Healthcare Update — 07-24-2014

Busier may be better* … at least for for patients with life-threatening medical emergencies. When comparing very high volume emergency departments with very low volume emergency departments, a study in Annals of Emergency Medicine shows that patients with medical emergencies were about 0.4% less likely to die when they were treated at the nation’s busiest emergency departments. These statistics reportedly translate into about 24,000 lives saved each year if patients received the kind of care that was provided in the nation’s busiest emergency departments.
* A small disclaimer is in order, though. The study was performed by University of Michigan medical school. University of Michigan Hospital’s ED has more than 80,000 visits per year and is considered high volume.
I think a good idea for a similar study would be to compare mortalities in communities before and after the closure of emergency departments in the areas. This study might suggest that mega-hospital care is better, but is immediate care in small volume emergency departments better than delays in care during travel to a mega-hospital … or no care at all because patients can’t get there?

This may explain why doctors are so good at practicing defensive medicine. During their careers, doctors spend more time in the courtroom than in the classroom.
The headline is misleading since during a lawsuit, doctors aren’t in the courtroom 40 hours per week as they are during medical school. The point is that for 11% of their careers, an average physician has a lawsuit hanging over his or her head.

Johns Hopkins gynecologist admits to secretly recording patients during gyne exams. Police search home and find computer servers with naked pictures and videos of up to 8000 patients. Doctor then commits suicide.
Johns Hopkins has just agreed to a $190 million settlement with the involved patients.
If the lawyers get 30% of the settlement, they’ll net $63 million. If the remaining funds are divided equally among the affected patients, they’ll each receive about $16,000.

Kourtney Kardashian’s boyfriend can’t handle his liquor and has to go to the emergency department for alcohol poisoning. Not sure why this is news, but now you can click the link and gouge your eyes out, too.

There may be some truth to the statement from patients with chronic back pain who say “that sh*t doesn’t work with me.” Study published in the Lancet shows that there is no difference in time to resolution of symptoms between patients using Tylenol and patients using sugar pill placebos. There was also no difference between the groups in pain, disability, symptom changes or quality of life. And the strange thing is that 75% of patients were happy with their treatment regardless of whether they took Tylenol or a sugar pill placebo.

Oakland police repeatedly beat Occupy protester and Army Ranger Veteran with a nightstick, then throw him in a cell and ignore his complaints for help. When he begins vomiting, one officer told him to stop using heroin. Another officer videotaped him. Friends finally bail him out and bring him to the hospital … where he underwent surgery for a lacerated spleen.
Why does it seem like the names of public citizens accused of crimes are published in newspapers but the names of law enforcement officials who commit crimes against the public are kept hidden?

Understaffing in British Columbia hospitals frustrates patients who had to wait 4.5 hours in emergency department before they could get treatment for their infant son’s severed finger. Waiting room was packed with dozens of patients and only two doctors were on duty. Called several other hospitals that also had long waits in their emergency departments.
But at least the care is free.

9 year old patient with history of congenital heart defect and prior endocarditis goes to emergency department for a fever and “seeming sick.” Doctors give him motrin and discharge him without performing testing after he appears better. Returns two days later and diagnosed with endocarditis. Develops complications during surgery and ends up paralyzed on the left side of his body, blind in the left eye, and with garbled speech. Jury awards patient $17 million.

Laparoscopic hysterectomy begins uneventfully, then bleeding from the uterine artery is noted and the procedure is immediately converted to an open procedure. Towels packed into the abdomen to stop the bleeding and the patient’s life was saved. A month later, the patient has fever, discharge, and abdominal pain. Repeat operation showed that one of the towels had been left inside the patient. Patient required several additional surgeries and later sued. Jurors award $7.2 million. Important point in the case is that the defendants began pointing fingers at each other. The surgical techs blamed the surgeon and the surgeon blamed the surgical techs. As the author of the article noted, “once jurors see “dueling defendants” they most often assume the worst happened and find blame all around”

Jury finds that Alabama doctor and nurse midwife were not liable for birth injuries to an infant who was born a quadriplegic. Case gets overturned after attorneys discover that, when questioned about a potential deadlock, the judge sent jurors a note to “please keep deliberating” — without informing the attorneys or parties.

For a completely non-medical link that had me both appalled and laughing at the same time, check out this model citizen who became upset because McDonalds didn’t serve chicken nuggets in the morning.
Even though this video was posted last year, according to TSG, the event occurred in 2010.
A little more searching showed that the original video had no audio and that the audio was dubbed in later for amusement purposes.
And I just kept thinking that this is the type of patient whose low Press Ganey satisfaction survey scores would be the source of a monthly meeting because the emergency department staff isn’t meeting all of its patients’ needs.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 07-14-2014

Practicing telemedicine may just get a whole lot easier. Federation of State Medical Boards creating an interstate “compact” that would reduce barriers by providing an “expedited license” to physicians who wish to practice medicine in multiple states. The physician has to establish a state of “principal license” and then may apply to the “Interstate Commission” to receive a license in another state after the “applicable fees” have been paid. The hundreds of dollars per year paid to each state to maintain licensure don’t appear to be one of the barriers that is being reduced.
Most recent draft of the compact can be found at this link (.pdf)

Remember the infant who was “cured” of HIV after receiving high doses of antiretroviral drugs shortly after birth? She was taken off her medications and didn’t have any evidence of HIV in her bloodstream for several years.
Unfortunately, doctors recently announced that the child is now showing signs of HIV infection.
And the hunt for an elusive cure to HIV continues.

Milwaukee woman goes to emergency department with abdominal pain, rapid heart rate and fever. Spent nine hours in the emergency department and was discharged around midnight with instructions to follow up in the morning with her gynecologist for fibroids in her uterus. Later collapses at home and treated for septic shock which caused her to lose both arms and both legs. Sues hospital and plaintiff attorney argues that none of this would have happened if she just got a “$25 antibiotic.” Jury awards $25.3 million, saying that physician assistant and emergency physician who treated her should have provided her with a complete differential diagnosis of her symptoms prior to her discharge.
Attorneys expect that this case will get to Supreme Court as more than $16 million of that judgment would be subject to Wisconsin’s $750,000 medical malpractice cap.

Do you have any Kleenex? I need to blow my … back. Paralyzed woman has stem cells taken from her nose and undergoes stem cell transplant to try to cure her paralysis. Eight years later, she has pain at the surgical site. Undergoes exploratory surgery and doctors find a 3 cm growth of nasal tissue that was secreting mucous which was pressing on the woman’s spine.
Surgeons note that this type of complication is uncommon, occurring in less than 1% of patients.
Case report in the Journal of Neurosurgery is here.

Patients gone wild. Australian police are “investigating” after patient attacks five nurses, a security guard, a paramedic, and an elderly patient. One nurse required hospitalization. No one notified the hospital staff that the patient had previously attacked a nurse.

What are the conversations like in a rural emergency department waiting room with “country folks”? Pretty darn funny column about it by Lauretta Hannon in a suburban Atlanta newspaper. How *did* Aunt Carrie get hooked on them Oxycondoms, anyway?

Kaiser Health reports on newly implemented Dignity Health network policy where emergency department patients can “pay to go to the front of the line.” Hey – Southwest Airlines does it and so many people think that emergency departments should be more like other businesses, right?
But when hospitals start providing preferential treatment to those with money and internet connections, they’re running afoul of EMTALA laws.

Venezuela’s University Hospital of Caracas closes its emergency department in protest for 72 hours after gunmen break into an operating room and kill a patient during a surgery to extract a different bullet. The gunmen also killed the patient’s brother who was waiting in the hospital.

Improving access to health care won’t save money. Nice article in the NY Times about how increased access to medical care increases costs. My favorite quote is a variation of my “Pick Any Two” post:

One of the most important facts about health care overhaul, and one that is often overlooked, is that all changes to the health care system involve trade-offs among access, quality and cost. You can improve one of these – maybe two – but it will almost always result in some other aspect getting worse. You can make the health care system achieve better outcomes. But that will usually cost more or require some change in access. You can make it cheaper, but access or quality may take a hit. And you can expand access, but that will increase cost or result in some change in quality.

And one point on which I differ with the author is his assertion that “The A.C.A. was primarily about access: making it easier for people to get insurance and the care it allows.” The Affordable Care Act was never about access. It was all about insurance. And few if any doctors are willing to accept the miniscule payments offered by government insurance. Health care insurance doesn’t guarantee you health care access any more than auto insurance provides you access to a car.

Occupy Wall Street protester jailed in Rikers Island accuses prison of medical negligence. One inmate with Hepatitis C was reportedly coughing up chunks of her liver before she died in prison.

 

Quick Visit

Lips

A mother brought her son to the emergency department with a rather non-emergent complaint … chapped lips.

The registration clerk started taking the registration information.

“Can I get the patient’s name and date of birth please?”
“Yes, it’s Johnny …”
The clerk got distracted by the patient who first licked his lips, then smacked his lips, then rubbed his finger back and forth over his lips.
“You know, you shouldn’t do that. That’s probably why your lips are so irritated.”
Back to the mother.
“His name is Johnny Smith. His date of birth …”
The kid licked his lips, made a smacking sound, and rubbed his finger over his lips again.
“Maybe you could get some Chap Stick from your mom. You really shouldn’t rub your lips like that.”
Back to the mother.
“Sorry. What was his date of birth again?”
“December 17, 2008.”
The registration clerk started typing and all of a sudden, the registration clerk slams her hand on the desk and yells “STOP THAT!”

The kid looked at her in horror.
She started to apologize.
“I’m so sorry …”
This time the mother interrupted.
“That’s EXACTLY what he needed! He don’t listen to me. You gonna listen to HER now? Huh? You gonna listen to HER when she tells you not to do that?”
The kid kept his eyes fixed on the registration clerk and slowly nodded his head.
Then the mom thanked the registration clerk, gathered her belongings, and left.

And the biggest discussion afterward was what to call the diagnosis.

Surrogate discipline training?
Rule out tardive dyskinesia?
Left without being licked?

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This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.

Healthcare Update Satellite — 07-2-2014

Ve have vays of keeping you qviet. Halt den mund! Government-contracted security force who actually call themselves the “Brown Shirts” … threatens to arrest medical providers if they leak any information to media about all of the medical illnesses that are being seen at an illegal alien refugee camp in Lackland Air Force Base.
By the way, this story is from FoxNews, so everyone should just ignore it until you or your family members sit next to one of them on a bus or in a movie theater. Combine these kids on playgrounds with anti-vax kids? What could go wrong?
Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

New York City urologist and surgeon father/son team up to serve the needs of the city’s hungover partiers. For a mere $250, they will send a nurse to your home or office, insert an IV, and give you IV Zofran, IV Pepcid, and IV Toradol. It’s called a “revive” package.
When people start spending more on the morning after recovery than they do on the night out, they have serious issues.
Oh, and don’t mind that you can get the same or similar medications and a bottle of Perrier for about $10.

60 year old Alaska emergency department patient gets arrested after trying to walk out with bed sheets, latex gloves and a bloody syringe, oxygen tubing, medical wrap, a pulse oximeter
Items reportedly worth $300. Patient goes to Greybar Motel where bail is set at $2500. What was he going to do with oxygen tubing and a pulse oximeter? Guess there’s always eBay.

Nice article in Annals of Emergency Medicine about how to Effectively Use Online Resources in Emergency Medicine. Article gives lots of resources with links. Included in the recommendations are: 1. Use an RSS reader. I posted about RSS readers on DrWhiteCoat.com after Feedly temporarily tried to steal bloggers’ content. Theoldreader.com and taptu.com were a couple of the favorites other than Feedly.
2. Use a PodCast Application. I don’t listen to podcasts. Popular with anyone else?
3. Find compilations of content (also suggested that residency directors post lists of compilations)
4. Use social networking to connect with content producers and peers.
5. Use custom search engines for material (such as GoogleFOAM.com – which happened to be a dead link at the time I wrote this post)

$5.2 million verdict in lawsuit filed against Maryland’s St. Agnes Healthcare, EMCARE, emergency physician, and physician assistant. Patient injured knee in a gate at loading dock. PA who evaluated patient noted paresthesias, difficulty moving his foot, and pain in the leg then diagnoses patient with knee sprain. Physician overseeing PA reportedly performed an exam, but did not write a note in the chart and did not co-sign the chart until 10 days later. Patient returned two days after initial visit and found to have torn all ligaments and tendons in his knee and suffered injury to popliteal artery. Because of the initial misdiagnosis, the patient required an above-knee amputation.
The article doesn’t say whether there was a judgment against the emergency physician, but recall that insurance policies may not cover physicians for claims involving failure to properly supervise other medical practitioners. Make sure that your contracts include coverage for such claims.
Copy of the original complaint can be downloaded here.

Arizona Supreme Court rules that “vulnerable or incapacitated adults” are able to sue for all the attorney’s fees and expert witness fees under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act. I couldn’t find the fee-shifting portion of the statute, but am worried about the unintended consequences.
What happens when hospitals know that there is potential for increased liability when caring for “vulnerable or incapacitated adults”?
What will lawyers do when they know that they’ll get paid more for filing such claims?

WhiteHouse pressuring states to join Obamascare’s Medicaid conglomerate, claiming that if they don’t, the states will deprive 5.7 million Americans of health coverage in 2016. The report is “based primarily on careful analysis of the effects of past policy decisions” which also brought you such conclusions as “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” and implied that emergency department use will decrease under the Affordable Care Act, so take the conclusions for what they’re worth.

Pennsylvania state medical board suspends license of anesthesiologist for sending nearly 250 text messages with sexual innuendos while overseeing surgeries. During a stomach surgery, he sent 45 text messages alone. Not good. Hopefully none of the patients were injured.

Now that we’re discovering about 2.2 million Obamacare enrollees may lose coverage due to unresolved discrepancies in their data and that 6 million Obamacare enrollees ended up enrolling in their new Obamacare plans because they were kicked off of their previous plans, the department of Health and Human Services has stopped providing updates in enrollment data. A net negative number of enrollments probably wouldn’t fare well for the law’s future.
Megan McArdle asks “Where Did the Obamacare Data Go?”

Patient goes to emergency department with a cough. Doctor ordered x-ray to rule out pneumonia. Radiologist read chest x-ray as normal. More than a year later, patient returns to emergency department with worsening cough. CT is performed and shows metastatic lung cancer. When lawyers go back and look at prior chest x-ray, a 1.5 centimeter nodule was reportedly missed. The patient later died. Her daughter filed a lawsuit and the jury just awarded her $16.7 million dollars.
Wonder why radiology reports are sometimes so “comprehensive”?
To wit: Master Radiologist able to hedge on every possible medical condition. Report of 7 pages and 10,000 words contained interpretation gems such as “The intestine is mildly dilated and collapsed with thick or thin walls and most organs have areas of abnormal or normal enhancement, so small bowel obstruction and organ pathology must be considered. And tuberculosis. Also, cancer. Could be cancer.”

One Way to Cure a Drug Seeker’s Back Pain

Back StatueA gentleman in his 40s limped into the emergency department for evaluation of severe back pain.

He had a chronic history of back pain, but had decided to forgo recommended surgeries because he was told that there was a chance his pain could worsen. He reportedly had multiple MRIs in the past … all of which showed “severely” bulging discs. He also just moved to the area the evening prior to his visit. In all of the excitement and heavy lifting, he strained his back, he couldn’t find his pain medications, AND he lost his wallet. That meant he had no ID and he couldn’t remember his address because, of course, he just moved into his apartment last night.

He was in excruciating pain and couldn’t move without pain shooting to his legs. Oh, and his heart stopped after taking aspirin a long time ago and he was specifically told NEVER to take NSAIDs because they could kill him.

His exam didn’t show too much except that he was in a lot of pain. So we ordered a muscle relaxant and a couple of Tylenol with codeine tablets.
After about 15 minutes, he stated that the Tylenol #3 “took the edge off.”

He got a shot of Decadron and we prepared to discharge him. He requested a couple of days of Norco pills until he could find his other prescription amongst all of the moving stuff.
I gave him the benefit of the doubt and wrote him a prescription for a couple of days worth of Norco and Robaxin. However, I wrote on the prescription “DO NOT fill prescription without verifying photo ID. Please fax copy of patient’s photo ID to Metro General Hospital emergency department at 888-555-1212.”

The patient flipped out.
“What … am I some kind of criminal?”
“Sir, you’ve given us no way of verifying your identity for purposes of creating a medical record of or providing you with a bill for the services you’ve received. We need to do this for all our patients.”
Shaking the prescription at me over the desk, he said “Yeah, well I bet you don’t write crap like THIS on the prescriptions for ‘all of your patients.’”
“That’s true. But very few of our patients come into the emergency department with no identification and not knowing their address, either. You received medications to help with your symptoms. We just need to verify your identity. If you’d like, we can call the police to have them verify your identification. In fact, Mary, can you call the police and ask them to send an officer down here?”
“You’re the biggest asshole I’ve ever met in my LIFE!”
And with that, he crumpled up the prescription, threw it on the floor, and stomped out the door with nary a hint of antalgia in his gait.

Just goes to show …
Those steroids really do help back pain.

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This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.

Hemoptysis Pearls

There was a nice article over at Consultant360.com by Drs. Laren Tan and Samuel Louie on hemoptysis pearls. Learned quite a few things.

200 mls of blood (about a cupful) is enough to fill the dead space in the lungs and is therefore generally considered the minimum amount of blood to make the diagnosis of “massive” hemoptysis.

Hemoptysis with chest pain – think pneumonia/pleurisy, PE with pleurisy, pulmonary edema from an MI, or lung cancer

Hemoptysis with dyspnea – think either exacerbation of patient’s underlying medical problem or a precursor to respiratory failure

Hemoptysis with fever – think infection, autoimmune disease, vasculitis, or even PE with lung infarction

Chest xray, CBC, and coags are the initial diagnostic tests. CT scan is indicated for suspected masses, recurrent hemoptysis, or high suspicion of cancer. Although not mentioned in the article, PE evaluation would also be an indication, depending on symptoms and pre-test probability scoring. CT alone has a diagnostic yield of about 67%.

For a differential diagnosis of hemoptysis, remember the mnemonic “BATTLECAMP”

B – Bronchitis
A – Abscess
T – Tumor
T – Tuberculosis
L – Lupus
E – Embolism
C – Coagulopathy
A – Autoimmune (eg, Goodpasture syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus)
M – Mitral Stenosis
P – Pneumonia