Category Archives: Doctors

Oliver Sacks: A neurologist at the ‘Intersection of Fact and Fable’

Share

The neurologist, who died Sunday, saw “infinitely moving, dramatic, romantic situations” during his decades studying the human brain. Fresh Air remembers Sacks with two interviews from 1985 and 2012.

Share

Rest assured: Surgeons’ late-night work doesn’t cause patients harm – study

Share

surgeons performing surgery in operating roomBy Lisa Gillespie
KHN

Patients receiving common operations in the daytime fared no worse in the short-term if their attending physician worked a hospital graveyard shift the night before than patients whose doctor did not, according to a new study examining the effects of sleep deprivation on surgeons. Continue reading

Share

Why your doctor won’t friend you on Facebook

Share

like-thumb-facebookBy Shefali Luthra
KHN

Doctors’ practices are increasingly trying to reach their patients online. But don’t expect your doctor to “friend” you on Facebook – at least, not just yet.

Physicians generally draw a line: Public professional pages – focused on medicine, similar to those other businesses offer – are catching on. Some might email with patients.

But doctors aren’t ready to share vacation photos and other more intimate details with patients, or even to advise them on medication or treatment options via private chats.

They’re hesitant to blur the lines between personal lives and professional work and nervous about the privacy issues that could arise in discussing specific medical concerns on most Internet platforms.

Some of that may eventually change. One group, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, broke new ground this year in its latest social media guidelines. It declined to advise members against becoming Facebook friends, instead leaving it to physicians to decide.

“If the physician or health care provider trusts the relationships enough … we didn’t feel like it was appropriate to really try to outlaw that,” said Nathaniel DeNicola, an ob-gyn and clinical associate at the University of Pennsylvania, who helped write the ACOG guidelines. Continue reading

Share

New tool helps you check on doctors’ licensure info

Share

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 12.46.16 PMFrom the FSMB

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has launched a free online resource to provide consumers with important background information on the more than 900,000 actively licensed physicians in the United States, including whether or not a physician has been disciplined by a state medical board.

The Docinfo physician search tool (www.docinfo.org) draws data from the FSMB’s Physician Data Center, the nation’s most comprehensive database of physician licensure and disciplinary information. Continue reading

Share

To address doctor shortages, states focus on residencies

Share

By Rebecca Beitsch
Stateline

Last year, 369 students graduated from Iowa medical schools, but at least 131 of them had to finish their training elsewhere because Iowa had only 238 residency positions available.

The story was the same for at least 186 students who graduated from Missouri medical schools and 200 who studied at Tennessee schools.

States such as New York, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were happy to take them—all four states took in more residents than students they trained.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 10.17.55 AM

This is the world of medical resident matching. When states don’t have enough residency positions for the medical students they’ve trained, they become resident exporters. When states have more residency positions than they have students to fill them, they become importers.  Continue reading

Share

Uncoordinated patient transfers spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria – CDC video

Share


A growing number of infections are antibiotic resistant. Antibiotic-resistant infections are spreading between healthcare facilities, even those that are practicing infection control and antibiotic stewardship. By adopting a coordinated approach, however, where multiple facilities in an area work together to improve infection control and stewardship activities, we can reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections and protect patients.

Share

Yelp! adds medical quality data to its ratings

Share

yelp-logoStay far, far away’ and other things gleaned from Yelp health reviews

By Charles Ornstein ProPublica, Aug. 6, 2015, 5 a.m.
This story was co-published with NPR’s Shots blog.

Dental patients really don’t like Western Dental. Not its Anaheim, California clinic: “I hate this place!!!” one reviewer wrote on the rating site Yelp. Or one of its locations in Phoenix: “Learn from my terrible experience and stay far, far away.”

In fact, the chain of low-cost dental clinics, which has more Yelp reviews than any other health provider, has been repeatedly, often brutally, panned in some 3,000 online critiques 2014379 include the word “horrible.” Its average rating: 1.8 out of five stars.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 9.47.38 AMPatients on Yelp aren’t fans of the ubiquitous lab testing company Quest Diagnostics either. The word “rude” appeared in 13 percent of its 2,500 reviews (average 2.7 stars). “It’s like the seventh level of hell,” one reviewer wrote of a Quest lab in Greenbrae, California.

Indeed, doctors and health professionals everywhere could learn a valuable lesson from the archives of Yelp: Your officious personality or brusque office staff can sink your reputation even if your professional skills are just fine.

“Rudest office staff ever. Also incompetent. I will settle for rude & competent or polite & incompetent. But both rude & incompetent is unacceptable,” wrote one Yelp reviewer of a New York internist.

ProPublica and Yelp recently agreed to a partnership, which will allow information from ProPublica’s interactive health databases to begin appearing on Yelp’s health provider pages.

In addition to reading about consumers’ experiences with hospitals, nursing homes and doctors, Yelp users will see objective data about how the providers’ practice patterns compare to their peers. Continue reading

Share

A surgeon with a history of complications, a felony past

Share

20150717-toumbis-mug-630

Toumbis' booking photo and an excerpt from the police report.

Toumbis’ booking photo and an excerpt from the police report.

by Marshall Allen and Olga Pierce
ProPublica

Officer Richard Walter looked out the window of his patrol car and saw two young men trading punches outside Sutter’s Saloon.

It was 2 a.m. on what should have been a forgettable night shift in 1989. Sutter’s was near the State University of New York at Buffalo 2013 a student hangout, not a rough dive. Walter, now a seasoned detective, still can’t shake the bizarre and bloody memory of that night.

The men didn’t notice the cop pull into the parking lot. Walter grabbed his baton and approached, then saw a glint of metal. One of the men held a knife, the blade protruding three inches from his clenched fist.

Instantly a geyser of blood spurted from the unarmed man’s neck onto Walter’s uniform 2013 10 feet away. The man collapsed, his neck slashed open “from his ear to his Adam’s apple,” Walter said, recalling what he wrote in the police report. Blood pulsed onto the pavement from his severed carotid artery and jugular vein.

Walter drew his gun and pointed it. The attacker dropped the knife and clasped his hands around his victim’s gashed neck to stanch the bleeding.

“I’m a medical student,” the attacker said. “I know what I’m doing.” Continue reading

Share

Online scorecard helps you pick a surgeon

Share

surgeons performing surgery in operating roomThe independent investigative journalism website ProPublica has created online “Surgeon Scorecard” that you can use to find out a surgeon’s complication rate for eight commonly performed operations.

To learn about the complication rates of surgeons working at hospitals in Washington state go here.

Share

Do cell phones belong in the OR?

Share

Next time you’re on the operating table and you have one last look around as the anesthesiologist approaches, don’t be too sure that that person in scrubs looking at a smartphone is pulling up vital health data.

He or she might be texting a friend, or ordering a new carpet.

Cellphone use is not generally restricted in the operating room, but some experts say the time for rules has come. In interviews, many described co-workers’ texting friends and relatives from the surgical suite. Some spoke of colleagues who hide a phone in a drawer and check it when they think no one is watching.

Cellphone use is not generally restricted in the operating room, but some experts say the time for rules has come.

“Sometimes it’s just stuff like shopping online or checking Facebook,” said Dwight Burney, an orthopedic surgeon from Albuquerque. “The problem is that it does lead to distraction.” This can result in medical errors or lax safety procedures, such as forgetting to check a patient’s identity, he said.

In one 2011 incident, a Texas anesthesiologist was accused of sending text messages and e-mails while monitoring a patient. Her oxygen levels dropped, which the anesthesiologist allegedly didn’t notice for close to 20 minutes, and she died in surgery. The woman’s family sued the anesthesiologist. The case was settled before going to trial. Continue reading

Share

Uninsured rate falls to historic low – Gallup survey finds

Share

rtu6cnurdkyssge7nehvaw

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults aged 18 and older was 11.4% in the second quarter of 2015, down from 11.9% in the first quarter.

The uninsured rate has dropped nearly six percentage points since the fourth quarter of 2013, just before the requirement for Americans to carry health insurance took effect.

The latest quarterly uninsured rate is the lowest Gallup and Healthways have recorded since daily tracking of this metric began in 2008.

Full story here.

Share

‘A terrible way to end someone’s life’

Share

By Stephanie O’Neill, Southern California Public Radio

Nora Zamichow says if she and her husband, Mark Saylor, had known how doctors die, they may have made different treatment decisions for him at the end of his life (Maya Sugarman/KPCC).

“I felt like I was beating up people up at the end of their life,” she says.

It looks nothing like what people see on TV. In real life, ribs often break and few survive the ordeal.

A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness.

“I felt like I was beating up people up at the end of their life,” she says.

It looks nothing like what people see on TV. In real life, ribs often break and few survive the ordeal.

Gorlitsky now teaches medicine at the University of Southern California and says these early clinical experiences have stayed with her.

“I would be doing the CPR with tears coming down sometimes, and saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, goodbye.’ Because I knew it very likely was not going to be successful. It just seemed a terrible way to end someone’s life.”

Gorlitsky wants something different for herself and for her loved ones. And most other doctors do too: A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness. Continue reading

Share

Doctors order fewer preventive services for Medicaid patients – study finds

Share

Blue doctorMichelle Andrews
KHN

Gynecologists ordered fewer preventive services for women who were insured by Medicaid than for those with private coverage, a recent study found.

The study by researchers at the Urban Institute examined how office-based primary care practices provided five recommended preventive services over a five-year period.

The services were clinical breast exams, pelvic exams, mammograms, Pap tests and depression screening.

The study used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a federal health database of services provided by physicians in office-based settings.

It looked at 12,444 visits to primary care practitioners by privately insured women and 1,519 visits by women who were covered by Medicaid between 2006 and 2010.

That difference reflects the fact that the share of women who are privately insured is seven times larger than those on Medicaid, the researchers said. Pregnancy-related visits and visits to clinics were excluded from the analysis.

Overall, 26 percent of the visits by women with Medicaid included at least one of the five services, compared with 31 percent of the visits by privately insured women. Continue reading

Share

For doctors who take a break from practice, coming back can be tough

Share
Family practitioner Kate Gibson checks 4-year-old Ashley del Torro’s throat for an infection at the Eisner Pediatric Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on Friday, June 5, 2015. Gibson completed a re-entry program in order to return to practice medicine after a 10-year break to raise her four children (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Family practitioner Kate Gibson checks 4-year-old Ashley del Torro’s throat for an infection at the Eisner Pediatric Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on Friday, June 5, 2015. Gibson completed a re-entry program in order to return to practice medicine after a 10-year break to raise her four children (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN)

By Anna Gorman
KHN

After taking a 10-year break from practicing medicine to raise four sons, Kate Gibson was ready to go back to work.

The family practitioner had been reading about a shortage of primary care doctors and knew she could help. But when Gibson, 51, applied to work at her former hospital near Los Angeles, she was turned away. She’d been out of clinical practice too long.

“I really thought it was not going to be that hard,” she said.

Like many professionals, physicians take time off to raise children, care for sick family members or to recover from their own illnesses. Some want to return from retirement or switch from non-clinical jobs back to seeing patients. But picking up where they left off is more difficult in medicine than in most careers.

In medicine, change occurs quickly. Drugs, devices and surgical techniques that were standard a decade ago may now be obsolete. Or a returning doctor’s skills may simply be rusty.

In medicine, change occurs quickly. Drugs, devices and surgical techniques that were standard a decade ago may now be obsolete. Or a returning doctor’s skills may simply be rusty.

“My hands feel like those of an intern,” said Molly Carey, 36, an Ivy-League educated doctor who recently enrolled in a Texas retraining program after four years away from patients.

After extended leaves, doctors must convince medical boards to reissue their licenses, hospitals to grant admitting privileges and malpractice insurers to provide coverage. Only a handful of programs around the country are set up to help physicians brush up on their skills, and they can cost doctors thousands of dollars.

“Medical schools do a fantastic job graduating brand new medical students,” said Humayun J. Chaudhry, president of the Federation of State Medical Boards. “But what about people who have already graduated and need to get some retraining? There is a clearly a dearth of those kind of training programs.”

Policymakers and professional organizations are pushing to make the process less burdensome and costly – in part because it may help ease shortages of primary care doctors. Continue reading

Share