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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 3/15/18

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Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes is charged with fraud and has agreed to a settlement without admitting guilt in the matter. People were eager to believe in the promise of new technology without proof. Various family connections and their endorsements added to the investment frenzy.

I see dozens of startup proposals every year and have a high degree of suspicion for vaporware or vaportech. I’m happy to sign non-disclosure agreements with organizations that legitimately want my opinion, but they have to be willing to show me what they’re doing before I’m going to get on board. I think some folks have lost their ability to perform due diligence given the constant hype around innovation and being the Next Big Thing. I feel sad for the lower-level investors who were caught up with Theranos and its deception.

This article from The Guardian was a hot topic in the physician lounge today. Physicians took immediate exception to the comparison of US physician salaries to those from other nations, noting that in other countries, physicians do not have to incur significant debt to complete medical training as they typically do in the US. No one disagreed with concerns around the cost of prescription drugs or administrative costs.

One member of the hospital administration noted that some of the starting administrators at Big Health System make more than starting physicians, which is a sad state of affairs since starting administrators often have minimal experience beyond their MBA coursework. Similarly, there was no disagreement with the US having worse population-based outcomes.

Every time I have to argue with a patient about unneeded tests, there is typically a comment from the patient along the lines of, “We have the best technology in the world and I deserve this test,” or, “I’m paying a lot for my insurance and it’s covered so I want it.” Patients often don’t see past their individual situations and don’t want to have decisions made based on populations and statistics rather than their own personal feeling about what should happen.

Culturally, we have issues with desiring invasive care, often to our detriment (take a look at some of the childbirth data) and not understanding the need to pursue lifestyle changes rather than medicating everything. We don’t want to wait things out. We want medication now whether we need it or not.

Also culturally, we make it difficult for people to access care. Many of my patients come to urgent care after 6 p.m. because they can’t take off work or have no sick days to seek medical care. Very few primary care offices in my area have evening hours, so the more expensive urgent care begins to fill the primary care void.

Having the worst maternal mortality rates among other “developed” nations is embarrassing and should be avoidable, but we’re not tackling it very well. Infant mortality is also nothing to be proud of. I’m shocked by how many Americans keep up with the Kardashians and a host of other celebrity or social media personalities, but can’t name things they can do to keep themselves healthy. Prevention isn’t sexy, nor is doing the hard work needed to lose weight or stay in shape. Insurance plans often don’t cover preventive treatments or put hoops in place for patients to jump through when they want to pursue non-invasive or non-surgical treatments for some conditions that might improve quality of life.

I had a patient recently who switched insurance plans and her new coverage won’t allow for replacement of her custom shoe inserts, which had broken down over time. The patient had previously been active and now has constant foot pain, which has limited her activities and probably has contributed to her weight gain. She was in to see me about a cortisone injection, and even just looking at the cost of my visit plus the cost of the injection and potentially a follow-up visit, it would have been cheaper to just pay for new orthotics than to treat the foot pain. The patient had lost her job and is working as a restaurant server, which isn’t helping her pain either. She’s diligently trying to save for a new set, but that’s hard to do when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

HIMSS may be in the rear-view mirror, but the onslaught of emails and cold calls is just beginning. I’ve finally learned to link my HIMSS registration to a dummy email account so that the contacts can be sorted out. I used a burner phone number as well. A couple of the post-HIMSS emails have been personalized greetings from a specific resource thanking me for the interaction at the booth and making note of our conversation. Others follow a formula that doesn’t help me at all: Thank you for your visit to X Vendor, we are hoping to help your organization, we will be reaching out to you directly. A link to the company website or an attached product portfolio PDF might be helpful memory jogs and might be less easily deleted than the form email.

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The best outreach I have received so far was from Formstack, with the subject line “Have you worn your green Formstack socks yet?” and asking for a follow-up. It definitely caught my attention, and yes, the socks were perfect for coming back from HIMSS. I’m sending my VMWare socks to my favorite engineer, so I can’t comment on their comfort. I wasn’t lucky enough to score Google Cloud socks. Socks were certainly on the menu this year. I did finally score some #pinksocks this year and they got some looks wearing them around town.

I’m still recovering post-HIMSS, most likely because I landed, unpacked, repacked, and immediately went cold-weather camping, which probably wasn’t in my best interest. From there, it was on to client work and clinical shifts. The 12-hour days are becoming more and more difficult. Maybe the longer daylight hours in the evening will lift my spirits. I don’t mind it being dark in the morning since I can sleep without the birds trying to drag me out of bed.

I’m putting together the list of meetings I want to attend the rest of this year and also planning for 2019, when I get to take my board recertification exam. What’s on your list of can’t-miss meetings? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.