HUMANITARIAN WISDOM IN PATIENT CARE AS AN ETHICAL AND MORAL IMPERATIVE!

AND … RISK MANAGEMENT TOOL?

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BY DR. DAVID EDWARD MARCINKIO MBA CMP®

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SPONSOR: http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

To start, let us all recall the Canadian physician Sir William Osler MD, one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital in my hometown of Baltimore Maryland, and where I played stickball in the parking lot as a kid. He left a sizeable body of wisdom that has guided many physicians in the practice of medicine. So, allow me to share with you some of that accumulated wisdom and the quotes that have served me well over the years.

From Dr. Osler, I learned the art of putting myself in the patient’s shoes. “The motto of each of you as you undertake the examination and treatment of a case should be ‘put yourself in his place.’ Realize, so far as you can, the mental state of the patient, enter into his feelings.” Osler further stresses that we should “scan gently (the patient’s) faults” and offer the “kindly word, the cheerful greeting, the sympathetic look.”1

“In some of us, the ceaseless panorama of suffering tends to dull that fine edge of sympathy with which we started,” writes Osler in his famous essay “Aequanimitas.”2 “Against this benumbing influence, we physicians and nurses, the immediate agents of the Trust, have but one enduring corrective — the practice towards patients of the Golden Rule of Humanity as announced by Confucius: ‘What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.’”

Medicine can be both art and science as many physicians have discovered. As Osler tells us, “Errors in judgment must occur in the practice of an art which consists largely of balancing probabilities.”2 Osler notes that “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability” and also weighs in with the idea that “The practice of medicine is an art, based on science.”3,4

Osler emphasized that excellence in medicine is not an inheritance and is more fully realized with the seasoning of experience. “The art of the practice of medicine is to be learned only by experience,” says Osler. “Learn to see, learn to hear, learn to feel, learn to smell, and know that by practice alone can you become expert.”5

Finally, some timeless wisdom on patient care came from Osler in an address to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London in 1907: “Gain the confidence of a patient and inspire him with hope, and the battle is half won.”6

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Osler has also imparted plenty of advice on the business of medicine. In “Aequanimitas,” Osler says there are only two types of doctors: “those who practice with their brains, and those who practice with their tongues.”7

In a valedictory address to medical school graduates at McGill University, Osler suggested treating money as a side consideration in a medical career.8 “You have of course entered the profession of medicine with a view of obtaining a livelihood; but in dealing with your patients let this always be a secondary consideration.”

“You are in this profession as a calling, not as a business: as a calling which exacts from you at every turn self-sacrifice, devotion, love and tenderness to your fellow man,” explains Osler in the address to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School.6 “Once you get down to a purely business level, your influence is gone and the true light of your life is dimmed. You must work in the missionary spirit, with a breadth of charity that raises you far above the petty jealousies of life.”

It is not easy for doctors to combine a passion for patient care, a knowledge of science and the maintenance of business, according to Osler in the British Medical Journal.9 “In the three great professions, the lawyer has to consider only his head and pocket, the parson the head and heart, while with us the head, heart, and pocket are all engaged.”

While some aspects of practice may fall short or be devoid of appropriate financial remuneration, the giving of one’s time, expertise and experience in improving patient outcomes and the quality of their lives may be the greatest gift. “The ‘good debts’ of practice, as I prefer to call them … amount to a generous sum by the end of each year,” says Osler.9

And so, as you practice medicine and reflect on your career, always remember the words and wisdom of Dr. William Osler, and keep patient welfare as your first priority.

References

1. Penfield W. Neurology in Canada and the Osler centennial. Can Med Assoc J. 1949; 61(1): 69-73

2. Osler W. Aequanimitas. Chapter 9, P. Blakiston’s Son and Co., Philadelphia, 1925, p. 159

3. Bean WB. William Osler: Aphorisms, CC Thomas, Springfield, IL, p. 129.

4. Osler W. Aequanimitas. Chapter 3, P. Blakiston’s Son and Co., Philadelphia, 1925, p. 34

5. Thayer WS. Osler the teacher. In: Osler and Other Papers. Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1931, p. 1.

6. Osler W. The reserves of life. St. Mary’s Hosp Gaz. 1907;13 (1):95-8.

7. Osler W. Aequanimitas. Chapter 7, P. Blakiston’s Son and Co., Philadelphia, 1925, p. 124

8. Osler W. Valedictory address to the graduates in medicine and surgery, McGill University. Can Med Surg J. 1874; 3:433-42.

9. Osler W. Remarks on organization in the profession. Brit Med J. 1911; 1(2614):237-9.

10. Jacobs. AM: PMNews, April, 2015.

ASSESSMENT: Your thoughts are appreciated.

Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors : Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™ book cover

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MEDICAL ETHICS: Managing Risk is a Component of Real Health Caring

Demanding High Moral Standards of Self … and Economic HEALTHCARE Organizations

Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP®

SPONSOR: http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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It has been argued that physicians have abdicated the “moral high ground” in health care by their interest in seeking protection for their high incomes, their highly publicized self-referral arrangements, and their historical opposition toward reform efforts that jeopardized their clinical autonomy. 

Experts Speak

In his book Medicine at the Crossroads, colleague and Emory University professor Melvin Konnor, MD noted that “throughout its history, organized medicine has represented, first and foremost, the pecuniary interests of doctors.” He lays significant blame for the present problems in health care at the doorstep of both insurers and doctors, stating that “the system’s ills are pervasive and all its participants are responsible.” 

In order to reclaim their once esteemed moral position, physicians must actively reaffirm their commitment to the highest standards of the medical profession and call on other participants in the health care delivery system also to elevate their values and standards to the highest level.

Evolution

In the evolutionary shifts in models for care, physicians have been asked to embrace business values of efficiency and cost effectiveness, sometimes at the expense of their professional judgment and personal values.  While some of these changes have been inevitable as our society sought to rein in out-of-control costs, it is not unreasonable for physicians to call on payers, regulators and other parties to the health care delivery system to raise their ethical bar. 

Harvard University physician-ethicist Linda Emmanuel noted that “health professionals are now accountable to business values (such as efficiency and cost effectiveness), so business persons should be accountable to professional values including kindness and compassion.” 

Within the framework of ethical principles, John La Puma, M.D., wrote in Managed Care Ethics, that “business’s ethical obligations are integrity and honesty.  Medicine’s are those plus altruism, beneficence, non-maleficence, respect, and fairness.”

Incumbent in these activities is the expectation that the forces that control our health care delivery system, the payers, the regulators, and the providers will reach out to the larger community, working to eliminate the inequities that have left so many Americans with limited access to even basic health care. 

Charles Dougherty clarified this obligation in Back to Reform, when he noted that “behind the daunting social reality stands a simple moral value that motivates the entire enterprise”. 

ASSESSMENT

Health care is indeed grounded in caring. And, managing risk is a component of caring. It arises from a sympathetic response to the suffering of others.

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PODCAST: Could Money be the Root of Optimal Patient Outcomes?

ETHICS AND THE HEALTH ECONOMICS OF THE DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP

QUERY: Is a financial relationship necessary to improve the doctor-patient relationship?

ANSWER: Dr. Tony Dale, a British-trained physician, emphatically says … YES.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Tony Dale, founder of Sedera Health, spoke at the 2020 FMMA Mini-Conference on Medical Entrepreneurship.

-Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA CMP®

[Editor-in-Chief]

Dr. Tony Dale - Entrepreneur and Founder of Sedera Health ...

PODCAST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TER9xNUHAlE

ASSESSMENT: Your thoughts are appreciated.

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THANK YOU

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PHYSICIAN-EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP AND RISK MANAGEMENT

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Human Nature, Medical Ethics and Modern Principles

  • By David Edward Marcinko FACFAS CMP® MBA MBBS
  • By Render S. Davis MHA CAE
  • By Hope Rachel Hetico RN MHA CPHQ CMP®
  • By Gary A. Cook EJD CFP® CLU RHU MSFS CMP®

In any textbook of gravitas on medical risk management, asset protection and insurance planning, a chapter on human nature is usually placed at the end of the book, or as an appendix, or an afterthought if included at all.

However, we elected to prominently place this material as the premier chapter of our textbook.

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 Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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Why?

In the end, the success of any risk management endeavor ultimately comes down to changing human behavior – helping a doctor/nurse/technician alter whatever s/he was doing toward something that will better allow them to avoid errors and pursue quality care and practice management goals.

Yet, there is still remarkably little education or training for medical professionals focused directly on motivation or change theory, in any related area except psychiatry/psychology or perhaps professional liability.

Instead, doctors are increasingly turning to professional consultants to learn best practices on how to help them actually make the behavioral changes necessary to achieve their quality improvement and risk reduction goals; as we attempt to answer these questions.

The Queries:

  • Are you and your medical practice, or clinical, ready for change?
  • How to transition from [traditional] solo practitioner B-models to modern forms?
  • What are leadership, management and governance?
  • In group practices, how is leadership shared?
  • What issues need be considered when hiring a practice administrator or clinic CEO?
  • What is medical ethics and munificence? Why is it needed? How does it work?
  • What are the types of risk?
  • How are risks managed in the medical practice space?

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confirmation-bias

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Leadership Shortcomings

In addition, medical practitioners need to strive to avoid what Zenger and Folkman describe as the 10 most common leadership shortcomings based on a survey of 11,000 leaders. They include:

  • Lacks energy and enthusiasm
  • Accepts mediocre self performance
  • Lacks clear vision and direction
  • Poor judgment
  • Not collaboration
  • Not following standards
  • Resistant to new ideas
  • Doesn’t learn from mistakes
  • Lacks interpersonal skills
  • Fails to develop others.

Source: Zenger and Folkman: The Daily Stat: The 10 Most Common Failures of Business Leaders, Harvard Business Publishing, June 4, 2009. 

More:

Assessment

Want to lean even more about hundreds of medical risk management topics? Order our newest text book, today!

Conclusion

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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The Medical Profession, Moral Entrepreneurship, Moral Panics, and Social Control

Disrupted Physician

IMG_9005The Medical Profession, Moral Entrepreneurship, and Social Control

Sociologist Stanley Cohen  used the term “”moral panic” to characterize the amplification of deviance by the media, the public, and agents of social control.1  Labeled as being outside the central core values of consensual society, the deviants in the designated group are perceived as posing a threat to both the values of society and society itself.   Belief in the seriousness of the situation justifies intolerance and unfair treatment of the accused.   The evidentiary standard is lowered.

Howard Becker describes the role of “moral entrepreneurs,” who crusade for making and enforcing rules that benefit their own interests by bringing them to the attention of the public and those in positions of power and authority under the guise of righting a society evil. 2

And according to cultural theorist Stuart Hall, the media obtain their information from the primary definers of social…

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Video on Doctors, Money and Conflicts of Interest

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Medical Ethics – Ever on Guard
By Aaron Carroll MD, MS
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I’m a doctor. My father is a doctor. My colleagues are doctors, the people I train are doctors, lots and lots of my friends are doctors.
 ***
But, that doesn’t meant that doctors sometimes aren’t blind to certain issues like their own financial conflicts of interest. Sometimes we have to poke doctors with a stick. That’s how we show our love.
 ***
Conflicts of interest are the topic of this Healthcare Triage video.

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ECON

Assessment

This video episode is adapted from Aaron’s NYT piece on the topic. References can be found in the links there: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/09/ups…

John Green — Executive Producer
Stan Muller — Director, Producer
Aaron Carroll — Writer
Mark Olsen — Graphics

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About the Author

Dr. Carroll has published some of the seminal work on various types of health care reform, and continues to be a sought after speaker on cost, quality and access-and the Affordable Care Act and its implications for our future. Considered one of the leading pediatric informaticists in the U.S. he has received millions of dollars in grants to explore the use of information technology in health care. Dr. Carroll was the Primary Investigator on a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study the true impact of malpractice claims on the practice of medicine.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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More on the Art of “Slow” Medicine

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And … Slow Dentistry, too!

By Ann Miller RN MHA

[ME-P Executive-Director]

BOOK REVIEW

We don’t know exactly when, but the practice of medicine has morphed into the delivery of health care.

Of course, if healthcare has become big business, we at the ME-P through our publication, text and handbooks, advertisers and sponsors, as well as speaking and consulting engagements may be partially to blame. But, hopefully not to the extreme it has become in some cases.

For example, did you know that Medicare has a CPT® medical payment code for a ten minute “treadmill” office visit?

God’s Hotel – The Book

So, if you aren’t sure – or are too young to know – of what’s happening today, the new book “God’s Hotel” is for you. It’s an engaging book by Dr. Victoria Sweet, a general internist from Laguna Honda Hospital that chronicles her perspectives from the last almshouse in the United States.

IOW: She is off the insurance grid and has discovered a way to benefit patients, not necessarily medical providers, by practicing something called “slow” medicine.

THINK: Marcus Welby MD

Slow Dentistry

Of course, our own ME-P investigative reporter Darrell K. Pruitt DDS, has been commenting and opining on this issue vis-a-vie the dental insurance industry treadmill of “fast” production line oral care.

For example, he often asks his colleagues: Are you fed up with successfully doing intricate handwork to exacting tolerances in mouths of anxious patients and then having to fight to get the patients’ insurance company to pay what they rightfully owe THEIR CLIENT.

IOW: Working faster and faster, for less and less compensation.

Assessment

“God’s Hotel”: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Hotel-Hospital-Pilgrimage-Medicine/dp/1594488436/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337177871&sr=8-1

More from the ME-P: The Emerging Discipline of “Slow Medicine” and Professional Liability

Conclusion

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Cost Conflicts-of-Interest in Medicine

Clinical Care versus Finance

By Render S. Davis MHA CHE

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Conflicts of interest are not a new phenomenon in medicine. In the fee-for-service system, physicians controlled access to medical facilities and technology, and they benefited financially from nearly every order or prescription they wrote. Consequently, there was an inherent temptation to over-treat patients. Even marginal diagnostic or therapeutic procedures were justified on the grounds of both clinical necessity and legal protection against threats of negligence. 

Costs Rarely Considered

While it could be construed that this represented a direct conflict of interest, it could also be argued that most patients were well served in this system because the emphasis was on thorough, comprehensive treatment – where cost was rarely a consideration.  It was a well known adage that physicians “could do well, by doing good.” 

Managed Care

In managed care, the potential conflicts between patients and physicians took on a completely different dimension.  By design, in health plans where medical care was financed through prepayment arrangements, the physician’s income was enhanced not by doing more for his or her patients, but by doing less.  Patients, confronted with the realization that their doctor would be rewarded for the use of fewer resources, could no longer rely with certainty on the motives underlying a physician’s treatment plans.  One inevitable outcome was the continuing decline in patients’ trust in their physicians.  This has been exacerbated to some degree by revelations of significant financial remuneration to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical products firms for their services as researchers or active participants on corporate-funded advisory panels, calling into question the physician’s objectivity in promoting the use of company products to their peers or patients.

Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest may also create concerns at a much higher level, as evidenced by the issues raised in 2008 litigation against Ingenix, a company that for more than a decade, provided information to the insurance industry on payments to out-of-network physicians for their “usual and customary rates (UCR).” As noted in court documents, Ingenix was a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Healthcare and the UCR information sold by the company to insurers may have been fundamentally biased in favor of the insurers, causing patients to pay larger out-of-pocket fees.

Assessment

As a result, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo filed suit against Ingenix.  This action was followed by suits brought against major insurers by the American Medical Association and several state medical groups for systematic underpayment to members, based on the biased data.  To date there have been monetary settlements, but the issue continues to raise growing concerns regarding conflicts of interest among the key payers for health care.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Understanding Healthcare Conflicts of Interest

A Modern Ethical Dilemma

By Render Davis

www.BusinessofMedicalPractice.com

Conflicts of interest are not a new phenomenon in medicine. In the fee-for-service system, physicians controlled access to medical facilities and technology, and they benefited financially from nearly every order or prescription they wrote.  Consequently, there was an inherent temptation to over-treat patients.  Even marginal diagnostic or therapeutic procedures were justified on the grounds of both clinical necessity and legal protection against threats of negligence. 

Traditional Medical Care

While it can be construed that this represented a direct conflict of interest, it could also be argued that most patients were well served in this system because the emphasis was on thorough, comprehensive treatment – where cost was rarely a consideration.  It was a well known adage that physicians “could do well, by doing good.” 

Managed Medical Care

In managed care, the potential conflicts between patients and physicians took on a completely different dimension.  By design, in health plans where medical care was financed through prepayment arrangements, the physician’s income was enhanced not by doing more for his or her patients, but by doing less.  Patients, confronted with the realization that their doctor would be rewarded for the use of fewer resources, could no longer rely with certainty on the motives underlying a physician’s treatment plans.  One inevitable outcome was the continuing decline in patients’ trust in their physicians.  This has been exacerbated to some degree by revelations of significant financial remuneration to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical products firms for their services as researchers or active participants on corporate-funded advisory panels, calling into question the physician’s objectivity in promoting the use of company products to their peers or patients.

Higher Concerns

Conflicts of interest may also create concerns at a much higher level, as evidenced by the issues raised in 2008 litigation against Ingenix, a company that for more than a decade, provided information to the insurance industry on payments to out-of-network physicians for their “usual and customary rates (UCR).” As noted in court documents, Ingenix was a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Healthcare and the UCR information sold by the company to insurers may have been fundamentally biased in favor of the insurers, causing patients to pay larger out-of-pocket fees.  As a result, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo filed suit against Ingenix.  This action was followed by suits brought against major insurers by the American Medical Association and several state medical groups for systematic underpayment to members, based on the biased data. 

Assessment

To date, there have been monetary settlements, but the issue continues to raise growing concerns regarding conflicts of interest among the key payers for health care.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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On e-Confidentiality Conflicts in Medicine

Understanding the Potential Role of eMR Compromise

By Render Davis MHA CHE

www.BusinessofMedicalPractice.com

Whether it is an employer interested in the results of an employee’s health screening; an insurer attempting to learn more about an enrollee’s prior health history; the media in search of a story; or health planners examining the potential value of national health databases, the confidential nature of the traditional doctor-patient relationship may be compromised through demands for clinical information by parties other than the patient and treating caregivers. 

Impact of eMRs

In addition, without clear safeguards the growth in use of electronic medical records may put personal health information at risk of tampering or unauthorized access.  Clearly, employers and insurers are interested in the status of an individual’s health and ability to work; but does this desire to know, combined with their role as payers for health care, constitute a right to know?  The patient’s right to privacy remains a volatile and unresolved issue.

Assessment

Counter to this concern is the recognition that electronic records may dramatically improve communications by offering greater accessibility of information to clinicians in the hospital or office potentially reducing medical errors through elimination of handwritten notes, increased use of built in prompts and clinically-derived triggers for orders and treatments, and development of pathways for optimal treatments based on clinically valid and tested best practices.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. What do you think about this confidentiality conflict and the role of eMRs? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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On Ethical Patient Advocacy

Medical Ethics in the Modern Era

By Render S. Davis MHA, CHE

www.BusinessofMedicalPractice.com

Few areas of life are as personal as an individual’s health and people have long relied on a caring and competent physician to be their champion in securing the medical resources needed to retain or restore health and function.

Nevertheless, this philosophy is currently in flux.

Foundation of Medicine

For many physicians, the care of patients was the foundation of their professional calling. However, in the contemporary delivery organization, there may be little opportunity for generalist physician “gatekeepers” or “specialty hospitalists or intensivists” to form a lasting relationship with patients.  These institution-based physicians may be called upon to deliver treatments determined by programmatic protocols or algorithm-based practice guidelines that leave little discretion for their professional judgment.

Personal Values

In addition, the physician’s personal values may be impeded by seemingly perverse financial incentives that may directly conflict with their advocacy role, especially if a patient may be in need of expensive services that may not be covered in their insurance plan, or are beyond the resources of a patient’s HSA or savings account.

Assessment

Marcia Angell, MD., noted during a PBS interview that the “financial incentives directly affecting doctors…put them at odds with the best interests of their patients … and it puts ethical doctors in a terrific quandary.”

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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In Severe Pandemic, Officials Ponder Disconnecting Ventilators

Understanding the So-Called New York Protocol

By Sheri Fink

ProPublica NewsEmergency Sign

With scant public input, state and federal officials are pushing ahead with plans that — during a severe flu outbreak — would deny use of scarce ventilators by some patients to assure they would be available for patients judged to benefit the most from them. 

The plans have been drawn up to give doctors specific guidelines for extreme circumstances, and they include procedures under which patients who weren’t improving would be removed from life support with or without permission of the families. 

The plans are designed to go into effect if the U.S. were struck by a severe flu pandemic comparable to the 1918 outbreak that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. State and federal health officials have concluded that such a pandemic would sicken far more people needing ventilators than could be treated by the available supplies. 

VA Guidelines

Many of the draft guidelines, including those drawn up by the Veterans Health Administration, are based in part on a draft plan New York officials posted on a state web site two years ago and subsequently published in an academic journal. The New York protocol, which is still being finalized, also calls for hospitals to withhold ventilators from patients with serious chronic conditions such as kidney failure, cancers that have spread and have a poor prognosis, or “severe, irreversible neurological” conditions that are likely to be deadly. 

New York officials are studying possible legal grounds under which the governor could suspend a state law that bars doctors from removing patients from life support without the express consent of the patient or his or her authorized health agent. 

Medicare Payment

State and federal officials involved with drafting the plans say they have been disquieted by this summer’s uproar over whether Medicare should pay for end-of-life consultations with families. They acknowledged that the measures under discussion go far beyond anything the public understands about how hospitals might handle a severe pandemic. 

By every indication, state and federal officials expect to weather this year’s flu season without having to ration ventilators. That assumes that the H1N1 virus will not mutate into a more serious killer, the vaccines against it and the other seasonal flus will continue to prove effective, and any dramatic surges in the number of patients in need of ventilators will occur in different parts of the U.S. at different times. 

In recent months, New York officials have met three times with physicians, respiratory therapists and administrators to rehearse how their plan might play out in hospitals in a severe epidemic. In one of those “tabletop exercises,” participants suggested that the names of triage officers charged with making life and death choices among patients at each hospital should be kept secret. The secrecy would be needed, participants said in interviews, to avoid pressure and blame from colleagues caring for patients who were selected to be taken off life support. 

When they posted their plan on the web in coordination with a video conference in 2007, New York officials promised to solicit public input. Since then, they have consulted with medical and legal professionals and other experts, but few members of the general public, and the plan has remained unchanged. They declined to make the comments they have gathered immediately available for review, and those comments are not published on the Health Department’s Web site

In the initial proposal, officials called public review “an important component in fulfilling the ethical obligation to promote transparency and just guidelines.” 

The academic publication of the plan envisaged the use of focus groups to solicit comment from “a range of community members, including parents, older adults, people with disabilities, and communities of color.” Those have not been held. 

Beth Roxland, the current executive director of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, said the ethicists included in the state’s planning process focused largely on vulnerable populations. “Even if we didn’t have direct input from vulnerable populations,” she said, “their interests have been well accounted for.” Roxland said that public comment solicited when the ventilator plan was posted on the Health Department Web site was “sparse.” 

Dr. Guthrie Birkhead, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Health for New York State said he wondered whether it was possible to get the public to accept the plans. “In the absence of an extreme emergency, I don’t know. How do you even engage them to explain it to them?” 

Even so, other states, hospital systems and the Veterans Health Administration—which has 153 medical centers across all states — have drafted protocols that are based in part on New York’s plan. The inclusion and exclusion criteria for access to ventilators, however, are different. For example, under the current drafts, a patient on dialysis would be considered for a ventilator in a VA hospital in New York during a severe pandemic, but not in another New York hospital that followed the State’s plan, which excludes dialysis patients. The VA’s exclusion criteria are looser because the patient population it is charged with serving is typically older and sicker than in other acute care hospitals. Different states, reflecting different values, have also established different criteria for who gets access to lifesaving resources. 

IOM Input

The Institute of Medicine, an independent national advisory body, is expected to release a report on Thursday morning, at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that will recommend broad guidelines to help guide planners crafting altered standards of care in emergencies. At an open meeting held to inform the report on Sept. 1, participants described successful public exercises related to allocating scarce resources in Utah and in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study conducted in Seattle. 

Questions about how hospitals would handle massive demand for life support equipment arose when New York state health department officials ran exercises based on a scenarios involving H5N1 avian influenza.

“They kept running out of ventilators,” said Dr. Tia Powell, director of the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics and former executive director of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, which was asked to address the problem. “They immediately recognized this is the worst thing we’ve ever imagined. What on earth are we going to do?” 

Officials calculated that 18,000 additional New Yorkers would require ventilators in the peak week of a flu outbreak as deadly as the 1918 pandemic. Only a thousand machines would be available, the officials estimated. The state’s acute care hospitals in 2005 had about 6000 ventilators, 85% of which were normally in use. A moderately severe pandemic would have resulted in a shortfall of 1256 ventilators, health officials found. 

In 2006, New York planners convened a group of experts in disaster medicine, bioethics and public policy to come up with a response. After months of discussion, the group produced the system for allocating ventilators. They first recommended a number of ways that hospitals could stretch supply, for example by canceling all elective surgeries during a severe pandemic. The state has also since purchased and stockpiled 1700 Pulmonetic Systems LTV 1200 ventilators (Cardinal Health Inc., NYSE) — enough to deal with a moderate pandemic but not one of 1918 scale. 

Officials realized those two measures alone would not be enough to meet demand in a worst-case scenario. Ventilators were costly, required highly trained operators, and used oxygen, which could be limited in a disaster. 

Ventilator Rationing

The group then drew up plans for rationing of ventilators. The goal, participants said, was to save as many lives as possible while adhering to an ethical framework. This represented a departure from the usual medical standard of care, which focuses on doing everything possible to save each individual life. Setting out guidelines in advance of a crisis was a way to avoid putting exhausted, stressed front line health professionals in the position of having to come up with criteria for making excruciating life and death decisions in the midst of a crisis, as many New Orleans health professionals had to do after Hurricane Katrina.

The group based its plans, in part, on a 2006 protocol developed by health officials in Ontario, Canada which relied on quantitative assessments of organ function to decide which patients would have preference for an intensive care unit bed. The tool, known as the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score, is not designed to predict survival, and not validated for use in children, but the experts adopted it in light of the lack of an appropriate alternative triage system. 

This summer, New York officials brought the state’s plan to groups from several New York hospitals for the tabletop exercises. They met behind closed doors to assess how hospitals might implement the proposed measures if the H1N1 pandemic turned unexpectedly severe this fall. In the fictional scenario, paramedics were ordered not to place breathing tubes into patients until physicians “can assess whether they meet the criteria to be placed on a ventilator.’’ 

Problems were immediately apparent. Dr. Kenneth Prager, a professor of medicine and director of clinical ethics at Columbia University Medical Center, was concerned about the lack of awareness of the plan among the larger public and the majority of the medical community. Societal input “is totally absent,” he said and called for more outreach to the public. “Maybe society will say, ‘We don’t agree with your plan. You may think it’s ethically OK; we don’t.'” 

The Protocol

The protocol, he said, would also place a great burden on clinicians charged with selecting which patients would be removed from life support. Physicians were concerned doctors involved in the legitimate and painful selection processes might be inappropriately construed as “death squads.” “We facetiously dubbed them the ‘death squad’ or the ‘guys in the back room’,” Prager said. He envisioned family members breaking down and screaming when they found out their loved ones would be disconnected from ventilators. “It really is a nightmare.” 

Even so, he felt that the plan – and its effort to save the greatest number of patients – was ethically appropriate. “If we don’t use triage, people will die who would have otherwise been saved,” he said, because a number of ventilators are “being used to prolong the dying process of patients with virtually no chance of surviving.” 

Doctors at the exercises feared that they would be sued by angry patients if they followed the draft guidelines. “There’s absolutely no legal backing for physicians,” said Lauren Ferrante, a medical resident at Columbia University Medical Center. “Who’s to say we’re not going to get sued for malpractice?” 

New York State law forbids doctors from removing living patients from ventilators or other life support except in cases where the patient has clearly stated such wishes, for example in a living will, or through his or her legal health care agent. Other sources of liability could come from federal and state anti-discrimination laws or claims of denial of due process. 

New York officials said they were currently working out legal options for implementing the plans, such as gubernatorial emergency declarations or emergency legislation. 

“You can take something today that’s not necessarily active and overnight flip the switch and make it into something that has those teeth in it,” said Dr. Powell, who served on the committee that drafted the plan.

Dr. Powell cautioned that it is critically important to maintain flexibility in the guidelines. Any rationing measures taken in a disaster must be calibrated to need and severity. 

Guidelines can also promote investment in new technology, such as cheaper, easier to use ventilators that would make rationing less likely. Already at least one company, St. Louis-based Allied Healthcare Products, is marketing a line of ventilators specifically for use in disasters. 

Some states, including Louisiana and Indiana, have adopted laws that immunize health professionals against civil lawsuits for their work in disasters. Other states, including Colorado, have drawn up a series of relevant executive orders that could be applied to address these issues.

Assessment 

Dr. Carl Schultz, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California at Irvine and co-editor of the forthcoming textbook, Koenig and Schultz’s Disaster Medicine (Cambridge University Press), is one of the few open critics of the establishment of altered standards of care for disasters. He says the idea “has both monetary and regulatory attractiveness” to governments and companies because it relieves them of having to strive to provide better care. “The problem with lowering the standard of care is where do you stop? How low do you go? If you don’t want to put any more resources in disaster response, you keep lowering the standard.” 

Federal officials disagree. “Our goal is always to provide the highest standard of care under the circumstances,” said RADM Ann Knebel, deputy director of preparedness and planning at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services. “If you don’t plan, then you are less likely to be able to reuse, reallocate and maximize the resources at your disposal, because you have people who’ve never thought about how they’d respond to those circumstances.”

Note: Sheri Fink is a reporter for the ProPublica news service, which first published this article.

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ReThinking Medical Professional Autonomy in the Era of Obama Care

Eying Contemporary Medical Ethics in Healthcare Reform

By Render S. Davis; MSA, CHE

And, Staff Reportersbiz-book

Not so long ago, a physician’s clinical judgment was virtually unquestioned. Now with the advent of clinical pathways and case management protocols, many aspects of treatment are outlined in algorithm-based plans that allied health professionals may follow with only minimal direct input from a physician. Much about this change has been good. Physicians have been freed from much tedious routine and are better able to watch more closely for unexpected responses to treatments or unusual outcomes and then utilize their knowledge to chart an appropriate response.  

Restrictive Protocols

What is of special concern, though, is the restrictive nature of protocols in some managed care plans that may unduly limit a physician’s clinical prerogatives to address a patient’s specific needs. Such managed care plans may prove to be the ultimate bad examples of “cook book” medicine. While some may find health care and the practice of medicine an increasingly stressful and unrewarding field, others are continuing to search for ways to assure that caring, compassionate, and ethically rewarding medicine remain at the heart of our health care system.

Assessment

Link: For another opinion: http://healthcareorganizationalethics.blogspot.com/2009/09/obamas-speech-good-ethics-and-good.html

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. How does the specter of HR 3200-3400 in the healthcare reform debate impact the concept of medical autonomy and professional ethics? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, be sure to subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Teaching Bedside Manners

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Notes on Learning Ethics and Compassion

[By Staff Reporters]red-appple

According to a report cited by the New York Times, January 29th 2009, the journal Academic Medicine [AM] published its findings on medical ethics and professional compassion in the academic teaching environment.

Traditional [Last-Gen] Mindset

Unfortunately, it often seems a negative truism that good doctor bedside manner is something you are born with, rather than a learned behavior.  Think Gregory House; MD.

The Academic Medicine Report

However, a new study published in this month’s issue of Academic Medicine seems to prove that effort does matter, and that compassionate learning is possible. Even established physicians and clinicians can be re-inspired to adopt new humanistic skills, becoming better teachers and role models in the process.

Assessment

Will increased transparency in medicine and emerging collaborative health 2.0 initiatives change this traditional point-of-view?

Conclusion

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On Physician Peer Review

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New Era Risks

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]insurance-book

The Center for Peer Review Justice is a group of physicians, podiatrists, dentists and osteopaths who have witnessed the perversion of medical peer review by malice and bad faith.

Raison D’etre

Like the American Association of Neurological Surgeons [AANS], they have seen the statutory immunity, which is provided to “peers” for the purposes of quality assurance and credentialing, used as cover to allow those “peers” to ruin careers and reputations to further their own, usually monetary agenda of destroying the competition.

Cause and Goals

Therefore, the group is dedicated to the exposure, conviction, and sanction of doctors, and affiliated hospitals, HMOs, medical boards, and other such institutions, that would use peer review as a weapon to unfairly destroy other professionals.

Assessment

www.PeerReview.org is a rallying point and resource center for any medical professional that finds himself in the midst of an unfair and bad faith attack by unethical, malicious “peers”.

Conclusion

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