a cup. This site claims that your normal schedule is actually fraught with secret appointments that will, unbeknown to you, make you have cancer. It states that those people in power are making you go through this dangerous schedule so they can make money off of you. They don't care for you like the people who made this web page (and for $400 you can have six months of magic tea leaves).

Finally, you decide that you are going to go with the majority opinion and go to school.

2. School

You go to your bus stop and wait. You keep waiting. You know that the bus was supposed to come at 8 a.m., but after an hour you begin to wonder if you missed it. Calling the bus service, you find out that the bus got caught up doing some extra routes. There is a shortage of buses, and so the ones that remain have to do twice as many routes as is feasible. After a two-hour wait, the bus finally arrives to take you to school.

The first teacher comes into the classroom and looks very distracted. She teaches general studies and is staring at a curriculum that contains a huge amount of subjects. As she is doing her lessons, she furiously takes notes on her own teaching so that she can submit documentation to the school board and prove that she taught you. This is the only way she gets paid.

In total, she teaches for about 15 minutes and documents her teaching for 45 minutes. You want to ask questions, but the bell rings and you have to move on to your next class before any can be answered.

The next teacher only teaches a small specialized subject. This teacher is paid four times more than the first teacher. Instead of teaching and answering questions, however, he is constantly making you take tests. Apparently, the school system pays a huge amount for making you take tests, but very little for teaching lessons that would make you do well on those tests in the first place.

School is finally over, but you don't feel like you got much out of it (except for taking a lot of tests and getting more confused). You decide that a trip to the store would perhaps make you feel better.

3. The grocery

Upon entering the grocery store, you notice something odd. There are very few different brands of items stocked on the shelves. Your choice is limited to only the brands that have struck the best deal with the grocery chain. These brands have to send the grocery store a large "rebate" check because they are carried exclusively in this store.

When you go to the meat counter and ask for some steak, the butcher asks you if you have first tried the ground beef. You may not purchase steak unless you have first tried and disliked the ground beef. The ground beef, of course, is actually ground turkey, but the butcher says that these two are basically interchangeable and so the substitution is permitted.

The grocer can't post prices because all customers have different negotiated prices. Posting prices, in fact, would be considered collusion since other grocers could find out exactly what this grocer is charging. Some congressman in California decided that grocers are all crooks and should not be allowed to share what they charge for things.

You go to the cash register to pay. The total is $380, but the cashier informs you that your negotiated price is only $150. A poor person behind you has not had the chance to negotiate a price and so must pay full price for everything.

There are a few people in the store who don't have to pay anything. They have had the price negotiated for them by the government, and so will come to the store very often. They sometimes come for real food, but are often coming for candy and cigarettes--all paid for by the government.

This experience leaves you more tired and confused, and so you decide to go home.

4. Home

Coming home, you notice that your house is under construction. There is a new wing being built that contains all sorts of the newest and fanciest gadgets, such as flat-screen TVs, the fastest computers, and wonderful new kitchen appliances. Going into the house, you notice that there is no running water or heat. Apparently, there are all sorts of grants and low-interest loans to pay for the fancy gadgets, and so contractors find it much more profitable to do that instead of fixing water or heating.

Your mother is in the kitchen trying to make dinner, but instead of cooking she is staring into a cookbook and at the ingredients you brought from the grocery store. You assume she can make do with what you brought, but she just sighs helplessly. Despite the fact that your mother is incredible at improvising meals, she is required to follow a cookbook that doesn't fit the ingredients that are available. This makes dinner taste pretty bad. Your mother, obviously angry about this, gives you a weak smile and tells you to finish what is on your plate.

After dinner, you settle down to watch some television. As you are finally starting to relax, a knock on the front door breaks your peace. At the front door stands a police officer. "You are only authorized to be in the house for two hours today, so I am going to have to ask you to leave."

You try to explain that two hours is not enough to get the rest you need, but the officer threatens a stiff fine and forces you to leave. Before you can get your necessary things, you are forced to leave without an explanation of how you are supposed to survive on the streets.

If it doesn't make sense in real life, how can it make sense in medical practice?

Rob Lamberts, ACP Member, writes the blog Musings of a Distractible Mind and is on Twitter. His podcast, House Call Doctor, is available online and on iTunes). He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and was an early adopter of electronic medical records.

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Blog log

Members of the American College of Physicians contribute posts from their own sites to ACP Internistand ACP Hospitalist. Contributors include:

Albert Fuchs, MD
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.

And Thus, It Begins
Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.

Auscultation
Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Zackary Berger
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.

Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).

db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.

DrDialogue
Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.

Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.

Everything Health
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.

FutureDocs
Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.

Glass Hospital
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.

Gut Check
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.

I'm dok
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.

Informatics Professor
William Hersh, MD, FACP, Professor and Chair, Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, posts his thoughts on various topics related to biomedical and health informatics.

David Katz, MD
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACP, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care.

Just Oncology
Richard Just, MD, ACP Member, has 36 years in clinical practice of hematology and medical oncology. His blog is a joint publication with Gregg Masters, MPH.

KevinMD
Kevin Pho, MD, ACP Member, offers one of the Web's definitive sites for influential health commentary.

MD Whistleblower
Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.

Medical Lessons
Elaine Schattner, MD, FACP, shares her ideas on education, ethics in medicine, health care news and culture. Her views on medicine are informed by her past experiences in caring for patients, as a researcher in cancer immunology, and as a patient who's had breast cancer.

Mired in MedEd
Alexander M. Djuricich, MD, FACP, is the Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education (CME), and a Program Director in Medicine-Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he blogs about medical education.

More Musings
Rob Lamberts, MD, ACP Member, a med-peds and general practice internist, returns with "volume 2" of his personal musings about medicine, life, armadillos and Sasquatch at More Musings (of a Distractible Kind).

Prescriptions
David M. Sack, MD, FACP, practices general gastroenterology at a small community hospital in Connecticut. His blog is a series of musings on medicine, medical care, the health care system and medical ethics, in no particular order.

Reflections of a Grady Doctor
Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, reflects on the personal side of being a doctor in a community hospital in Atlanta.

The Blog of Paul Sufka
Paul Sufka, MD, ACP Member, is a board certified rheumatologist in St. Paul, Minn. He was a chief resident in internal medicine with the University of Minnesota and then completed his fellowship training in rheumatology in June 2011 at the University of Minnesota Department of Rheumatology. His interests include the use of technology in medicine.

Technology in (Medical) Education
Neil Mehta, MBBS, MS, FACP, is interested in use of technology in education, social media and networking, practice management and evidence-based medicine tools, personal information and knowledge management.

Peter A. Lipson, MD
Peter A. Lipson, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. The blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture.

Why is American Health Care So Expensive?
Janice Boughton, MD, FACP, practiced internal medicine for 20 years before adopting a career in hospital and primary care medicine as a locum tenens physician. She lives in Idaho when not traveling.

World's Best Site
Daniel Ginsberg, MD, FACP, is an internal medicine physician who has avidly applied computers to medicine since 1986, when he first wrote medically oriented computer programs. He is in practice in Tacoma, Washington.

Other blogs of note:

American Journal of Medicine
Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.

Clinical Correlations
A collaborative medical blog started by Neil Shapiro, MD, ACP Member, associate program director at New York University Medical Center's internal medicine residency program. Faculty, residents and students contribute case studies, mystery quizzes, news, commentary and more.

Interact MD
Michael Benjamin, MD, ACP member, doesn't accept industry money so he can create an independent, clinician-reviewed space on the Internet for physicians to report and comment on the medical news of the day.

PLoS Blog
The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.

White Coat Rants
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.

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