Adverse Childhood Experiences 9: crisis wiring

I spoke to a patient recently about ACE scores. A veteran. Who has had trouble sleeping since childhood.

“What was your childhood like?” I say. “Was sleeping safe?”

“No, it wasn’t. We were in (one of the major cities) in a very bad part of town.”

“So not sleeping well may have been appropriate. To keep you safe. To survive.”

We both think this veteran has PTSD.

“I think I had PTSD as a child. And then the military made it worse.”

I show the veteran the CDC website and ACE pyramid: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html.

Adverse childhood experiences. Leading to disrupted neurodevelopment. Leading to a higher risk of mental health disorders, addiction, high risk behavior, medical disorders and early death.

Ugly, eh? Damaged children.

“But I don’t agree with it.” I say.

My veteran looks at me.

“Disrupted neurodevelopment.” I say. “I don’t agree with that. Different neurodevelopment. Crisis neurodevelopment. We have to have it as a species in order to survive. Think of the Syrian children escaping in boats, parents or sibling drowning. We have to have crisis wiring. It isn’t wrong, it’s different. The problem is really that our culture does not support this wiring.”

“You can say that again.”

“Our culture wants everyone to be raised by the Waltons. Or Leave it to Beaver. But the reality is that things can happen to any child. So we MUST have crisis wiring. Our culture needs to change to support and heal and not outcast those of us with high ACE Scores.”

My Veteran is quiet, thinking that over.

I say, “You may read more about ACE scores but you do not have to. And we can work more on the sleep. And we do believe more and more that the brain can heal and can rewire. But you were wired to survive your childhood and there is no shame in that.”

 

I took the picture in Wisconsin in August.

 

the unwashed masses

I don’t have any of THEM as patients. The unwashed masses. All of my patients are smart.

There aren’t any unwashed masses.

I have a gentleman who is overweight, obese, diabetes. He is not stupid. He is not unwashed. He is not exercising or controlling his blood sugar right now because the temperature is below freezing. He has a hole in his trailer floor and no heat. So he huddles under the electric blanket.

I have a gentlewoman, also diabetic. She too is not stupid. She is not unwashed. She lost her husband to cancer and then everything else and then was homeless for a period. She has a small house but she has no heat. She stays in bed to stay warm. Her contractor quit before he put in the furnace and he’s gone bankrupt. She is cold.

I have veterans. They are not stupid. They are not unwashed. One was homeless for a long period and pooled his resources with another to rent a section 8 house. I am so proud of them. They are having trouble living together, each would rather live alone. Only sometimes they would rather not be alone. It is hard.

I have a massage therapist. She started to train as a counselor. To be a counselor, she needs a certain number of supervised hours and was getting this through the county mental health. “I didn’t know.” she says. “It is taking twice as long as I thought because half the time they don’t show up. They don’t show up because they don’t have gas, they don’t have food, they have been evicted, their son is in jail, they are in jail. I had no idea. My massage clientele is so different, they pay. I thought poverty was in third world countries, but it is here, in my county. I didn’t know.”

I know the people who live in the woods. A schizophrenic who comes once a month for his shot. He was losing weight. “Why are you losing weight?” I demand. “I am only eating once a day.” he says. I nag him to go to the community meals. He is shy, he is afraid of people and he is hungry. He is not stupid. He is not unwashed.

I have opiate addicts. Six years ago one expressed concern. He is 6 foot 5 and big. “I am afraid of some of the other people. You shouldn’t be doing this! It’s too scary and dangerous!” My opiate addicts are not stupid. My opiate addicts are not unwashed. Sometimes they relapse. Sometimes they die, in their 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s.

One in six people in the US is below the poverty level. They are not stupid. They are not unwashed.

And when someone talks about the masses, the people, the stupid people, most people are stupid, the sheep….

….I am beyond angry….

….my heart hurts….

Poverty in the US: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-tps153.html.

More: http://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty.html.

The examples are taken from 25 years of practice, details changed for hipaa, but I can list dozens at any one time. The photograph is during the sunset after clinic, when I walked down town, the view across the sound.

 

Veteran

My clinic has gotten three calls in the last week to take more rural Veteran’s Choice patients. One was too far away on Whidby Island. Apparently few providers will work with Veteran’s Choice: but I understand that too, because it took me a full year to get the contractor for the insurance, Triwest, to start paying me. And it took me hours, hours that I could spend doing medicine, instead of fighting with a corrupt for profit corporation.

And I am glad that I won that round.

I took the photograph at our Rhody Parade, in 2006.

Fraud in medicine: Veterans Choice

Yesterday I tried another tack to get paid for seeing Veterans Choice patients.

We are more than 40 miles from the nearest Veterans Hospital. Starting May of 2015, I was called by the Veterans administration to ask if I would accept a veteran as a patient. I said yes. I have seven by now, but we are currently refusing to take more.

That is, I can see them, but so far I have not been paid a penny.

The VA sends me an authorization from Triwest, the (for profit) contractor in the Northwest region, I see the patient, I fax my note and everything to Triwest, I fill out forms for referrals…. my biller follows Triwest’s instructions…. and they do not pay us. Over 25 visits now, over $5000.00

I have called Triwest, I have written to my senator and representative, I have called and called….

Yesterday I looked at this site: http://www.va.gov/

From there to the US map: http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/division.asp?dnum=1&isFlash=0.

We are district 20: http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/region.asp?map=1&ID=20

VA Puget Sound Seattle: http://www.pugetsound.va.gov/

Under “about us” a dropdown menu to the leadership team: http://www.pugetsound.va.gov/about/leadership.asp

And I called the office of William H. Campbell, MD, FACHE | 206-277-1330, chief of staff, third one down.

The administrative assistant who answered asked if he was expecting my call.

No, I said and explained. I said that I very much like my veterans and would like to continue to work with them but as the owner, CEO and sole physician in a small business, I do need to get paid. Please help.

She put me on hold. And then I spoke to Dr. Campbell and explained again. I said that I am not getting paid, we have contacted Triwest multiple times and followed their instructions, when I call Veterans Choice the response I get is “I don’t know.” and that my patients can’t get their mail order refills because even though the VA called me to see the patient, I am not “entered” in to their pharmacy system.

Later I got a call from a person who promised to speak to Triwest and expedite payment.

I got a call from the head of pharmacy at the Seattle VA.

Who knows? I might, someday, get a check from Triwest.

The issue is really that this is not an isolated problem. All of the insurances are getting worse. I get postcards from 50 different insurance programs a month telling me how they have changed their benefits for the different plans and inviting me to go on line and read their detailed instructions. Noridian, the northwest for profit contractor for medicare, held my payments for 5 months last year because they were getting audited and suddenly realized that my application and everyone else’s had been wrong for years. Doctors are quitting all over the Olympic Peninsula and I suspect all over the United States. At this point I do not think anyone could DESIGN a more unintelligent, arcane, frustrating system. And if you see a US doctor, half of their staff is there to go on line or on the phone to get prior authorization to get a CT scan, get an MRI, see a specialist. And the paperwork for every lab, every insurance company, every xray, every physical therapy office is DIFFERENT: tell me, is this efficient? No, but someone is making a huge amount of money and it is certainly not me. I want my health care dollar to go to health, not to stupidity and not to corporate profit.

And I am wondering if it is worth it……

I took the photo of the trees and bunkers at Fort Worden in 2005.

 

 

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….

Chronic pain update 2015

As a rural family practice physician, I am in an area with very few specialists. Our county has a 25 bed hospital and we have a urologist, three general surgeons, three orthopedists (except when we were down to none at one point), two part time hematologist oncologists and that’s it. We have a cardiologist who comes one day a week. We have a physicians assistant who worked with an excellent dermatologist for years: hooray! Local derm! Our neurologist retired and then died. We had two psychiatrists but one left. We had one working one half day a week.

I trained in treating opiate addiction with buprenorphine in 2010 and attended telemedicine with the University of Washington nearly weekly for a year and a half. Then life intervened. I attended last week again, but not the addiction medicine group. That is gone. Now there are two telemedicine pain groups.

And what have I learned since my Chronic pain update 2011?

Chronic opiates suck, and especially for “disorders of central pain processing” which includes fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, TMJ, chronic fatigue, and all of the other pain disorders where the brain pain centers get sensitized. We don’t know what triggers the sensitization, though a high Adverse Childhood Experience score puts a person more at risk. Cumulative trauma? Tired mitochondria? Incorrect gut microbiome? All of them, I suspect.

Jon Kabot Zinn, PhD has been studying mindfulness meditation for over 30 years. He has books, CDs, classes. Opiates at best drop pain levels an average of 30%. His classes drop pain levels an average of 50%. I’ve read two of his books, Full Catastrophe Living and ….. and I used the CD that came with the former to help me sleep after my father and sister died. Worked. Though I used the program where he says, “This is to help you fall more awake, not fall asleep.” Being contrary, it put me to sleep 100% of the time.

Body work is being studied. Massage, physical therapy, accupuncture, touch therapy and so forth. It turns out that when you have new physical input, the brain says, “Hey, turn down the pain fibers, I have to pay attention to the feathers touching my left arm.” So, if you have a body part with screwed up pain fibers, touch it. Touch it a lot, gently, with cold, with hot, with feathers, a washcloth, a spoon, something knobby, plastic. Better yet, have someone else touch it with things with your eyes closed and guess what the things are: your brain may tell the pain centers “Shut up, I’m thinking.” Well, sensing. A study checking hormone blood levels every ten minutes during a massage showed the stress hormone cortisol dropping in half and pain medicating hormones dropping in half. So, massage works. Touch works. Hugs work. Go for it.

There are new medicines. I don’t like pills much. However, the tricyclic antidepressants, old and considered passe, are back. They especially help with the central pain processing disorders. I haven’t learned the current brain pathway theories. The selective serotonin uptake reinhibitors (prozac, paxil, celexa, etc) increase the amount of serotonin in the receptors: chronic pain folks and depressed folks have low serotonin there, so increasing it helps many. As an “old” doc, that is, over 50, I view new medicines with suspicion. They often get pulled off the market in 10 to 20 years. I can wait. I will use them cautiously.

We are less enthused about antiinflammatories. People bleed. The gut bleeds. Also, the body uses inflammation to heal an area. So, does an antiinflammatory help? Very questionable.

Diet can affect pain. When I had systemic strep, I would go into ketosis within a couple of hours of eating as the strep A in my muscles and lungs fed on the carbohydrates in my blood. This did not feel good. However, the instant I was ketotic, my burning strep infected muscles would stop hurting. Completely. I am using a trial diet in clinic for some of my chronic pain patients. I had a woman recently try it for two weeks. She came back and said that her osteoarthritis pain disappeared in her right hip entirely. She then noticed that the muscles ached around her left hip. She has been limping for a while. The muscles are pissed off. She ate a slice of bread after the two weeks and the right hip osteoarthritis pain was back the next day. “Hmmmm.” I said. She and I sat silent for a bit. It’s stunning if we can have major effects on chronic pain with switching from a carb based diet to a ketotic one.

I attended one of the chronic pain telemedicines last week and presented a patient. My question was not about opiates at all, but about ACE scores and PTSD in a veteran. The telemedicine specialists ignored my question. They told me to wean the opiate. He’s on a small dose and I said I would prefer to wean his ambien and his benzodiazepines first. They talked down to me. One told me that when I was “taking a medicine away” I could make the patient feel better by increasing another one. As I weaned the oxycodone, I should increase his gabapentin. I thought, yeah, like my patients don’t know the difference between oxycodone and gabapentin. No wonder patients are angry at allopaths. I didn’t express that. Instead, I said that he’d nearly died of urosepsis two weeks ago, so we were focused on that rather than his back pain at the third visit. All but one physician ignored everything I said: but the doctor from Madigan thanked me for taking on veterans and offered a telepsychiatry link. That may actually be helpful. Maybe.

And that is my chronic pain update for 2015. Blessings to all.

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/

http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/about-us/people/2-meet-our-faculty/kabat-zinn-profile/

I can’t think of a picture for this. I don’t think it should have a picture.