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Hospitalist Potpourri

I’m just back from the annual meeting of the Society of Hospital Medicine and, as usual, I was blown away. I’ve not seen a medical society meeting that is remotely like it. As Win Whitcomb, who co-founded SHM, wrote to me, the meeting is “a mix of love, deep sense of purpose, community, mission, changing-the […]

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#MomInHospital

A few weeks ago, a middle-aged man decided to tweet about his mother’s illness from her bedside. The tweets went viral and became the subject of a national conversation. The man, of course, was NPR anchorman Scott Simon, and his reflections about his mother’s illness and ultimate death are poignant, insightful, and well worth your […]

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Medicare’s Most Maddening Policy… and Why CMS’s Attempts to Improve It May Make it Worse

There are tens of thousands of policies in Medicare’s policy manual, which makes for stiff competition for the “Most Maddening” award. But my vote goes to the policy around “observation status,” which is crazy-making for patients, administrators, and physicians. “Obs status” began life as Medicare’s way of characterizing those patients who needed a little more […]

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How UCSF is Solving the Quality-Cost-Value Jigsaw Puzzle

I sometimes explain to medical students that they are entering a profession being transformed, like coal to diamonds, under the pressure of a new mandate. “The world is going to push us, relentlessly and without mercy, to deliver the highest quality, safest, most satisfying care at the lowest cost,” I’ll say gravely, trying to get […]

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The Dangers of Curbside Consults… and Why We Need Them

Everybody hates curbside consults – the informal, “Hey, Joe, how would you treat asymptomatic pyuria in my 80-year-old nursing home patient?”-type questions that dominate those Doctor’s Lounge conversations that aren’t about sports, Wall Street, or ObamaCare. Consultants hate being asked clinical questions out of context; they know that they may give incorrect advice if the […]

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Measuring the Quality of Doctors and Hospitals: When Is Good Enough, Good Enough?

In the past, neither hospitals nor practicing physicians were accustomed to being measured and judged. Aside from periodic inspections by the Joint Commission (for which they had years of notice and on which failures were rare), hospitals did not publicly report their quality data, and payment was based on volume, not performance. Physicians endured an […]

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Is the Patient Safety Movement in Danger of Flickering Out?

These should be the best of times for the patient safety movement. After all, it was concerns over medical mistakes that launched the transformation of our delivery and payment models, from one focused on volume to one that rewards performance. The new system (currently a work-in-progress) promises to put skin in the patient safety game […]

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Making Clinicians Get Flu Shots: More Important Than Simply Preventing the Flu

I was recently speaking to the clinical leaders of a mid-sized hospital, and a senior administrator posed the question, “should we require our doctors and nurses to get flu shots?” The answer, I said, is yes, and it isn’t just to prevent the flu. It’s to get into the habit of making our folks do […]

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Pay for Performance in Healthcare: Do We Need Less, More, or Different?

The debate over pay for performance in healthcare gets progressively more interesting, and confusing. And, with Medicare’s recent launch of its value-based purchasing and readmission penalty programs, the debate is no longer theoretical. Just in the past several months, we’ve seen studies showing that pay for performance works, and others showing that it doesn’t. We’ve […]

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In Today’s JAMA: Abraham Verghese and I Discuss the Changing World of Ward Attendings

Senior attendings like to quip that the medical students seem to be getting younger every year. They’re not. But the attendings on the wards of American teaching hospitals actually have gotten younger. At UCSF Medical Center, for example, about 90% of our ward attending-months are now staffed by hospitalists, about half of them physicians in […]

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