Category Archives: Doctors

Doctor’s office research – What is it? What’s it to you?




Facilitated by Benjamin Wilfond MD, Seattle Children’s Research Institute

speech-bubbleJoin us for an engaging and intimate discussion about research that happens in your doctor’s office.

What? You thought research only happened at universities or hospitals, right?

It turns out that plenty of decisions, like which hand gel to use or which blood pressure medicine to prescribe, vary by a lot without much rhyme or reason.

Doctors want better evidence for these decisions.  But how much should patients know and be able to agree to?

Learn more at

Each Conversation in the series explores a topic in biomedical science and its role in society, connecting people to the biomedical research community



Tuesday June 9
5:45 – 7:30 PM


Kakao Chocolate + Coffee
415 Westlake Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109


$5 NWABR members| $10 General admission, Includes discussion, appetizers, espresso and first glass of beer or wine if 21+

Everyone is welcome.  No science background necessary.


Description of research in your doctor’s office

Influence of doctors’ demographic on their medical practice

Making evidence-based medicine doable in everyday practice


Top medical school revamps requirements — to lure English majors



Dr. David Muller, a professor and dean at Mount Sinai Medical School, helps first-year students prepare to do physical exams on each other as part of a class called “The Art and Science of Medicine.” (Photo: Cindy Carpien for KHN)

Dr. David Muller, a professor and dean at Mount Sinai Medical School, helps first-year students prepare to do physical exams on each other as part of a class called “The Art and Science of Medicine.” (Photo: Cindy Carpien for KHN)

By Julie Rovner

NEW YORK — You can’t tell by looking which med students at Mount Sinai were traditional pre-meds in college and which weren’t. And that’s exactly the point.

Most of the class majored in biology or chemistry or some other “hard” science; crammed for the MCAT (the Medical College Admission Test) and did well at both.

But a growing percentage came through Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s “Hu-Med” program, which stands for Humanities in Medicine. They majored in things like English, history or medieval studies. And they didn’t even take the MCAT because Mount Sinai guaranteed them admission after their sophomore year of college.

Adding students who are educated in more than science to the mix is a serious philosophy at Mount Sinai.

David Muller is Mount Sinai’s Dean for Medical Education.  One full wall of his cluttered office is a massive whiteboard almost totally full with to-do tasks and memorable quotes. One reads: “Science is the foundation of an excellent medical education, but a well-rounded humanist is best suited to make the most of that education.”


Mount Sinai Dean of Medical Education Dr. David Muller stands in front of a whiteboard in his office filled with notes along side memorable quotes. (Photo: Cindy Carpien for KHN)

The Hu-Med program dates back to 1987, when then-Dean Nathan Kase wanted to do something about what had become known as “pre-med syndrome.” That’s the idea that the drive for straight As and high test scores was actually producing sub-par doctors. Students were too single-minded. Continue reading


Facing death but fighting the aid-in-dying movement


Stephanie Packer (Photo by Stephanie O’Neill / KPCC)

By Stephanie O’Neill
Southern California Public Radio

Stephanie Packer was 29 when she found out she has a terminal lung disease.

It’s the same age as Brittany Maynard, who last year was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Maynard, of northern California, opted to end her life via physician-assisted suicide in Oregon last fall.

Maynard’s quest for control over the end of her life continues to galvanize the “aid-in-dying” movement nationwide, with legislation pending in California and a dozen other states.

But unlike Maynard, Packer says physician-assisted suicide will never be an option for her.

“Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away – that’s absolutely natural,” Packer says. “I absolutely have been there, and I still get there some days. But I don’t get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn’t have to be.”

A recent spring afternoon in Packer’s kitchen is a good day, as she prepares lunch with her four children.


The Packer family gathers in the kitchen to cook dinner. From left: Jacob, 8; Brian Sr. ; Brian Jr., 11; Savannah, 5; Scarlett, 10; and Stephanie. (Photo by Stephanie O’Neill / KPCC)

“Do you want to help?” she asks the eager crowd of siblings gathered tightly around her at the stovetop.

“Yeah!” yells 5-year-old Savannah.

“I do!” says Jacob, 8.

Managing four kids as each vies for the chance to help make chicken salad sandwiches can be trying. But for Packer, these are the moments she cherishes. Continue reading


How one hospital brought its C-sections down in a hurry

In 2012, Hoag Hospital’s cesarean section rate was about 38 percent – five percent higher than the state average.  The Newport Beach hospital has been working to lower the amount of c-sections by stepping up data analysis and patient education (Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

In 2012, Hoag Hospital’s cesarean section rate was about 38 percent – five percent higher than the state average.(Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Anna Gorman

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.— Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, one of the largest and most respected facilities in Orange County, needed to move quickly.

A big insurer had warned that its maternity costs were too high and it might be cut from the plan’s network. The reason? Too many cesarean sections.

“We were under intense scrutiny,” said Dr. Allyson Brooks, executive medical director of Hoag’s women’s health institute.

The C-section rate at the time, in early 2012, was about 38 percent. That was higher than the state average of 33 percent and above most others in the area, according to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, which seeks to use data to improve birth outcomes.

Within three years, Hoag had lowered its cesarean section rates for all women to just over a third of all births. For low-risk births (first-time moms with single, normal pregnancies), the rate dropped to about a quarter of births. Hoag also increased the percentage of women who had vaginal births after delivering previous children by C-section.

In medicine, this qualifies as a quick turnaround. And the story of how Hoag changed sheds light on what it takes to rapidly improve a hospital’s performance of crucial services, to the benefit of patients, insurers and taxpayers.

Continue reading


The Doctor Will Video Chat With You Now: Insurer Covers Virtual Visits – NPR


you can live stream movies, why not live stream medical care?

Insurance company UnitedHealthcare will start covering visits to the doctor’s office — via video chat. Patients and physicians talk live online — on smartphones, tablets or home computer — to get to a clinical diagnosis.

This move to cybermedicine could save insurers a ton of money — or have unintended consequences.


Few using quality and price information to make health decisions


Shopping cart redBy Jordan Rau

Despite the government’s push to make health information more available, few people use concrete information about doctors or hospitals to obtain better care at lower prices, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Prices for the health care industry have historically been concealed and convoluted, unlike those for most other businesses. The 2010 health law aimed to make such information more transparent.

Only one in five people say they had seen specific cost or quality information about a hospital, insurer or doctor.

People shopping for insurance can now compare the prices of competing plans through online marketplaces, including premiums, deductibles and their share of any medical expenses.

The federal government also publishes more than 100 quality ratings about hospitals, as do some large private insurers.

Private groups such as Consumer Reports and U.S. News & World Report also rate providers, and Internet forums such as Yelp are now littered with easily accessible opinions.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about two of three people say it is still difficult to know how much specific doctors or hospitals charge for medical treatments or procedures. (KHN is an independent program of the foundation.)

Only about one in five people said they had seen specific cost or quality information about a hospital, insurer or doctor.

The poll found that this information rarely makes a difference. About 6 percent of people ever used quality information in making a decision regarding an insurer, hospital or doctor. And fewer than 9 percent used information about prices, most commonly in relation to health plans. Only 3 percent said they used price information about physicians, the poll found. Continue reading


Some states pay doctors more to treat Medicaid patients


Blue doctorBy Michael Ollove

Fifteen states are betting they can convince more doctors to accept the growing number of patients covered by Medicaid with a simple incentive: more money.

The Affordable Care Act gave states federal dollars to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care services—but only temporarily. The federal spigot ran dry on Jan. 1.

Fearing that lowering the rates would exacerbate the shortage of primary care doctors willing to accept patients on Medicaid, the 15 states are dipping into their own coffers to continue to pay the doctors more.

It seems to be working. Continue reading


Coalition pushes for health care cost and quality transparency


Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Lisa Gillespie

As consumers increasingly are being asked to pay a larger share of their health bills, a coalition of insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and provider and consumer advocacy groups launched Thursday a new push for greater transparency regarding the actual costs of services.

The group includes AARP, Novo Nordisk, the National Consumers League, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, the National Council for Behavioral Health and Aetna.

Transparency means all consumers have the information they need to estimate cost and quality of health services.

Health care transparency, long a buzz word, means all consumers — whether they are covered by Medicare, work-based insurance or without coverage at all — have access to information enabling them to estimate accurately the cost of health services, and compare physician quality rankings and outcomes.

The initiative, “Clear Choices,”  will add to private and government efforts already underway to get more such information to patients, including Medicare’s Physician Compare, and the Health Care Cost Institute’s ‘Guroo,’ which culls data from private insurers to provide average prices regionally.

The group’s first priority is advancing the Medicare doctor payment legislationp ending in the Senate because it includes a provision requiring Medicare to release for broader use a substantial amount of data on claims at the provider level.

The group’s other objectives include:

  • Improving quality measures for doctors and hospitals so that patients will be armed with more comparative information.
  • Requiring hospitals to be clearer regarding what may or may not be included in their cost estimates for care.
  • Creating better tools for consumers to make medical decisions based on price, quality and safety of medical services.

Continue reading


Medical schools try to reboot for 21st century


By Julie Rovner
Medicine has changed a lot in the past 100 years. But medical training has not.

Until now.  Spurred on by the need to train a different type of doctor, medical schools around the country are tearing up the textbooks and starting from scratch.

Most medical schools still operate under a model pioneered in the early 1900s by an educator named Abraham Flexner.

“Flexner did a lot of great things,” said Raj Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical student education at the University of Michigan Medical School. “But we’ve learned a lot and now we’re absolutely ready for a new model.”

And Michigan is one of many schools in the midst of a major overhaul of its curriculum.


Dr. Raj Mangrulkar and medical student Jesse Burk-Rafel (Photo by Leisa Thompson/For Kaiser Health News)

For example, in a windowless classroom, a small group of second year students are hard at work.

They’re not studying anatomy or biochemistry or any of the traditional sciences. They’re polishing their communications skills.

In the first exercise, students paired off and negotiated the price of a used BMW. Now they’re trying to settle on who should get credit for an imaginary medical journal article.

“I was thinking, kind of given our background and approach, that I would be senior author. How does that sound to you?” asks Jesse Burk-Rafel.

It may seem like an odd way for medical students to be spending their class time. But Erin McKean, the surgeon teaching the class, says it’s a serious topic for students who’ll have to communicate life and death matters during their careers. Continue reading


These doctors want a choice in how they they die


Hoping To Live, These Doctors Want A Choice In How They Die

Photo by Anna Gorman

Dr. Dan Swangard (Photo by Anna Gorman/KHN).

By Anna Gorman

SAN FRANCISCO — Dan Swangard knows what death looks like.

As a physician, he has seen patients die in hospitals, hooked to morphine drips and overcome with anxiety.

He has watched dying drag on for weeks or months as terrified relatives stand by helplessly.

Recently, however, his thoughts about how seriously ill people die have become personal. Swangard was diagnosed in 2013 with a rare form of metastatic cancer.

To remove the cancer, surgeons took out parts of his pancreas and liver, as well as his entire spleen and gallbladder.

The operation was successful but Swangard, 48, knows there’s a strong chance the disease will return. And if he gets to a point where there’s nothing more medicine can do, he wants to be able to control when and how his life ends.

“It’s very real for me,” said Swangard, who lives in Bolinas, Calif. “This could be my own issue a year from now.”

That’s one of the reasons Swangard joined a California lawsuit last month seeking to let doctors prescribe lethal medications to certain patients who want to hasten death. If he were given only months to live, Swangard said, he can’t say for certain whether he would take them.

“But I want to be able to make that choice,” he said. Continue reading


Even in nursing, men earn more than women


woman_doctor_surgeon_bigBy Julie Rovner

Women outnumber men in the nursing profession by more than 10 to 1. But men still earn more, a new study finds.

The report in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association found that even after controlling for age, race, marital status and children in the home, males in nursing out-earned females by nearly $7,700 per year in outpatient settings and nearly $3,900 in hospitals.

Even as men flowed into nursing over the past decades, the pay gap did not narrow over the years studied: 1988 to 2013.

According to the Census Bureau, men made up about 9 percent of registered nurses in 2011, roughly a three-fold increase from 1970. And even though men were not permitted in nursing programs at some schools until the 1980s, they have overall earned more, just as in society at large.

The biggest disparity was for nurse anesthetists, with men earning $17, 290 more. Continue reading


Teaching doctors to empathize


empathy-770By Sandra G Boodman

The patient was dying and she knew it. In her mid-50s, she had been battling breast cancer for years, but it had spread to her bones, causing unrelenting pain that required hospitalization.

Jeremy Force, a first-year oncology fellow at Duke University Medical Center who had never met the woman, was assigned to stop by her room last November to discuss her decision to enter hospice.

Employing the skills he had just learned in a day-long course, Force sat at the end of her bed and listened intently. The woman wept, telling him she was exhausted and worried about the impact her death would have on her two daughters.

“I acknowledged how hard what she was going through was,” Force said of their 15-minute conversation, “and told her I had two children, too” and that hospice was designed to provide her additional support.

Unlike sympathy, which is defined as feeling sorry for another person, clinical empathy is the ability to stand in a patient’s shoes.

A few days later, he ran into the woman in the hall. “You’re the best physician I’ve ever worked with,” Force remembers her telling him. “I was blown away,” he says. “It was such an honor.”

Force credits “Oncotalk,” a course required of Duke’s oncology fellows, for the unexpected accolade.

Developed by medical faculty at Duke, the University of Pittsburgh and several other medical schools, “Oncotalk” is part of a burgeoning effort to teach doctors an essential but often overlooked skill: clinical empathy.

Unlike sympathy, which is defined as feeling sorry for another person, clinical empathy is the ability to stand in a patient’s shoes and to convey an understanding of the patient’s situation as well as the desire to help. Continue reading


Recruiting retired physicians to help solve a looming doctor shortage – The Washington Post


doctors-300An online program created in collaboration with the UC San Diego School of Medicine faculty aims to help address the nation’s shortage of primary care physicians, a critical health-care issue highlighted by the Association of American Medical Colleges on Tuesday.

Created by educators at the medical school and primary care physicians who are renowned experts in physician training and assessment, Physician Retraining and Reentry (PRR) provides physicians of all backgrounds, retired and otherwise, the tools needed to offer adult outpatient primary care in their current practices or at understaffed clinics across the country.

via Recruiting retired physicians to help solve a looming doctor shortage – The Washington Post.


Rush University Adds Patient Scores to Doctor Profiles — Doctors Lounge


Patient feedback goes on doctors’ profile pages

C plus gradeRush University Medical Center’s website has started adding the results of patient surveys to individual physician profiles, according to a report published by the medical center.

Feedback is gathered each year using data from approximately 17,000 patients who receive mail or e-mail surveys after appointments. Patients are asked for feedback about care and service in more than 30 questions, including 10 that focus on their care providers.

Patient feedback will be made available for any provider for whom the medical center has received 30 or more surveys in a one-year period.

via Rush University Adds Patient Scores to Doctor Profiles –Doctors Lounge.