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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 2/2/17

February 2, 2017 Dr. Jayne No Comments

It’s increasingly difficult to keep up with the literature when there is so much coming out and the pace of change is so rapid. This article in PLOS One regarding influenza vaccination for healthcare workers caught my eye. It looked at vaccination statistics in long-term care facilities and whether the “number needed to vaccinate” in order to prevent patient death was in alignment with what had been predicted based on previous data. Rather than the previously predicted number of eight vaccinations needed to prevent a single patient death, the number was calculated at somewhere between 6,000 and 32,000. Authors concluded that the four studies supporting enforced vaccination for healthcare workers “attribute implausibly large reductions in patient risk to healthcare worker vaccination, casting serious doubts on their validity.”

This is a great lesson in small data vs. big data and the need to keep questioning and keep researching as the healthcare knowledge base continues to expand. Through the magic of eBay, I once purchased a set of medical student notebooks from the 1920s. They’re half-legal sized bound notebooks that flip at the top, and it’s amazing to see what is written and what we knew then. My favorite page starts with the statement, “There is so much we still do not know about the thyroid.” I wonder what that medical student would think of our current knowledge base? Those notebooks also make me wonder what physicians will think of us 80 years in the future, especially given the current wrangling over whether we as a nation are committed to ensuring medical care for all.

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I recently posed the question to my readers about what would their ideal jobs would look like.

From Sunshine State: “An optimal role would be leading several business units from a COO or similar position, with a focus on solving problems in our industry in a fast-paced and dynamic environment. A level of risk is attractive — as John Paul Jones stated, he who will not risk cannot win. How do we shrink an industry and not put people out of work while advancing care? With a generalist background, a greater contribution is possible with coordinating resources and goals across groups rather than leading a specific business unit or department requiring specialized skills.” I agree that the idea of having more than one business unit at your disposal might make it easier to solve problems creatively without the distraction or bottlenecks that occurs with more siloed organizations. There’s a temptation for leaders to protect their own rather than stepping out of their comfort zones in an effort to solve the bigger problem. Certainly figuring out how to reduce cost, increase quality, and maintain jobs is a challenge, even more so when you have limited financial or personnel resources.

From At Bat: “Funny you should ask about the perfect job because I happened into it several years ago. I worked at a large hospital for 30+ years in direct patient care, managed care, the physician organization, the health plan, patient safety, and at the last part of my career in evidence-based medicine. I’m not technical, but was involved system-wide in various projects. I was contacted by the executive for our data warehouse asking if I would speak at a conference on a particular topic. I replied, ‘No problem, any opportunities?’ and after a whirlwind of phone interviews and a quick meet-up at HIMSS, I was offered my dream job helping health systems with analytics initiatives. I have to honestly say that if you gave me a pencil and paper and said to write down the perfect job, this would have been the result. I work from home when I am not traveling, and while I do get a tad lonely, it is the most rewarding job I have ever held. I am slowly getting used to working in the for-profit vs. non-profit world.” The ability to wear fuzzy bunny slippers to work cannot be underestimated. It can be a drag, though, when you realize you’ve been wearing pajamas all day and have been so busy working that you’re not even sure you brushed your teeth today. I’m always happy to hear when people find something that really clicks and hope that it lasts for them.

From What The?: “I wrote you a couple years ago about the perfect job and thought you might appreciate an update. I had decided after being a healthcare IT consultant that I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a doctor. I have a liberal arts degree and zero science background, but seeing how people like you approach healthcare convinced me that this was something I needed to do. I was accepted to my medical school of choice last fall and am doing contract HIT consulting work to save up money until I start classes. I just got an email about my white coat ceremony in July and could not be more excited about the opportunities ahead.” This put a big smile on my face. Although sometimes those of us in the profession knock it due to the hours, the stress, the external pressures, and more, being a physician is still one of the greatest privileges any of us can have. For patients to trust us in their times of vulnerability and weakness is truly something special. Even though there are tens of thousands of “healthcare IT people” who never go anywhere near a patient, we need to continue to remember why we are doing this. It’s about our grandmothers, brothers, sisters, and everyone else who relies on the systems we use to make decisions and deliver care.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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