Tag Archives: primary care

Trends in Medicine

–Tom Bibey

We’ve been around long enough to see the trends come and go. I’ve seen Aldactone fall in and out of favor three times now as the latest “hip” drug. When I see some young fellow tout the latest study on the merits of the drug as some new thing, I ache from his lack of wisdom.

(Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

 Dr. Bibey, who has some gray hair, gives us perspective on the changing knowledge of medicine. We have embraced Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), but the evidence changes. We once encouraged menopausal women to take hormones to protect their hearts, then learned that was not helpful. We encouraged anti-oxidants, then learned that did not make a difference. Talk with your preceptor and explore the other trends that have come and gone as our knowledge and science has grown.

Local Medical Doctors: State-of-the-Art Healers

–Gwen Wagstrom Halaas

In an emergency room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard Medical School, I first heard the acronym “LMD.” As a medical student, this was one more acronym to add to my brain, already swimming with acronyms and millions of bits of information. I soon realized that LMD was the house staff’s term of derision for the local doctors whose patients they were presenting. This was news to me, that other doctors would not respect their peers. Maybe I was naive, coming from Minnesota where we are “all above average.” This realization dulled the shiny image of the medical mecca that I had the privilege of experiencing.

Moving back to Minneapolis, I managed to escape this attitude for a while, training in a hospital where the family of family doctors was the valued source of patients and referrals. This attitude resurfaced as my peers joined practices in small communities in Minnesota, and I would hear them complain about how they were treated by the urban consultants.

On my rural rotation in Homer, Alaska, I was first introduced to the amazing level of care rendered in a rural setting. While on call one evening in the hospital, a man with chest pain arrived in the emergency room. He was quickly evaluated, treated with streptokinase, stabilized, and put on a Lear jet to Anchorage.

This was months before anyone in the big city of Minneapolis was considering thrombolysis for acute MIs (heart attacks). I bragged about this experience and others on my return to the city. They looked at me like I must be hallucinating.

In my professional journey, I first started my own family practice on the skyway downtown—a very old-fashioned general practice in a fancy setting in St. Paul. From there I traveled through combinations of practice, teaching and managing the business of health care until I found myself directing a program that taught medical students the basics of medicine by immersing them in rural community practices. Again face to face with LMDs, I marveled at the innovative ways they cared for families and communities. These “hick” towns have helicopters, digital X-rays, telemedicine, electronic health records, robot consultants, medication vending machines, and approaches to care that are on the cutting edge. Their state-of-the-art facilities are patient-centered healing environments.

(Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

It always surprises me that this term of derision is still alive today. You’d think that our dependence on each other for referrals and consults would have fostered more respect. But 30 years later, I still hear students talk about some of the same derogatory comments I heard about primary care in the 1980s.

It takes a lots of smarts to know a little about the wide range of health care issues patients face today. It also requires a lot of wisdom to know your limits and when to ask for help. Some personalities may be better suited to the wide swath of general knowledge and others may do better with deep and narrow. Pay attention to what you hear and remember, putting down someone else certainly helps one feel better about his or herself.

 

Disconnected US health care

The Dressing Change

–Tara Frerks
I shook hands with Mr. Friedrikson and touched Mrs. Friedrikson on her thin shoulder to avoid the bulky dressing on her right hand.
“I need my dressing changed,” she said in a grandmotherly voice. She cradled her right hand in her lap and shielded it with her other hand and arm.
Mr. Friedrikson, a few strands of gray hair combed across his bald head, sat on the edge of his chair, tapping his left foot on the linoleum floor. “Do you know that you are the fifteenth contact we’ve made trying to find someone to help us?” He thrust a paper bag filled with dressing supplies into my hands.
I placed the bag on the counter and then settled onto a stool to listen. I enjoyed the independence and array of experiences I’d encountered in this small Minnesota community. I asked one open-ended question, “What can we do foryou?” and the Friedrikson’s story came pouring out.
A few months ago, they had retired to a house on one of the nearby lakes. They were new to this town and clinic. Helping her husband of forty plus years with a kitchen project, Mrs. Friedrikson had been trying to steady a two by four he was sawing. Her hand slipped and the blade of the circular saw sliced deep into the flesh and bones of her right hand. With blood soaking an old towel, they drove to the town’s emergency room. The ER physician deemed that the injury was too complex for the local surgeon to repair. An air-ambulance transported her to a trauma center for microsurgery. “We were discharged home last week, and they told us to get checked up here within the week,” Mr. Friedrikson said.
“We couldn’t find any clinic that would see us. Finally, we just went to the local emergency room this weekend. I have to tell you, the surgeon who changed the dressing was kind of nasty.”
“Now Herbert,” Mrs. Friedrikson said. “He was probably very busy.”
I controlled my smile, I’d worked with that surgeon.

(Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

It doesn’t take much experience to see that our health care system is broken. Patients work hard to locate what they need and even with persistence, their needs often go unmet. This week we learn whether or not the Supreme Court declares the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) mandate that patients purchase insurance unconstitutional. While the ACA has many problems, it was an attempt to address the fragmentation of the US health care system which spends exorbitant amounts of money and has little to show for the effort. Granted, many of the medical miracles achieved by technology are tremendous, but too many citizens don’t get the basic care they need.

Pay attention in your setting to what works and does not work about patients’ access health care. Whether or not the ACA’s mandate is declared unconstitutional or not, much needs fixing in the current US health care system.

A Modern Country Doc–playing the game

Tom Bibey

The insurance companies love to play doctor. Take my noncompliant diabetic patient with a hemoglobin A1C that does not meet goal. (We explained this in an earlier blog post.) The first order of business, since I wish to stay in practice, is to send him to an endocrinologist. If possible, one should bolster the case by the choice of one from a medical center. A year later, the patient will still have the same numbers, unless he comes to Jesus and decides to change his life. The cost of the endocrinologist changed nothing but increased the bill to insurance, and my risk as a target for the blame is dramatically lowered due to the referral.

 (Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

Here Dr. B is referring to our effort to meet certain treatment goals with patients. Some insurance companies reimburse physicians with extra money if a certain percentage of their patients reach the recommended goals. This is called Pay for Performance and sometimes referred to as P4P.

A large randomized controlled trial on diabetes–ACCORD— helped to outline the goals management of  patients with Type 2 diabetics. Here is an easy explanation.

The challenge is to motivate patients to change their behavior, often easier said than done. In earlier posts we’ve talked about Motivational Interviewing techniques to help patient weigh the pros and cons of continuing to do what they do. As you spend time in clinic, you’ll see different attempts to help patients quit smoking, lose weight, start exercising, be compliant with their medications. It is no easy task. However, I don’t want to leave you with a downer. When you do assist someone in making a behavior change, there is nothing like it—it can make your whole day or week for that matter.

A Modern Country Doc–alphabet soup

Inside the Mind of –Tom Bibey

COLA, CLIA,OSHA, HIPAA, EMTALA. I’ve heard the powers that be are going to start up the NBEMAA (National Bureau for the Elimination of Medical Abbreviations Agency) to question everyone’s integrity for use of nongovernment approved abbreviations. Now if they do, I guess I’m gonna call it a day. The hypocrisy would just be too much.

 (Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

 Modern medicine is an alphabet soup of acronyms. It can be quite overwhelming to the student. With the turn of the 21st century we’ve added EMR or EHR –electronic health or medical records, HCH or MH—health care home or medical home, but MH can also mean mental health. You may encounter NCQA and JCAHO, both efforts to improve and monitor the quality of care in the US. The ACA, Affordable Care Act, which some folks call Obama care, the national health reform passed during President Obama’s first term and now under attack, also brought us ACOs—accountable care organizations, which are supposed to be different from the HMOs-health management organizations of the 1970s and 1980s. I know that was a run on sentence, but one acronym seems to give birth to others. You can probably add some others to this list. The bottom line is that medical care in the US is complex. All the efforts try to guarantee quality, affordable health care for the patient, but often seem like barriers between the doctor-patient relationship.

Inside the Mind of a Modern Country Doc

–Tom Bibey

I have seen a lot of changes in my three decades of practice. Technological advancement offers new treatments, and I am grateful for them. Heck, I have partaken of this myself. Last fall I had a retinal detachment, and with modern ophthalmology I was back to 20/20 in no time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against being modern.

Computers have improved our ability to compile data, but also have rendered privacy obsolete. Sure, I know the Government enacted the HIPAA privacy rules, but that was only to keep everyone else from cutting in on their business.

Look at it this way: HIPAA was enacted by the same crowd who invented the Social Security number. I don’t know about you, but that scares me a bit. As a small businessman for years, I know the importance of the bottom line. Years ago, the staff and I agonized about increasing office visits from fifteen to eventeen dollars. We were very concerned as to how a two-dollar increase might play in the local circles. My aunt would hear about it and talk bad about me in Sunday school. In small towns, you have to be careful about a bad PR rep at church or in the beauty shops. A local restaurant owner who got greedy and went up a full dollar on a perch plate was out of business in a month. When you live with people, your decisions tend to be conservative, and we were sensitive to local economic issues.

Our bottom line was how our patients fared. If they were happy, and we cleared enough to go another year, we counted it a success. It was like one of my patients said, “I want you to make enough to retire, Doc, just not in a few years.” I agreed and found it good counsel.

Somewhere along the way, medicine evolved into big business. Once the bottom line became a stockholder report, the rules began to change. An old doc, Dr. William Gray, had the same answer for every problem. “I don’t know what’s wrong here, but it’s got something to do with money.” Well, old Doc is long gone, but I think he’s still right.

(Excerpted and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

You may encounter gray-haired physicians like Dr. B on your rural rotations. They are often nostalgic about the “good old days of medicine” as portrayed by Barnard Hughes in Doc Hollywood (1991), a movie that starred Michael J Fox as a hip plastic surgeon headed to LA, long before his Parkinsons manifested. You catch the same flavor in the TV sitcom Marcus Welby MD.  In the good old days, little came between the physician and the care of the patient. Most physicians were in solo practice or in small groups and ran their own businesses. They had a lot more autonomy. As with everything, there are pros and cons. In the next blog posts we will explore Dr. B’s take on the good old days meeting modern high tech medicine where lots of “Chart Jockeys” monitor the care that is provided to patients. Dr. B also blogs about blue grass, has written a novel and has another in the works. 

As you shadow and talk with these practitioners who have seen the changes in medicine over the past three decades what do they see as the losses and gains? What changes do they imagine that you will witness over the span of you own career?

Avoid medical-speak

From Good Will

–Donald Kollisch

“Like a sponge,” Elwin was thinking, sitting in his father’s old chair. “The doctor said my lungs are filled up like a sponge that they need to wring out.”

He pictured a large sponge—the kind his father used to use to wipe down the horses after a full day’s work, knobby and heavy and dripping in his hands. Elwin held the image in his mind as he tried to clear his laboring lungs. Some sections were softer and more supple; others were stiff and scarred. Water was stuck in the stiffer cavities so he wasn’t able to squeeze it out. That was what made his breathing fast and shallow—the way it had been ever since he’d come in from moving the John Deere into the barn.

(Excerpted from Good Will and used with the permission of the author, published in The Country Doctor Revisited, KSU, 2010)

Elwin was a retired farmer. His doctor gave him a concrete image to understand his congestive heart failure. Avoiding medical-speak is important. Sometimes when we are new to medicine we like to use the big words to impress or friends and colleagues. When presenting to attendings and preceptors we are supposed to use the proper medial terms. But when explaining illness to patients medical-speak doesn’t work.  Translate medical lingo into concepts and images your patients will understand. That may vary depending on a patient’s culture and experience. In the above story, Dr. Kollisch was talking to an old farmer –he understood sponges and water and washing his draft horses. One of the magical moments in talking with patients is when your patient helps you identify the image that makes sense to him or her.  Share one of those moments with us if you can. . .