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!

tech fan

We went downtown yesterday, walked, to the Kinetic Sculpture Race. They dress like clowns, but I have way more respect for the people at Kinetics than the US Senate.

There is a Maker Fair too, with the Robotics teams out and fundraising. The balls in the caught my eye. But it’s the very small tech fan that I admire. She is fascinated.

DSCN3997.JPG

I hope she has the opportunities. We need women in tech, in the Senate, in the House, in the Presidency.

Templates and the death of medicine

One of the many problems that are killing medicine in the US and especially primary care is templates.

Templates are a nightmare.

Why?

In a template, for back pain, there is a list of questions and in some there is also a list of answers. The “provider” asks the questions on the list and then checks off the answers. This is absolutely terrible brainless stupid failure of medicine. Because the most important answer that the patient gives is the one that does not fit the routine pattern of back pain or ear pain.

For example, I saw a woman for a new patient visit for back pain. Years ago. Half way through the questions about back pain I say, “How long have you been hoarse?”

She stops. She has to think about it. “Three months.”

“Continuously or does it come and go?”

Again, thought. “Continuously.”

On with the back pain. But she gets TWO referrals, one to an otolaryngologist. I ask other voice and throat questions.

When she returns she thanks me. Continuous hoarseness is worrisome for vocal cord cancer. You have to rule it out. She did not have vocal cord cancer. She did have vocal cord polyps and was going to have laser surgery.

But as a physician or “provider” you have to PAY ATTENTION. And ignoring the thing that doesn’t “fit” or isn’t relevant or isn’t on the god damned template — just don’t do it.

Another new patient. Back pain. Routine, routine, routine, one in four people get it in their lives. All the questions indicating that it’s musculoskeletal, not a disc, 99% are not discs, until:

“Sometimes my leg goes numb from the knee down.”

I stop. “How often? The whole leg?”

“Whole leg, yes.” She doesn’t know how often.

“If that happens I want to see you right away. Call.”

…because that is not a disc and it’s not musculoskeletal. And people say that but usually it can’t be confirmed on exam.

She calls. “Both legs are numb from the knee down.”

“Get in here.”

On exam she is not only numb but the muscles of her feet and ankles are weak and the reflexes don’t work right. I call neurology, anxious. “MRI from her head to her tailbone.”

She has multiple sclerosis lesions, more than one, in her brain. And a normal brain MRI from a few years before when she also had weird symptoms….

So it is NOT the template, the routine questions, that diagnose odd things in medicine. It’s the off hand comment, the puzzle piece that doesn’t fit, the symptom or sign that I notice and that gets my attention.

I hate the templates when we first get an electronic medical system. It sucks. It generates unreadable generic sentences: “The patient has ear pain. The quality of the ear pain is sharp. The ear pain has gone on for 6 weeks. The level of the ear pain is high.” Etc. Ok, that patient sounds like a robot. I quickly figure out how to type into the stupid boxes and avoid the templates as much as possible. I also start offering additions to the templates. “Ok, add this to quality of ear pain: It feels like being kicked over and over with the metal pointed tip of a cowboy boot.” Also to tachycardia: “It feels like a salmon is swimming upstream in my chest.”

See patients for one thing only. That would have really helped the hoarse woman, right?  Do the template. Do 10, 15, or 20 minute visits. The best doctors are rebelling and quitting, especially in primary care, because this is killing medicine. Why see people for one thing only? MONEY. MONEY MONEY MONEY. No. I like to work in medicine and I like to dig down, pay attention, listen and watch for the little details that stick out, the puzzle pieces that don’t fit….

….because that is what real medicine is. Not template robot medicine.

Fraud in medicine: FAXMANIA!!

All right, the latest trend in the complete insanity that is the United States Medical Corporate Black Hole Eating The American Dream: FAXMANIA!!!!

I am a Veterans Choice rural provider. Well, I thought I was. But turns out even though the VA keeps calling me to accept new veterans who are more than 40 miles from the nearest VA, they have not paid me for one visit in 2015. And I did between 20 and 30.

Because, you see, even though they have me listed as a Veterans Choice Provider, the paper work is SPECIAL and it has to be PERFECT and we have to fax EVERYTHING.

So I have to fax every single clinic note to Veterans Choice. Where, presumably, they lose it and have plausible deniability. Also, when a patient comes to see me, they are only approved for ONE NEW PATIENT VISIT, TWO FOLLOW UP VISITS, WITHIN THE STATED DATES, which is two months. Then I have to fill out a form and send it to Veterans Choice, who sends it to triwest, to get approval to continue to be my patient’s primary care doctor FOR ONE YEAR ONLY. Then I have to remember to do it again. AND I have to fill out a form to send to Veterans Choice, who sends it to triwest, for every single referral or test more complicated (read: expensive) than an xray AND for labwork AND don’t forget to fax a copy of every clinic note to Veterans Choice so they know I did it AND now for one patient’s medicine, I have ALSO fax a copy of every note to his VA PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR so that she will refill his pain medicine because: Hell if I know, apparently it’s EASIER to fill from her than me because the VA has no frigging idea who I am.

And the Veterans Choice 40 mile rule? We have two patients now from Whidby Island. They have to take a ferry to see me. Yes, they can bring a car on the ferry. Yes, they can get here except when the ferry is canceled for very low tides or weather….Yes, it’s insane.

Meanwhile, this note from the State of Washington Health Care Authority, aka medicaid: “The Contractor shall require that when subcontracted provider organizations with certified EHRs see an Apple Health Managed Care enrollee, they send a care summary (CCDA) from the providers EHR to the WA Link4Health Clinical Data Repository beginning no later than February 1, 2017.” Translation? Oh, we have to send bloody proof that we saw the bloody patient in the form of a CCDA electronically OR ELSE! OR ELSE WE ARE BREAKING THE LAW! They wouldn’t want to fire us but you betcha they would love to fine the hell out of us. Note: This requirement only applies to provider organizations who have already invested in certified EHR technology.

Hi, Big Brother.

Now, fax is HIPAA compliant, as long as we include the cover disclaimer that IF WE SENT IT TO THE WRONG PLACE SHRED WITHOUT READING OR YOU WILL BE STRUCK DEAD BY LIGHTENING FROM THE SKY GODS AND/OR THE ORBITING LASER HIPAA POLICE.

And meanwhile I have lab order forms for the three labs in town (all completely different and even with different panels) and one in Sequim, also 6 different forms for 6 different places for xrays, CT scans, MRIs, a form for the Vascular imaging, a form for cardiology, different ones for each physical therapy office. Now the DMV disabled parking form must be accompanied by a prescription on legal Washington State prescription paper saying yeah, he is disabled. Why use one piece of paper when you can require two?

When I fill out lab orders for the local hospital, the patients sometimes say, “Can you fax that over?”

“Yes,” I say, “but they lose 50% of them.” No, really. We fax them and keep a copy and then the patient goes in and the lab calls and says, “We don’t have the order.” I am not sure if they are “lost” or just in a pile to be entered into the TIME SAVING ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORD COMPUTER SYSTEM THAT MAKES EVERYTHING FASTER AND MADE US PAPERLESS EXCEPT FOR THE TEN MILLION FAXES DAILY. “You are better off picking it up and handing it to them, or I can mail it to you.” The other day a patient asked if that was malice, since I am not in the hospital system. “No,” I said, “I think they have laid people off until there aren’t enough and the corporation dumps the long timers that know stuff and cost more.”

Once I was working on a holiday Monday. I had a patient who I thought had a new arrythmia. I called the hospital and asked the tech if we could do an outpatient ECG on this holiday.

“I don’t know.” the tech said.

There was a silence. I wondered if the tech would ask someone in authority.

“I’m new.” said the tech. “They’ve laid a lot of people off.”

Someone in authority WAS present. “We can do one on a holiday.” I said firmly. “I will send her right over. Call me when it’s done.” So the tech did it.

Where medicaid goes, medicare follows and then the insurance companies will too. Next, I predict that we will have to fax every note to the appropriate company every single visit, and to the secondary insurance too. And then they will install a video camera in each office and videotape every clinic visit…. and I will either be a physician in another country or be doing something else….

 

What, you say, does the shack have to do with this? I can always go live there, off the grid, if I can’t stand the paperwork and hoops I have to jump through. It is a play house at my family’s land on a lake in Ontario, built in the 1970s. Friends and I put a new roof on this year: their 6 year old was delighted. It would be frightfully cold in the winter and anyhow, I can only stand straight in the middle….