Brendan Saloner, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. On this first Universal Coverage Day, Saloner examines holes in access to care that remain after the Affordable Care Act. His post is cross-posted with the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics blog.
The United States is the last remaining rich country in the world where a large percentage of the population lacks health insurance coverage. This situation is being improved under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with recent estimates showing that from early 2013 to mid-2014 the uninsured rate dropped from 19 percent of adults to 14 percent. The uninsured rate will no doubt continue to fall in 2015, but the problem of the uninsured will not go away with the ACA. It will not go away even if all 50 states expand Medicaid for poor adults, and will not go away if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the plaintiffs in a pending challenge to the power of the administration to provide subsidies in the federally facilitated insurance exchanges.
In its 2012 baseline estimate, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that by 2022 the ACA might cut the number of uninsured by half, but would still leave behind 30 million people without insurance. This projection assumed full implementation of the ACA provisions. We don’t yet have a clear sense of how much larger that number will be with incomplete implementation of the core ACA coverage provisions, but even an optimistic assessment is that tens of millions of Americans will continue to spend periods of time without health insurance.
Who does the ACA leave behind? By design, the ACA excludes undocumented immigrants, a group that numbers around 11 million today. Some undocumented immigrants purchase private insurance, receive coverage from an employer, or participate in public programs funded with non-federal dollars, but the majority have no insurance. Undocumented immigrants are prohibited from enrolling in Medicaid, receiving subsidies, and purchasing coverage on the exchanges. Although President Obama recently signed an executive order protecting many undocumented immigrants from immediate deportation, the ACA exclusion will continue in the foreseeable future, barring an act of Congress.
This is part of the December 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.
Study: ‘Alarm Fatigue’ Poses Danger
After a while, alarms stop being so alarming. That’s the warning growing out of a study of the sheer volume of physiological alarms generated by bedside monitoring systems in hospitals. The barrage of beeps can become so overwhelming that it creates “alarm fatigue,” which in turn can lead nurses and other clinicians to discount the urgency of alarms or to ignore them altogether.
In the study, led by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing Professor Barbara Drew, PhD, MS, researchers tracked the quantity and accuracy of alarms generated in five intensive care units at the UCSF Medical Center over a 31-day period. They found a high rate of false positives—alarms generated when patients were not in need of treatment beyond what they were already receiving. For example, during that time, researchers counted 12, 671 alarms for arrhythmia, 89 percent of which were false positives. Most of those were the result of problems with the alarm system’s algorithms, incorrect settings, technical malfunctions, or brief heart rate spikes that did not require further attention.
In all, during the 31-day period, the systems generated an average of 187 alarms per patient bed per day, adding up to more than 380,000 audible alarms over the course of the month, across the five ICUs.
This is part of the December 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.
On television and in other media, nurses are often portrayed as gendered stereotypes: the angel, the handmaiden, the battle-axe, or the sex-object.
Turns out, these portrayals aren’t new. That is evident in a new postcard exhibit at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., that illustrates cultural perceptions of nursing over the last century.
The exhibit, entitled Pictures of Nursing, hails from a collection of more than 2,500 postcards that were donated by Michael Zwerdling, RN. The collection includes postcards that date to the late 1800s, and features images of nurses portrayed as everything from Greek goddesses to Amazon princesses to the Virgin Mary. It also includes rare images of male nurses.
Some of the exhibit’s more contemporary postcards depict nurses in modern uniforms and as skilled members of health care teams—images that counteract sexist and gendered notions of nursing that come through in other postcards.
Collins O. Airhihenbuwa, PhD, MPH, is professor and head of the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University. The first RWJF Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health was held last week. The conversation continues here on the RWJF Human Capital Blog.
As we address disparities and inequities, the challenge is to think about solutions and not simply defining the problem. Most would agree that health is the most important part of who we are. It is the first thing we think about in the morning when we greet one another by asking, “How are you this morning?” It is the last thing we think about at night when we wish someone a restful night.
What may be different is what health means to us and our families. This is why place and context are important. How we think about health and what we choose to do about it is very much influenced by where we reside. Our place and related cultural differences about health are less about right or wrong and more about ways of relating and meeting expectations our families and communities may have of us, whether expressed or perceived. More than that is the way we relate to what our place means in terms of how it is defined and subsequently how that definition shapes how we define it for ourselves. In other words the ‘gate’ through which we talk about our place and ourselves is very important in having a conversation about who we are and what that means for our health.
For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) 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 Rachel Torrez, MD, a member of the Class of 1990.
The year was 1992. Rachel Torrez, a second-year medical student, was in line waiting for coffee at the University of Washington when a White male student confronted her.
“You took my best friend’s spot because of quotas,” he sneered.
The granddaughter of Mexican migrant workers, Torrez enrolled at a time when students of color were few and some people—especially in Washington state—were questioning the fairness of affirmative action. Clarence Thomas, an outspoken opponent of affirmation action, had recently joined the Supreme Court.
“We don’t have quotas,” Torrez shot back. “I took your best friend’s spot because I was smarter.”
That mix of brains and backbone is characteristic of Torrez, who conquered severe dyslexia and cultural constraints on her way to an MD. Now a family-practice physician in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Torrez gives as good as she gets.
Karen Johnson, PhD, RN, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar and an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. Her research focuses on vulnerable youth. The first RWJF Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health was held last week. The conversation continues here on the RWJF Human Capital Blog.
As Americans, we love stories about people who beat the odds and achieve success. We flock to movie theaters to watch inspiring tales—many times based on true stories—of resilient young people who have overcome unthinkable adversities (e.g., abuse, growing up in impoverished, high-crime neighborhoods) to grow into healthy and happy adults. Antwone Fisher, The Blind Side, Precious, and Lean On Me are just a few of my personal favorites that highlight the very real struggles faced by adolescents like those I have worked with as a public health nurse. My work with adolescent mothers and now as an adolescent health researcher has convinced me of the critical importance of focusing on promoting health and resilience among adolescents at-risk for school dropout.
How often do we as a society really sit down outside the movie theater or walls of academia and talk about why these young people are at risk for poor health and social outcomes in the first place, or what it would take to help them rise above adversity? If we look closely at the storylines of resilient youth, we will notice a number of similarities. Being resilient does not happen by chance: it takes personal resolve from the individual—something our American culture has long celebrated. And it takes a collective commitment from society to maintain conditions that empower young people to be resilient, and that is something that we as a society do not recognize or invest in nearly as often.
At 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) tomorrow, Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s LEAP project will hold a webinar on innovations in the primary care workforce, and the project’s new online resource, the Improving Primary Care Team Guide. To join Tom Bodenheimer, MD, MPH, professor, Family & Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco, Lisa Letourneau, MD, MPH, executive director, Maine Quality Counts, and the LEAP Team for this free webinar, register here.
Thomas LaVeist, PhD, is founding director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, and the William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is the chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. LaVeist will moderate the first RWJF Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health today, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Follow the hashtag, #RWJFScholarsForum, on Twitter for more.
Yesterday I had Camara Phyllis Jones, PhD, MD, MPH, as guest lecturer for my seminar on health disparities. It was a homecoming of sorts for her. She and I first met in the early 1990s when I was a newly minted assistant professor and she was a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Jones’ work should be well known to readers of this blog. She has published and lectured on the effects of racism on health and health disparities for many years. She played a leading role in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work on race, racism, and health in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. And she was just elected president-elect of the American Public Health Association. She is a fantastic lecturer and often uses allegory to illustrate how racism affects health.
About midway through her lecture, a student raised his hand and got her attention to ask a question about the utility of “naming racism.” My interpretation and rephrasing of his question—is it helpful to use the word racism or is the word so politically charged and divisive that it causes people to “tune you out?”
The student’s question raises a major challenge for those of us who seek to address health disparities. On one hand racism is fundamental to understanding why disparities exist and persist. I would go as far as to state that in most race disparities research, race is actually a proxy measure for exposure to racism. But, on the other hand, the word racism makes some people uncomfortable, causing them to become defensive or sometimes simply block out your message.
Alden M. Landry, MD, MPH, is an emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Summer Medical and Dental Education Program. Landry, 32, is also co-director of Tour for Diversity in Medicine. On December 5, he will be a panelist when RWJF holds its first Scholars Forum: Disparities, Resilience, and Building a Culture of Health. Learn more.
Tour for Diversity in Medicine (T4D) is a grassroots effort to educate, inspire, and cultivate future physicians and dentists of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds by forming local connections in order to fulfill a national need. Our concept is simple: Visit students on their home turf; motivate them by introducing them to young, enthusiastic physicians and dentists; and give them the information that they need to be successful.
We carefully select mentors based on not only their roles in medicine and dentistry but how they got there. Our mentors are the first in their families to have attended college. Some are first-generation U.S. citizens. They come from single-family homes or families where they are the first to enter a career in medicine. They are gay and straight, married and single. They are passionate about their communities and their careers.
Our mentors do have one thing in common: we intentionally select mentors who are young in their careers and recent to the journey.
Ed Wagner, MD, MPH, is director emeritus of the MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation. A general internist and epidemiologist, Wagner was founding director of Group Health Research Institute.
Better care. Healthier patients. Happier staff. A new online resource provides practical, hands-on tools to build better primary care teams that can put those outcomes within reach.
Nationwide, primary care practices are finding that creating more effective practice teams is the key to becoming a patient-centered medical home, improving patients’ health, and increasing productivity. The Improving Primary Care Team Guide (Team Guide) is a free online resource for primary care practices working to do just that. It:
- Provides hands-on tools and resources that are actionable and measureable
- Is appropriate for practices at any stage of development
- Includes modules that enable practices to easily pinpoint relevant topics and areas of interest
The new Team Guide presents practical advice, case studies, and tools from 31 exemplary primary care practices across the country that have markedly improved care, efficiency, and job satisfaction by transforming to a team-based approach. For the last three years, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the LEAP team has identified, studied, and engaged these practices to develop the lessons contained in the Team Guide.