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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 11/30/17

November 30, 2017 Dr. Jayne No Comments

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I enjoy following startup companies, especially those that are looking for novel or improved ways to manage complex conditions. Diabetes is not only a killer, but a significant drain on our already overloaded healthcare system, and many physicians feel there has to be a better way to engage patients to participate in the lifestyle-related parts of their care. I’ve been following Diasyst for a couple of years now and it looks like they’ve actually launched. Their approach uses a patient-facing mobile app to monitor blood sugars coupled with EHR integration to get all the data in the same place. They then use clinical algorithms drawn from work at Emory, Georgia Tech, Grady Memorial Hospital, and the Atlanta VA Medical Center to provide clinical decision support. The loop is closed by sending custom patient plans back to the mobile app. I haven’t seen a demo yet, but hope to catch one soon.

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My laugh of the week was and email from the communications and marketing team at a hospital where I haven’t worked for a number of years. They were asking me for a new head shot for my profile on their find-a-physician website. They’re switching systems and my old picture apparently was too low of a resolution to be compatible. I replied and told them I was no longer affiliated with the facility and they sent an email again asking for a head shot and telling me it was my right to be included in the directory because I have “referral privileges for diagnostic testing” and that it would be free advertising for my practice.

In all the years I’ve filled out medical staff credentialing forms (both as an applicant and as a department chair), I’ve never heard of that class of privileges. When was the last time you saw a hospital refuse a patient who arrived with an order for diagnostic testing because the ordering or referring physician wasn’t on staff? Personally, I’ve never seen it, and I’ve received reports from many hospitals where I wasn’t on staff but where the patient had arrived with a radiology or lab order form. As long as the insurance card is valid and/or the preauthorization is in order, you’re usually cleared to receive services.

I asked the marketing rep what contact information she had on file for me and she replied that in the old system my profile is completely blank, which was leading her to think that perhaps the list she was given should have been vetted before she started contacting people. She rescinded her offer for free advertising after I told her that I am employed by a competitor.

My clinical employer has opted out of Meaningful Use, so this vendor blog article about why urgent cares should opt in caught my eye. For physicians and practice managers who may not know a lot about MIPS, they did a reasonable job summarizing how MACRA brought several CMS initiatives together and how practices can avoid negative payment adjustments or earn a bonus. They mention that practices with a high performance score can be “proud to share with the public.” I’m not sure how relevant this is to the average patient – despite a push for consumer-driven medicine and patient engagement, as an urgent care physician, most of our patients choose our services based on our location and hours of operation or by word of mouth. They’re not out investigating Composite Performance Scores before they come see us to get help with their poison ivy or flu symptoms.

The piece goes on to make submission seem straightforward, with no mention of the amount of data that has to be gathered or the work that has to be done beyond what is typically done in the urgent care setting. It also cites a top score as a way to “attract top talent on a healthcare landscape where every advantage matters.” In my world, we’re attracting top talent simply because we have opted out of the federal programs. Physicians are tired of dealing with initiative after initiative and just want to practice medicine. We’ve not only opted out of the madness, but provide scribes if providers want to use that documentation style. At least from the inside, it feels like we’re taking control of our situation and delivering good care at reasonable prices with a minimum of hassle. It remains to be seen how the penalties will impact us and whether our non-Medicare book of business will be impacted if competitors start advertising their MIPS composite scores.

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As a physician who reads a great number of chest x-rays, I also enjoyed this article about automating x-ray interpretation. We’ve automated readings of other studies such as Pap tests, and given the number of chest films that are taken each year, it makes sense to see how we can do better. There is always a debate whether a patient has an early pneumonia or whether they just have increased bronchovascular markings. The Stanford University Machine Learning Group is tackling this, with the algorithm now outperforming radiologists in diagnosing pneumonia.

Although the data don’t mention family physicians, emergency physicians, internal medicine physicians, or pediatricians, I suspect it would outperform us as well. At our practice, each film is read by two providers to reduce the risk of interpretation errors. Having the second review be part of a proven algorithm would be a bonus. In the mean time, we’ll continue making the decisions based on our interpretation of the x-rays along with the clinical picture of the patient in front of us, which is often more important than the film itself.

I don’t envision a future with photo booths where a patient pops in for an x-ray and gets a printed script based on the algorithm, unless it can also look at nutrition and hydration status, co-morbid conditions, history of medical non-compliance, current climate of antibiotic resistance, travel history, occupation, social supports, financial status, insurance coverage, and more. Those are all the things physicians consider in making our decisions that outsiders often overlook. I’m not worried about being replaced just yet.

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