Why I Rue the Hospital “Team-Based Medicine” Approach to In-Patient Care

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Or, Whose Patient is it – Anyway?

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA, CMP™

www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

[ME-P Publisher-in-Chief]

Ok, I admit it; I may be an aging curmudgeon [just ask my wife and daughter] who has not regularly seen patients in the office for the last decade. A consult here, Independent Medical Examination [IME] there, or a surgical assist when needed has been the extent of my patient experience since my transition out of direct care medicine in 2000-01.

Moreover, I admit to not being an ardent fan of hospital-based medicine [with all due respect to colleague and uber-hospitalist Robert Wachter MD, who I admire and have frequently mentioned in my books, white papers, speaking engagements and here on this Medical-Executive Post].

I am also not completely in favor of the many new-fangled “specialties” and medical business models.  And, as recent models and linguistic evolution occurred, the nomenclature designation of hospitalist was followed by that of hospital-intensivist, hospital-proceduralist and hospital-nocturnalist, etc [http://medinnovationblog.blogspot.com and personal communication Richard L. Reece MD].

Enter the Team-Based Hospital Doctors

And now – for the last five years or so on my radar – there is a new term to add to the lexicon: team-based hospital medicine [practice], or similar. But, I ask, whose patient is it? Who is accountable? Where does the buck of responsibility stop?

The Quintessential Example

On Friday, May 9, 2003, a 5-year-old boy was undergoing diagnostic testing for his epilepsy at Children’s Hospital in Boston when he suffered a massive seizure. Two days later, on Mother’s Day, he died. Despite the fact that he was in intensive care at one of the world’s leading pediatric hospitals, none of the physicians caring for him ordered the treatment that could have saved his life.

The death was tragic, but even more troubling from an organizational perspective was the series of events that led up to it. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health investigated the death, and The Boston Globe reported on the results that, “the investigation portrays a situation where lines of authority were deeply tangled, and where no one person had accountability for the patient. Each of the doctors who initially worked on the case–two at the bedside and one consulting by phone–told investigators that they thought one of the others was in charge.” In the end, no one was in charge.

This is a striking example of how even the most talented clinicians in one of the world’s best hospitals can fail not only to provide adequate care, but to save a savable life—all because the lines of authority were unclear. The lack of clarity resulted in this team’s inability to collaborate effectively at a time when the stakes couldn’t have been higher.

Here are two other benign, but more personal, examples circa 2011.

My Personal Experiences

My Sister

This past summer, my sister was in a VA hospital [extremity injuries, nothing serious] for about a week. She was seen by 13 different physicians who were on her “team”; not to mention the plethora of other allied healthcare “team-members”. Me, my wife [RN], and/or her boyfriend [Army Medic and a PA] were at her bedside at least 12-15 hours each day. She was rarely left alone, by design, as we all recalled the admonition of former AMA President Tom R. Reardon MD, to always have a bedside advocate while in the hospital.

Yet, she was offered the wrong medications on one occasion, personally mis-identified twice, and it was obvious that her team-members rarely communicated or discussed her case [by their own admission], or even reviewed her electronic medical records [vistA system] before rounds. Here, the “system is down” was cited as causative: https://medicalexecutivepost.com/2009/09/21/what-is-a-client-server-system

My Dad

Now, later this same year and under the same patient advocate approach, my dad was in two different hospitals sequentially, both using the “team-based” care model. In each, members did not know, or were loathe acknowledging, who was in charge of his case! Malpractice phobia was apparent despite the coterie of, no doubt brilliant, MD/PhD interns, residents and fellows making daily rounds by starring at their shoes. One physician even cited her hectic return from vacation as the reason she examined my dad – for the first time – without reading his paper chart. “Doctors need vacations, too”, was her flippant response when challenged.

Outcomes

Fortunately, our insider knowledge and – shall we say – “charming swagger” was helpful in avoiding major complications with the continuity-of-care in the above two examples. But, most patients are not so blessed!

Our Newest Book

These stories reflect just one of many difficult collaboration challenges in healthcare, today.

In her textbook chapter, Collaborating to Improve Operating Performance in a Changing Healthcare Landscape [Opportunities for Improvement Widespread], contributing author Jennifer Tomasik MS, Principal at CFAR [Center For Applied Research Inc, in Cambridge, MA], focuses on the increasing need for collaboration among physicians, clinicians, hospital executives, and administrative leaders in the dynamic, complex healthcare environment. She looks specifically at collaboration along three different dimensions, including

  • inter-professional teams,
  • institution to institution, and
  • physicians and administrators.

In each instance, she describes useful tools that can be applied to improve collaboration and overall institutional performance—all in the service of providing better patient care.

Assessment

To me, it seems pretty obvious that “hospital team-based” medical care is an oxy-moron. On one hand, it appears to reduce risk, but on the other hand, it appears to reduce quality care as well. Moreover, it also seems to be an invoice generating machine, and revenue enhancing mechanism

And so, beyond this individual ME-P, and its’ tragic and trivial examples, it is important for hospitals and healthcare organizations to improve collaboration. Our patients depend on us to get the philosophy of “hospital team-based” care right, if it is to continue. Otherwise, it will become another good intention, gone awry, in the changing hospital ecosystem that is domestic health care.

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I’m Not Economically Bashing JHU … But!

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In My Opinion … Hospital Charges Not 4 Me

Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA

[Editor-in-Chief]

On February 09, 2010, journalist Maggie Mahar posted an excellent op-ed piece on The Health Care Blog. In fact; I am now compelled to address one aspect of it. The essay was titled: “Massachusetts’ Problem and Maryland’s Solution”.

Assuredly, I’ve no beef with Maggie, her economic machinations or reporting. In fact, I am a fan and encourage all ME-P readers and subscribers to “read it and reap.’

Link: http://www.thehealthcareblog.com/the_health_care_blog/2010/02/massachusetts-problem-and-marylands-solution-we-dont-have-to-wait-for-washington-part-2.html#comments

Maggie Speaks

In her essay, Maggie says the following to which I agree. It is well known to me as a Balti-moron. For, I lived in the bowels of inner-city Baltimore when this legislation went down, back-in-the-day:

“While health care reformers argue about what it would take to “break the curve” of health care inflation, the state of Maryland has done it, at least when it comes to hospital spending. In 1977, Maryland decided that, rather than leaving prices to the vagaries of a marketplace where insurers and hospitals negotiate behind closed doors, it would delegate the task of setting reimbursement rates for acute-care hospitals to an independent agency, the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. When setting rates, the Commission takes into account differences in labor markets and how much a hospital pays in wages; the amount of charity care the hospital does; and whether it treats a large number of severely ill patients.

For example, the Commission sets the price of an overnight stay at St. Joseph Medical Center in suburban Towson at $984, while letting Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore Maryland, charges $1,555. For a basic chest X-ray, St. Joseph’s asks $81 and Hopkins’ is allowed to charge $155. The differences reflect Hopkins’s higher costs as a teaching hospital and the fact that it cares for generally sicker patients.”  

Of Invoices, Charges and Cost Shifting – Oh My!

I do have a beef with the above charges, which are not necessarily costs, which are not necessarily what is ultimately paid by a third-party insurer, or patient. This cost shifting is not unique to JHU, of course, but mention of the “Johns” just caught my eye as I admit that I’ve been away from my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland for 35 years.

Oh my; don’t get me wrong. I loved the place and played stick-ball in JHU’s parking lot on Broadway in Upper Fells Point when I was a kid. I was seen in the ER, at a young age, for a forehead laceration. I even met two of the greatest physicians in the world there.

J. Alex Haller Jr. MD – the world famous Children’s-Surgeon-in-Charge of Johns Hopkins Hospital, and pectus excavatum surgical pioneer, from 1964 until 1997.  As well as pediatric heart surgeon Helen Brooke Taussig MD (1898 – 1986), developer of a famous operation to alleviate “blue baby” syndrome, and who first warned the public on the dangers of thalidomide.

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/off-road-touring-with-dr-marcinko-part-vii/

However, as a health insurance agent and advocate of HD-HCPs for more than a decade, who has direct economic “skin-in-the-insurance game”, I would rather go to suburban St. Joe’s medical center for non-traumatic, non-emergent care – if I had my druthers. The neighborhood is safer and the quality can’t be much different. After all, a basic chest x-ray … is a basic chest x-ray, and an uncomplicated overnight stay … is an overnight stay etc, ceteris paribus.

RememberParetto’s 80/20 economic principle of the “vital few and trivial many”? Most of us [trivial many] will not need JHU care [vital few]. And, that’s a good thing! 

The fact that JHU is a teaching hospital that generally cares for sicker patients has tremendous societal implications with positive “trickle-down” innovative benefits for the masses. But, not for me as one doctor-purchaser of healthcare services who knows better. I refuse to pay freight charges for the “full JHU monty”.

I just can’t afford it under my definition of medical / business school derived quality health care.

The correct diagnosis, necessary care and proper treatment with f/u and ancillaries; at the most convenient venue; by the appropriate level medical provider; in an appropriate time-frame, and at the right price.

Assessment

JHU is an outstanding healthcare entity in Baltimore, but perhaps even more so for the poor and/or rich; not us “tweeners”.

For the middle class, it is expensive care whose reputation for quality may actually be declining.

In fact, some JHU employee’s still living “back in the hood” tell me that it is “getting larger, but not better.” 

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/a-story-all-doctors-and-patients-should-re-read/

Quality guru, Bob Wachter MD, where are you?

http://community.the-hospitalist.org/blogs/wachters_world/about.aspx

PS: I am a former CPHQ myself [Certified Physician in Healthcare Quality].

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Dr. Atul Gawande’s “Checklist Manifesto” and Book Review

Healthcare Reform’s Rock Star -or- Much Needed Plain Speaker?

By Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CMP™

[Managing Editor]

Here is an essay-interview by Rahul K. Parikh MD, with Atul Gawande MD, as they talk about medicine, checklists and quality healthcare.

Book Review

In Gawande’s third book, “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right,” he explores how doctors and other professionals become overwhelmed with the complexity of their work. And, are then more likely to fail.

As with most problems that sound overwhelmingly complex, the fix may be quite easy, when reframed with a new mindset and fresh set of young eyes.

Assessment

Gawande’s proposed solution is simple and inexpensive, if not terribly sexy: a checklist. Sound too mundane? Keep in mind that Gawande has previously proved, in conjunction with the World Health Organization [WHO], that doctors and surgical teams who use checklists save lives.

Link: http://www.salon.com/books/int/2010/02/02/atul_gawande_checklist/index.html

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated.

Is Atul this generation’s healthcare quality guru, much like Robert Wachter MD. Or, is he a man-child not afraid to say that the Emperor has no clothes? Please opine.

Conclusion

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A Quality Story all Doctors and Patients Should Re-Read

[Mis] Adventures in Cardiology

Reposted by Ann Miller RN MHA

[Executive Director]

According to the author of this re-posted e-journal, Johns Hopkins Medicine has a long tradition of prioritizing patients, and striving for the bottom rung that are the anonymous poor.

And, many agree this is true. In fact, our Publisher-in-Chief grew up in Baltimore Maryland and has written about this venerable institution on the ME-P before.

Outliers

If, for example, you catch a bullet on a Baltimore street corner, or your mother presents you at the ER as a feverish welfare child, then it us open season for the medical students, well meaning as they may be. They can practice on you because if  their actions result in an adverse outcome—which is to say that if you are mangled or killed—nobody will question said outcome, precisely because … you are a nobody.

At the other end of the spectrum are wealthy and prominent patients, who get treated by doctors who have already learned what not to do from the mistakes inflicted upon the lower classes.

Of … Quality Medical Care

However, sometimes mistakes happen, and medical errors do occur as we all are human. But, what is reported to have happened to one journalists’ wife – Pam – at Johns Hopkins Hospital in March of 2002 is beyond the pale.

As a middle class citizen, she landed somewhere in the middle of the bell shaped curve. Maybe she got snookered by all the hype from US News into thinking that she was going to be treated by the best doctor at “The Best Hospital in America” … You decide.

Assessment

This is the story of what happened to Pam; as reported by her journalist husband Don.

Link: http://adventuresincardiology.com/

Conclusion

Indignation Index: 96

We trust medical quality guru Bob Wachter MD will opine. And so, your additional thoughts and comments on this ME-Pare also appreciated. 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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About Carena In-Home Medical Care

In-Home Medical Care Services for the Modern Era

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA

We have written about the high cost, questionable quality and scheduling burden of emergency room visits on the Medical Executive-Post before. And, for some non-emergency or after-hours needs, the ER may possibly be one of the worst places to deliver medical care.   

Enter Carena, Inc

Seattle-based Carena Inc. was founded in 2000 on the principle that expanding access to medical care improves outcomes and reduces costs. By providing around-the-clock medical care and education at a patient-identified time of need, Carena patients, clients and health plans are reported to experience lower costs while patients receive the right care – at the right time [www.CarenaMD.com].

A New [Old] Business Model

Carena is not an emergency room, not an urgent care center and not someplace patients go. This medical group delivers 24/7 house-calls both to render care and provide education for urgent medical needs.

House calls last as long as needed—often an hour—to make sure patients have the care and education needed to take control of their health.

The Carena model also offers medical care at the workplace enabling corporate clients to offer on-site care without the cost and space requirements of a typical employer-sponsored health clinic.

Home Visits in the Modern Era

Carena medical group physicians treat a wide range of urgent concerns. They carry an updated version of the traditional “doctor bag” filled with state-of-the art and portable instruments. For example, physicians have the equipment to suture minor cuts, deliver nebulizer treatments for asthma, or obtain lab samples. They run in-home rapid diagnostic tests for influenza, strep throat, and other medical issues. If X-rays or tests are needed, physicians coordinate scheduling and share results with patient PCPs. Electronic medical records are used throughout.

Always Open 24/7

Carena is always open. No waiting in the ER while doctors treat true emergencies. No wondering if other waiting patients are contagious.  

Reduced Financial Shock.

Carena house calls are reported to costs about 30-35 percent less than a typical emergency room visit of about $1,500.

Another New Term

With apologies to my esteemed colleague Robert M. Wachter MD, the hospitalist guru at UCFS, Carena doctors are often called “housepitlists.”  

Assessment

Carena is a medical company that provides a new model of health care delivery for innovative, self-insured companies. Internist Frances Gough MD is the Vice President of Product Development at Carena, Ted Conklin MD is the founder and Ralph C. Derrickson is President and CEO. Corporate clients for both Carena business models are Costco and the Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, WA.

Disclaimer

I own shares of MSFT common stock and am a professional member of MS-HUG.

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RFID versus WiFi Hospital Inventory Tracking Systems

Understanding Competing Wireless Technologies

By Davd Piasecki, with

Hope Hetico; RN, MHA

www.HealthcareFinancials.comHOFMS

The two wireless technologies currently competing to provide hospitals with better systems for managing equipment inventories are (WiFi) and active RFID.

Wireless-Fidelity [WiFi]

WiFi is the name of the popular wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet connections. The WiFi Alliance is the non-profit organization that owns WiFi (registered trademark) and the term specifically defines WiFi as any “wireless local area network products that are based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’s 802.11 standards.”  Yet, less than 5 percent of North American healthcare facilities are equipped with these real-time locating systems, so the market is currently up for grabs.

WiFi Pros

The advantage of WiFi-based real time locating systems (RTLSs) is that most hospitals already have WiFi networks in place, and many medical devices are equipped with WiFi functionality. Moreover, WiFi vendors such as Aeroscout, Ekahau, and PanGo market their products based on a standards-based non-proprietary functionality. The downside of WiFi systems is that hospitals will need to install additional access points to bring the needed functionality to existing networks.

RFID Pros

On the other hand, RFID vendors such as RF Code and Radianse point to the wide application of RFID for asset tracking, and to the technology’s longevity in the industry. Still, RFID tags remain suspect because their ability to efficiently track DME may not be private or secure. Increasingly, WiFi seems more ubiquitous than RFID.

Finally, of the three WiFi major vendors, only Ekahau makes a point of stressing that its inventory system is based only on WiFi and not RFID, so the issue isn’t clear cut.  Perhaps it will take both technologies to deploy RTLSs for hospitals.

General Recommendations

As a general recommendation, RFID is not yet practical for most small to mid-sized healthcare entities or medical clinics looking to automate their inventory-related transactions (though it does work for other applications such as with returnable containers and asset tracking).

RFID Hype

Despite the hype over RFID, bar codes are not becoming obsolete and are still very effective at quickly and accurately identifying products, locations, and documents. Unless there exists an application where bar codes simply don’t work, or where RFID offers a significant advantage over bar codes, use bar codes. Even if an application that cries out for RFID exists, hospital material management administrators may want to consider waiting (if possible) as the cost of the technology comes down.

Both RFID and WFI Needed

According to Robert M. Wachter MD, Professor and Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine and Associate Chairman of Department of Medicine, and Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, and Chief of the Medical Service at UCSF Medical Center [personal communication], both should be used.

Ultimately, of course, we do need both bar coding and RFIDs, and we need rigorous studies looking at what works and what doesn’t. But, you have to start somewhere. Even though the evidence continues to trail, based on what I know today, if I was a hospital ready to get into the IT game, I’d go with bar coding first. 

Assessment

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In the next few years, standards will be finalized, hardware prices will drop, software will become more readily available, and, more importantly, the bugs will be worked out of all these systems.   

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America’s Safest Hospitals

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[Behind the Numbers]

[By Staff Reporters]56382989

Did you know that at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis, it only takes 90 seconds to save a life? While all hospitals keep staff on-call for emergencies, Missouri Baptist has implemented a rapid response program through which anyone, even family members, can call a team of clinicians to the bedside of a distressed patient within 90 seconds.

An Idea from Down-Under

As seen in Forbes, January 27, 2009, Missouri Baptist imported the idea from Australia, with an overall emphasis on safety that is evident not only in its innovative programs, but also in its numbers.

The Internal Data

According to reported internal data, only 48% of patients die as would be expected given their diagnoses. With outcomes like these, it’s no surprise that Missouri Baptist was designated by HealthGrades, a private hospital rating company in Golden, Colo., as one of the safest in the country. In its seventh annual study of “quality and clinical excellence”, known as Behind the Numbers, HealthGrades identified 270 hospitals out of 5,000 that collectively had a 28% lower mortality rate and 8% lower complication rate than the national average. The list reflects the top 5% of hospitals nationwide.

About HealthGrades

The HealthGrades [NASDAQ: HGRD] site promotes the firm as a leading healthcare ratings organization, providing ranking and profiles of hospitals, nursing homes and physicians to consumers, corporations, health plans and other hospitals. Millions of consumers and hundreds of the nation’s largest employers, health plans and hospitals rely on HealthGrades’ independent ratings, consulting and products to make healthcare decisions based on the quality of care. Founded in 1999, the firm has over 160 employees www.HealthGrades.com

Assessment

Now, what ever happened to governmental reporting, the Joint Commission, etc? Of course, after the IOM Report on Crossing the Quality Chasm in 2001, this type of service may be more important than ever.

Link: quality-chasm3

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Checklists: Homer Simpson’s Moment of Clarity on Medical Quality

Accountants do it – Attorneys do it – Why Not Docs?

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CPHQ, CMP™insurance-book2

Like the Nike slogan, hospitals should just do-it! Make checklists, that is! A new report by the Associated Press, on January 15, 2009, suggests simple checklists might improve medical quality and save hospitals $15 billion a year.  

NEJM Study

The study was led by Atul Gawande MD, now a Harvard surgeon and medical journalist, and just published in the New England Journal of Medicine [NEJM]. The 19-item checklist, used in the study, was far more detailed than what is required for most institutions. In summary, doctors who followed a checklist of steps cut death rates from surgery, almost in half, and complications by more than a third in a large study on how to avoid blatant operating room mistakes.

The Checklist

The 19 point surgical checklist was developed by the World Health Organization [WHO] and includes common sense, and inexpensive, measures like these two:

  • Prior to the patient being given anesthesia, make sure relevant anatomy is marked, and everyone knows if the patient has an allergy.
  • After surgery, check that all the needles, sponges and instruments are accounted for.
  • Before the checklist was introduced, 1.5 percent of patients in a comparison group died within 30 days of surgery at eight hospitals. Afterward, the rate dropped to 0.8 percent — a 47 percent decrease. Duh; as Homer Simpson might say! Not exactly rocket science; is it?

Skeptics Exist

However, Dr. Peter Pronovost – a Johns Hopkins University researcher in my hometown of Baltimore – led a highly influential checklist study a few years back on cutting infection rates from various intravenous tubes. He was a skeptic of this study because the researchers collected their own data and acknowledged the possibility that results were partly skewed because folks perform better when observed.

A Next-Gen Quality Proponent

I have been a fan of Atul since his medical school and surgical training days as a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. I even cited him as a precocious young up-start in the preface of my book, Insurance and Risk Management Strategies for Physicians and Advisors. His own works, of course, are best-sellers: Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, and Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. In fact, I often posit that he is a leading example of next-gen quality gurus, following in the foot-steps of Robert Wachter MD before him, and John E. Wennberg MD, MPH of the Dartmouth Atlas, before Bob.

My Experiences

Yet, far too many medical quality issues are being blindly addressed with powerful information technology systems. But, do we really need RFID tags to ensure proper side surgery, or bar codes bracelets for newborns? For example, while a medical student from Temple University back in the late seventies, I was observing surgery during an orthopedic rotation and noted the wrong extremity had been prepped and draped, awaiting the surgeons’ incision. Luckily, my big mouth was an advantage at the time. Decades later, at birth, I helped deliver my own daughter and immediately splashed a (far-too-large) swatch of gentian-violet on her left heel as an identifier; cheap … effective … simple. It did horrify the youngish nursing staff, but not so the more mature PICU staff. These, and related issues, might be alleviated with some managerial common sense; along with a dose of mindset change.

Assessment

With the Obama administration about to spend massive amounts of money on eHRs and other sophisticated – but largely unproven and non inter-operable HIT systems – medical quality improvement measures; perhaps it’s time to take a breath, think and KISS! 

Most medical practices, clinics and hospitals ought not [should not] operate at full capacity, and maybe the best patient care is driven by demand (needs) – and not the supply driven (wants) of administrators, doctors, stockholders and private [physician owned] hospitals and/or other stakeholders. Still, financial advisors do-it, automobile mechanics do-it; so why don’t docs and hospitals do it… the checklist-thing?

Conclusion

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