Category Archives: Physicians
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For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Sam Willis, MD, a member of the 1995 class.
After completing medical school, Sam Willis decided his residency could wait. He wanted to see the world.
So he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years working as a health volunteer in Burkina Faso, one of Africa’s poorest countries. Living among the Burkinabé, in a mud-and-brick house with no running water, Willis learned the native language along with French. Every day, he hauled water back from a well so he could take a bath outdoors.
He talked to the villagers about sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and ways to fight malnutrition. He helped set up a food bank to tide residents over during the summer dry seasons, when the rains stopped and they couldn’t plant crops.
When he came back to the United States, it was with a different worldview.
“Learning to speak another language opened up my mind to understanding how the world works,” says Willis, who today is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and practices family medicine in Houston, Texas, treating patients from disadvantaged communities.
When workloads increase for hospitalists—the physicians who care exclusively for hospitalized patients—length of stay (LOS) and costs increase, too, according to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Researchers at Christiana Care Health System, a large academic community hospital system in Delaware, analyzed 20,241 inpatient admissions for 13,916 patients over a three-year period. Hospitalists had an average of 15.5 patient encounters per day, and LOS increased from 5.5 to 7.5 days as workloads increased at hospitals with occupancies under 75 percent.
Each additional patient seen by hospitalists increased costs by $262, although increasing workload did not affect outcomes such as mortality, 30-day readmission rates, and patient satisfaction.
For the fifth consecutive year, the number of U.S. medical school seniors choosing internal medicine residencies has increased, according to 2014 data released by the National Resident Matching Program. However, at 3,167, the number is well below the 3,884 medical school seniors who chose internal medicine three decades ago, the internist-focused American College of Physicians (ACP) pointed out in a news release.
“While the number of U.S. medical students choosing internal medicine residencies continues in an upward trend, the exorbitant cost of medical education with the resulting financial burden on medical students and residents, along with problematic payment models and administrative hassles, are barriers to a career in general internal medicine and primary care,” ACP’s senior vice president for medical education, Patrick Alguire, MD, FACP, said in the release. “General internists and other primary care physicians are the heart of a high-performing, accessible, and high-quality health care system.”
Has a push for increased efficiency in health care come at the expense of physicians’ happiness? That’s a big question explored recently in a Becker’s Hospital Review article.
Molly Gamble writes:
Physician stress and engagement issues were not born from reform.... But now other factors—such as increased workloads, electronic medical records and physicians’ apprehension to work for hospitals—add another layer of complexity. Healthcare’s pursuit of efficiency seems to be making the adoption of other values it endorses, such as patient-centeredness and continuity of care, more difficult.
Physicians’ interactions with coworkers and patients are changing, according to the article—and the learning curve for electronic medical records and other technological advances has left many physicians looking at screens more and patients less.
Physician Compensation Patterns Pose Challenges to Efforts to Incentivize Changes in How Care Is Delivered
Salary is the most common type of compensation for physicians in non-solo practice settings, many of whom are paid through a blend of methods, according to a new American Medical Association (AMA) Policy Research Perspectives report that says it provides a “rare glimpse” into how non-solo physicians are paid.
Just over 53 percent of non-solo physicians reported that all or most of their compensation came from salary, while nearly 32 percent said all or most of their compensation was based on personal productivity. The report points out that this breakdown “suggests that it may be difficult to align practice-level incentives that encourage judicious use of resources with physician-level incentives that do not.”
Ideally, the report says, financial and other incentives would encourage physicians to make the best care decisions possible for patients, providing them “the right care, in the right place, and at the right time,” but current incentives often do not encourage that approach.
In a survey of more than 31,000 U.S. physicians for Medscape’s 2014 Physician Lifestyle Report, dermatologists emerged as the specialists who are happiest both at home and at work. Seventy percent of dermatologists said they are very to extremely happy at home, slightly behind ophthalmologists. But at 53 percent, dermatologists topped the list by a considerable margin in reporting a high level of happiness at work.
Among the least happy specialists are family and emergency medicine physicians, with only 36 percent reporting great happiness at work, followed at 37 percent by internists and radiologists.
Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, FACEP, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars and Health Policy Fellows programs, is dean of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He wrote an article in the November issue of Health Affairs calling for a new class of health care provider—the primary care technician—to improve accessibility to and affordability of primary care.
Human Capital Blog: What is the thrust of your idea?
Arthur Kellermann: We’ve had a decades-long shortage of primary care physicians in this country and, up until now, it has defied solution. One definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. My article suggests a rethinking, and literally a reengineering, of how we deliver primary care in this country. It makes the case for a new class of providers—primary care technicians (PCTs)—who would work remotely, under the online supervision of primary care physicians or nurse practitioners (NPs), to manage stable chronic disease patients, treat minor illnesses and injuries, and provide basic preventive services. These PCTs would make primary care more accessible, more convenient, and more affordable to Americans, wherever they live.
Human Capital News Roundup: Demand for minority physicians, ADHD treatment, anxiety and strokes, and more
Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:
Newly insured patients need time to adjust to not using emergency care as a primary medical service, Sara Rosenbaum, JD, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, told the New York Times. A study co-authored by Amy Finkelstein, PhD, MPhil, also a recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award, found that newly insured Medicaid recipients in Oregon went to the emergency room (ER) more often than people without insurance. The finding raises doubts about whether expanded insurance coverage will help control ER costs, at least in the short term. This story was also covered by NPR, NBC News, and CBS News.
Doctors who are Black, Hispanic, and Asian provide the most care to minority patients, and demand for their services may increase as the Affordable Care Act provides health insurance coverage to those who are currently without it, Bloomberg News reports. The story is based on a study co-authored by Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH, an RWJF Health Policy Fellows alumna. It was also covered by WBUR in Boston and The Charlotte Post.
Given near-universal concern over rising health care costs, are new physicians being taught to keep costs in check?
Not enough of them, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December. Lead author Mitesh Patel, MD, MBA, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, and his research team analyzed survey responses from nearly 300 U.S. internal medicine residency programs. They found that fewer than 15 percent have curricula designed to teach residents to be more cost-conscious.
“Evidence shows that physicians who recently completed residency training practice medicine at a higher cost than more experienced physicians,” Patel and his team wrote. Among 295 programs that responded to a questionnaire on cost-conscious care in a 2012 survey from the Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine, 14.9 percent indicated that they had a formal curriculum in cost-conscious care; another 49.8 percent responded that they did not, but were working on it.