Juxtaposition

The photograph in my Quimper Family Medicine home clinic and guest room is of my grandmother and my daughter, in 1988. I took the picture. My grandmother is Evelyn Ottaway. The other picture is one of my mother/baby or parent/child pictures. I like the juxtaposition.

It’s not just parent/child that is important. It is parent/child, grandparent/child, great grandparent/child.

I am reading a book that appeared in my little free library box, about grandmothering skills. It’s got some very interesting ideas and I am enjoying it! Radical, man.

My grandmother had amazing organizational skills. I think that my daughter got them from her.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: Radical.

biotics explained

Are you confused about BIOTICS? Is your neighbor taking more Mysterious Healthy Pills than you? We can help! We are marketers posing as scientists from Mega Super Good For You and the Planet CoreValuePoration! Look! We have white coats and ours are clean!

PROBIOTICS: These are GOOD and GOOD FOR YOU! You should take them, you should take ours! We have capsules and we stuff them full of good-for-you biotics. We don’t call them bacteria, because bacteria are gross and yuky and cause infections. You know ours are best because they are the most expensive, the health food co-op sells them, and they have to be refrigerated. Take one everyday! You can never have too many biotics in the teaming mass of millions in your gut!

Conbiotics: These are BAD FOR YOU! They are sold by the other companies. They lie. They get biotics from prisoners poop. They will turn you criminal. They will make you fight with your mother and disinherit your first born, lie, drink too much and cook meth. You will know they are conbiotics because they are cheaper and not refrigerated. And some of the biotics in their tablets are bacteria! Do you want to take bacteria? DEAD BACTERIA, they don’t even give you live ones.

Antibiotics: THESE KILL PROBIOTICS. BY THE MILLIONS. THESE ARE PASSE, OUT OF FASHION, EVIL AND YOU REALLY DON’T WANT THEM (unless you have strep throat or pneumonia or sepsis, and even then, the antibiotics suck because the sepsis mortality rate is 28-50%, THAT MEANS HALF THE SEPSIS VICTIMS DIE EVEN WITH ANTIBIOTICS, DOES THAT PROVE THEY SUCK OR WHAT?)

UNCLEBIOTICS: Now MEGA SUPER GOOD FOR YOU AND THE PLANET COREVALUEPORATION is developing THE NEWEST AND BEST BIOTICS OF ALL! UNCLEBIOTICS ARE BETTER THAN ANTIBIOTICS BECAUSE THEY ARE MALE AND UNCLES ARE MORE FUN AND RARER THAN AUNTS AND THEY ARE WAY LESS LIKELY TO HUG YOU INTO WEIRD SMELLING BOSOMS, except that uncle that wears the boa and the weight lifter uncle, too many illegal steroids, he has fine manboobs.

SUBSCRIBE TODAY TO OUR MONTHLY POOBIOTIC, WE MEAN PROBIOTIC SERVICE AND YOU WILL RECEIVE FREE SAMPLES OF UNCLEBIOTICS AS FAST AS WE CAN GET THE UNCLES TO POO AND THE RATS TO SURVIVE THE CAPSULES.

All ingredients generally recognized as safe http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/, you should listen to us, don’t listen to your mama, she says “Don’t eat poo!” but what do mamas know, Mother’s Day is so OVER for the year and we have WHITE COATS!

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Our clinic had a band back before 2009. Me and 4 of the nurses. We were into heavy metal. This was when I was working for Port Townsend Family Physicians. The county let me go and PTFP changed their name. Could not have been because we wore our band regalia to work, right? After all, it was Halloween.

Maybe they were afraid that the songs would catch on.

Little blue pill

Don’t code in the waiting room

Evidence based BM

Probiotics make you psychotic

Better that way

Alcohol is better than benzos

Mr. Sable is Unable

Buprenorphine: better n morphine

EMR means Eat My Rear

The 18 Patient Blues

Idaho Gigolo

I played flute and saw. J played fiddle and air siren. The others, well, you should ask them. I think all the tapes got burned by the hospital. Too bad, so sad.

I can’t credit the photographer. I don’t know who took it.

Revolution in prior authorizations

I had a small one doc family practice clinic for ten years. Spent more time with patients. The trade off was that if they need a prior authorization, they had to come in for a visit. I would call the insurance company from the room face to face counselling and coordination of care and all that crap. This did a number of things:

1. I could bill for the time.

2. The patient saw how the insurance company treats us and our offices. The rep on the line would try to call me by my first name since doctors rarely call. I would say, “No, please call me Dr. Ottaway.”

3. The patients sometimes had called their insurances already and been told “Have your doctor call.” When I would call, the company rep would sometimes say, “We don’t cover that.” The patient would be outraged and say, “But I called YESTERDAY.” The rep would say, “I only talk to doctors. The part of the company that talks to patients is a different part.” The insurance companies can’t triangulate their way out of that.

4. I would end the call by saying, “This has been a face to face with the patient call, you have been on speaker phone and I am documenting the call and the time in the patient’s chart.” At first the calls took 25-30 minutes. Some companies apparently flagged me, and would say “Yes.” if I called, and get me off the phone as fast as possible. They really do not like it being documented in the chart.

5. Insurance companies sometimes drop patients on purpose because the person has gotten more expensive. I had a snow bird from Alaska whose insurance had dropped him. He said he’d paid on time. I said, come in if you want and I will call them. I spent 45 minutes on the phone where they made multiple excuses, lied (we can’t send you a copy of his insurance because we don’t have a fax after they’d said he was not allowed to leave Alaska and I said, “For how long? What do you mean? You don’t insure him if he’s out of the state? Send me a copy of his insurance contract!”) I finally realize that they have dropped him on purpose because he’s been diagnosed with diabetes. I say “Ok, look, I am staying on the phone until he’s reinstated and I don’t care how long it takes. And if you hang up on me I will contact the insurance commissioner in Alaska and Washington states.”

6. Patients are truly outraged at how a physician is treated when she calls an insurance company herself. I have to give my name, my NPI number, my address, my phone number, my fax number, the patient name, the patient address, the patient phone number the patient insurance number and sometimes have to do it every time someone transfers me. When they see me spend 25-30 minutes on the phone to get a prior auth, especially if it is refused, they are up in arms.

I think it would be truly revolutionary if every doc in the country called an insurance company with a patient in the room and documented the conversation in the chart. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Gonna be a revolution, yeah…..

I voted

…after I spent about three hours going through paper and throwing it out… ok, like a total numbskull I mislaid my ballot. Have you mislaid your ballot? FIND IT! VOTE!

” …that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

When I went across the country as a Mad as Hell Doctor in 2009, we talked to people everywhere. I joined the group in Seattle. I had never met any of them and had only heard about them two weeks before. But we were on the road, talking about health care, talking about single payer healthcare, talking about Medicare for All.

Some people said, “I don’t want the government in healthcare.”

We would ask, “Are you against medicare?” “No!” “Medicaid?” “No!” “Active duty military health care?” “No! We must take care of our active duty!” “Veterans?”  “No! They have earned it!”

…but those are all administered by the government. More than half of health care in the US. So let’s go forward: let’s all join together and have Medicare for ALL! And if you don’t agree… so you don’t think you should vote? Hmmm, I am wrestling my conscience here….

We need one system, without 20 cents of every insurance paid dollar going to health insurance profit and advertising and refusing care and building 500++ websites that really, I do not have time to learn and that change all the time anyhow. How about ONE website? How about ONE set of rules? We are losing doctors. It’s not just me worrying: it’s in the latest issue of the American Academy of Family Practice.

Vote. For your health and for your neighbor’s health.

____________________________________________

Physicians for a National Healthcare Progam: http://pnhp.org/

Healthcare Now: https://www.healthcare-now.org/

I can’t credit the photograph, because I don’t remember who took it…. or if it was with my camera or phone or someone else’s! But thank you, whoever you are!

stay or go?

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: migration.

I took this on a beach walk with my aunt and uncle on Sunday. They were visiting from Virginia. They’ve flown back now.

This is taken with the zoom all the way out. I recognized the great blue heron, but in the first picture I can’t tell what the geese are. With a face in profile in this second photograph it’s clear that they are Canada geese.

The geese are migrating but the great blue heron stays and winters over. Most of our hummingbirds migrate, but the Anna’s can winter over. And I have been asked: stay or go? My landlord asks if I will renew my lease for my clinic in February.

I reply that I am waiting on the US Congress. My clinic is more than half medicare patients. 48% are over age 65. Congress is discussing paying a flat fee for medicare visits: about $43.00 dollars. At the moment I do not see how I could keep my small solo clinic open if that goes through. Stay or go? It is stressful. I want to stay. But I may have to migrate like the geese….

I think a frightening number of physicians would either migrate or stop taking medicare patients, opt out of medicare, if Congress passes this bill. The AAFP is fighting it. I contact Congress too, but I am tired of fighting for single payer, medicare for all. Patients spend more on their dogs’ health than their own. How can I do good care and feel valued for $43.00 per clinic visit?

I thought the thing most likely to close my clinic is the cost of my own health insurance. But Congress may close me down by dropping my payments from 48% of what I bill, to less than 25%. Yet they say they want good care for our country….

Message me if you contact Congress to say do not do this. And thank you so much if you do.

The proposal for medicare changes is 1472 pages. So I am supposed to find time to read that and comment on it in addition to taking care of my patients? What sort of insanity is this?

community health

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt #69: community.

The photograph is from 2010, when the mad as hell doctors toured California to talk about single payer health care, medicare for all.

Small communities rolled out the welcome:

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In this community, every table was sponsored by local health groups: clinic, the health department, mental health, addiction treatment. In small communities everyone knows someone who has lost their health, their health insurance and/or their job and home.

Here we are setting up for another program:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

People asked questions:

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And they listened and responded:

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The health care industry has money. The insurance companies are for profit and make enormous profits. But in the end you and I have VOTES. When we stand up as a nation and say that we want medicare for all, Congress will listen. Stand up.

The mandate for health care already is a law: no one can be turned away from an emergency room. But as things stand, we do not take care that the person in the emergency room has care after the emergency room. The hospital may take the person’s house. We already have the government doing no profit care for over 50% of the care in the US: Medicare, Medicaid, active duty military and the Veterans Association. It is time to shut down the for profit insurance companies that refuse medicines, refuse care, refuse to answer their phones, tell me on the phone “we don’t have a fax”, the parent company tells me a medicine is covered and then the part D drug coverage still refuses: it is BEYOND TIME TO SHUT THEM DOWN.

Is the goal of health care profit? Or is it care for our citizens, support for families, works like the police and the fire station: we all support each other. Stand up, shout and VOTE.

 

 

fraud in medicine: navigating your failing healthcare system

Navigating health care in the United States is challenging and challenged. Currently the 800+ insurance companies, each with multiple “products”, the 500+ electronic medical records that don’t talk to each other, the increasing volume of information and the decreasing number of physicians make getting care very challenging. Here are some steps to help you navigate.

1. Get your records and keep copies.

Get the disc of any radiology studies: MRI, xray, CT scan, echocardiogram. Keep them. Hand carry to your visit with the specialist. Yes, I know your doctor said they’d be sent and I know the specialist’s office said they’d get them, but I have two friends so far this week in two days who traveled 2 hours or more to a specialist who DID NOT HAVE THE STUDIES. Do NOT give your only copy to the specialist. Demand two. Either get them on different days or just pay for the second disc.

A clinic closed in our area a year ago. It was in three counties, 3400+ patients. The physician owner was not paying the bills, including the electronic medical record. We couldn’t get records, the emr company wouldn’t release them. Gone. Thirteen people called to be new patients with me the day the clinic closed and we took five new patients a week for 6 months. You need a copy of your records.

2. In the specialist’s office or ER, do NOT give your records to the receptionist.

Hand them to the physician only. Hand them copies, you keep copies. “When will you be getting back to me?” That is, if it’s two hundred pages of complicated records, when does the physician think they can read (some) of them? The real truth is that WE CANNOT READ ALL OF THE OLD RECORDS. We don’t have time. We have to sleep. We read what we can and there are MOUNTAINS of old records that we haven’t read. I have files of old records and I pull them for visits so we can look up specific things. I have asked patients to go through and find specific things: find me the MRI report of your back.

Because what is really happening in many offices is that the information is being scanned but not read. Truly. I think this is dangerous. I had a patient who had five specialists and me. I was sending updates to his rheumatologist, with letters, asking questions and not getting a word back. Finally the patient went for the two hour trip to see the specialist, who called me: “I had not read any of your notes! I didn’t know what was happening!” I saw RED. Oh, so my letters and the ER notes and the other specialist notes that I faxed to you MYSELF about a very sick, very complicated medicine WERE NOT READ? I wanted to scream at her, but I didn’t. I just said, “We really need your help and I have been trying to keep you informed.” Through gritted teeth. Then later I kick and hit my heavy bag. And at that point the specialist was finally helpful. It still makes me furious just to think about it, so I have to work on forgiveness once again.

In my office, if a physician (me) has not read it, it has not been scanned. There will NOT be surprises in the scanned chart. The unread old records are filed alphabetically and when I have a time turner, I will have time to read them all, right? And then in a visit, the person asks if I got their mammogram report. I have to LOOK, because I sign off on about a billion different pieces of paper a day and I really don’t remember the names of all the people who had normal mammograms. I don’t try to remember that: I know who has an abnormal one, because I am worrying about them.

3. Make a record trail that you can quote.

When you call the physicians office, get the name of each person you speak to. Write it down. Have them spell it. Ask how soon you will be called back. Ask what you should do if you do not get a call back. (That being said, every physician has to prioritize the calls. It’s sickest first, not first come first served. If your call really is an emergency, then you should be in an ambulance, not calling your doctor.)Our local mental health was in such disarray, understaffed, underfunded, that my instructions to non-suicidal patients were: “Call every day, be polite, and call until they make you an appointment. Do not wait for the call back. Call daily, they just don’t have enough staff.”

If you fax them the missing notes, keep a copy of the fax proof. Call after your fax the missing records. Ask if they received them and then write down the name of the person you spoke to, date and time. I put a computer message in the chart for 99% of the phone calls I have with patients. I may miss 1% because I get interrupted or a really sick patient arrives or another phone call or whatever. Ask when the physician or his assistant will be calling you back about the records or better yet, make an appointment: “He did not have the records, so I would like an appointment as soon as possible now that he has them.” This forces your physician to look at the old records, because the patient is coming in. I do not read old records before a new patient shows up. I used to, but then people no show for a one hour new patient visit and I feel used, abused and grumpy. So I don’t touch the old records until you show up. After two one hour new patient no shows we tell the person they need to find another physician. Two strikes on the new patient visit and they are out.

4. Hospital.

If a person is really really sick, family or friends should be there. Ask questions. Who is each person who comes in the room? Do they have the clinic notes? Don’t assume they do, I am not on our hospital’s EMR because it costs 2 million dollars. The inpatient hospitalist doctors almost never call for my notes. I fax my notes anyhow and call them, but the information gap is BIG ENOUGH TO DRIVE THE MOON THROUGH. Really. I am sorry to burst the electronic medical record bubble, but we have 500ish different EMRs in the US right now and they do not talk to each other, so every patient arrives accompanied by 2 years of paper records (or more), 200 pages or more. I joke that they need a bigger doctor because the paper is too heavy for my 130 pounds. And many many times, the hospital medicine list is wrong. It is old. It’s out of date. The person is sick as hell in the emergency room and they don’t remember that their lisinopril dose was changed three weeks ago. One person in the room with the sick person and keep a notebook and write down what the physicians and nurses say, time, date. Then if they start contradicting each other, ASK.

5. In clinic

Give your doctor the whole list right away: my foot hurts, my chest is really bad when I try to run up the stairs, there’s this thing on my arm and is my cholesterol too high? Don’t discuss one thing in detail and then bring up the next. I have long visits, but I can’t do justice to that list in one visit and I have to prioritize. This requires negotiation: the chest pain has my attention. You may be focused on your foot, but the number one killer is heart, so your doctor will worry about your heart first.

If the doctor asks you to bring in all your pills, bring them all in. There are three different types of metoprolol and five strengths of each. Do you know the type and strength of every drug? I want to see your vitamin bottles because vitamin B1 can cause neuropathy from too high doses and yes, they can sell high doses. I want to see the supplements: why are you taking bovine thymus/testicle pills? By the way, if the doctor actually looks at the supplements, keep that doctor. Most don’t.

6. Be careful out there. Good luck.

Long notes and unhappy patients.

A patient of mine saw a cardiologist recently.

His previous cardiologist has retired. The patient had a cardiac bypass in the past, he has a stent, he has known coronary heart disease and he’s in the young half of my practice. That is, under 60.

He had not seen a cardiologist for 2-3 years because he had a work injury, worked with Labor and Industries, the case was closed, he couldn’t go back to work, he found a lawyer. He lost his regular health insurance along with the job, so couldn’t see the cardiologist.

The L & I case is reopened. A physiatrist recommended specific treatment that was not done, and that allowed the case to reopen.

The specific treatment center then notes that he has heart disease and that he needs clearance from a cardiologist. I set him up with a new cardiologist.

“How was the visit?” I ask.

He shrugs. “The staff was nice.”

“I have the note.”

“The cardiologist spent under ten minutes with me. It was clear that she was rushed. She did not seem very interested. It was difficult to get my questions answered.”

“Her note is six pages.”

He snorts. “Great that she could get a six page note out of that visit.”

“Do you want a copy?”

“No.”

He is cleared for the specific treatment.

I have no doubt that the cardiologist spent more than 6-8 minutes on his visit and his note. But not in the room. Other people are entering the information filled out in the waiting room, medicines, allergies, past medical history, family history. Hopefully the cardiologist is reading my note and letter. But the problem is, doctors aren’t doing it in the room. So the impression left with the patient is that we spend 6-8 minutes on their visit, we are late, we are rushed. Doctors are looking at data. They are not listening to patients.

Medical Economics, a journal that arrives without me asking for it, says over and over that we need more physician “extenders”, that we need to have people doing the data entry, people doing the patient teaching, more people and machines….No. They are wrong. We need LESS barriers between us and the patients, not MORE. We need more time with patients. Every single extender we add burns physicians out more, because the salary has to be paid AND more patients seen faster to do that AND we are still ultimately responsible for knowing and reading and absorbing every single piece of information that is placed in that patient’s chart. An extender is NOT an extension of my brain and an extender is another person I have to communicate with and train.

Just. Say. No. to the managers who pile MORE barriers between the physician and the patient. NO.


It just makes me so mad that he lost his health insurance BECAUSE he got injured at work and so then his heart disease goes untreated as well… can’t afford medicines…if he then has a heart attack while uninsured we lifeflight him to Seattle, it costs a fortune, he loses his house and property and then is on medicaid and may end up on permanent disability, and what are the chances he returns to work? The US medical corporate money grubbing is insane. Single payer, medicare for all, make the US great again.

P for prior authorization

The letter P and my theme is happy things. But what comes to mind are these P words: prior authorization,  pharmaceutical, payer.

Prior authorizations are NOT a happy thing. The latest twist from insurance companies, three different ones in the last week, is that they are requiring prior authorization for old inexpensive medicines. I ordered a muscle relaxant for night time only on Thursday last week for a person with a flare of back pain. Friday I was dismayed to see that the insurance company was requiring a prior authorization. I have to prioritize the order of urgency of all the work: I did not have time. I called the patient who had paid cash for it. The insurance company wins. They didn’t have to pay for a covered medicine because they made it difficult to get. They keep the patient’s money.

Prior authorizations are on the rise very rapidly. With over 800 insurance companies, each with a different website, each with multiple insurance “products”, no one can keep up with it. It is a shell game, the ball under the cup, three cups moving, but the ball is the money and it’s already palmed by the insurance companies. I predict that this will continue to get worse. We do need a single payer system for the simple reason that physicians will not be able to hire enough staff to learn and navigate 800 different websites. I do most prior authorizations on the phone in the room with the patient: the other day we spent 35 minutes on the phone only to have the insurance company say that we had called the wrong number. Call another one. Not the one on the insurance card. We could complain to the state insurance commissioner, but my patient is afraid of losing their insurance. Time’s up. The prior authorization is not obtained, and we are five minutes into the next patient’s visit. People are finding that the medicine they have taken for 20 years suddenly requires prior authorization.

And remember: prior authorization is your insurance company making rules and extra paperwork for your physician. It is advertised as a way to save money, but it costs YOU money. Back in 2009, the estimate was that physicians in the US had to spend 90,000$ per year EACH on employees to do prior authorizations by computer or phone. And YOUR insurance dollars go to the employees at the insurance company refusing medicines and dreaming up new medicines to refuse. They change the contract. Every year and during the year. The law is now that 80 cents of each dollar must go to healthcare, not profit, but those computer and phone employees are counted as healthcare. Do we really think that is healthcare?

Take CT scans. Medicare does NOT require prior authorization. But most insurance companies do. Think about that. Is age the difference? CT scans increase cancer risk over time so physicians don’t order them by reflex.

And for pharmaceuticals, insurance companies often have an on line formulary. But it is different for every insurance “product” in individual companies. A patient and I were trying to sort out a less expensive medicine on a website and we were having difficulty figuring out which insurance she had. Multiple abbreviations and color coding and we could spend the entire clinic visit just figuring it out. Is that what medicine is in the United States? You can say that someone else in the office could do it, but the more employees your physician hires, the less time the physician will spend with you, because he or she has to pay all of those people.

If there was one set of rules, one website, I would learn it. Medicare for all, single payer, when will the United States people wake up and tell congress: if you want our vote, make it so.

P

But wait, where are the happy things? I am so happy that I still am in business in my small clinic, p for patients and patience and prayer and single payer, we will have medicare for all in my lifetime. Whether I am still a practicing physician in the US at that time is uncertain. If I can’t afford my own health insurance, my clinic will close. Wouldn’t that be ironic?