Chronic pain, opioids, and medical marijuana

High-quality evidence supports the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and other conditions. Yet, patients who live in some states can’t legally use it — and are threatened with loss of access to their prescribed pain medications if they do. I know this because a close family member of mine has chronic pain.… Read More »

Discrimination in Trans Healthcare and the Call for Further Provider Education

Adequacy of healthcare for transgender patients has recently come to light, particularly with the increased discussion of trans persons in the media. Trans individuals identify their gender differently from their assigned sex at birth. Trans healthcare is an emerging field of research, and this increased focus continues to uncover the lack of knowledge amongst providers… Read More »

One Step Ahead: A Composite Measure to Capture Critical Hospice and Palliative Care Processes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wants to empower consumers to make informed healthcare decisions. CMS also wants providers to improve the quality of care they provide. One step towards accomplishing both of these goals is by public reporting of quality measures (QM). However, with multiple quality measures focusing on different care processes–all of which… Read More »

The HOSPITAL Score – A Prediction Tool for Potentially Preventable (and Therefore Costly) Readmissions

In the era of value-based care, caregivers and policymakers alike are intensely interested in strategies to reduce 30-day hospital readmissions. Researchers continue to offer up helpful tools in this effort. Recently published online ahead of print in Medical Care, Burke and colleagues make an important contribution with their article The Hospital Score Predicts Potentially Preventable 30-Day Readmissions… Read More »

Top posts of 2016

The year 2016 was a big one for The Medical Care Blog: in February, we moved from our old publisher-hosted location and launched this new domain and design. We’ve published 61 posts here since then – a little more than one a week. We’ve added many new contributors and broadened our audience. Thank you for reading!… Read More »

Continuity of Care vs. Nurse Shift Length

If you have ever been in a hospital, you are probably familiar with what seems like a continuously revolving door of staff members providing care.  With nurses making up the largest occupation in healthcare and the largest segment of hospital staff, continuity of nursing care for hospitalized patients is an important factor in the delivery of quality healthcare.… Read More »

Burnout among physicians and nurses

Private practitioners are busy people between caring for their patients, recording and documenting data, going to meetings, keeping up with new treatment modalities, and running a practice group. They follow a tight schedule, have multiple sources of pressure, and suffer from burnout. Stress occurs when a person is drained of energy, but can recover. In the case of… Read More »

Measuring patient-centered communication in colorectal cancer care

Every year, 340,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancer, and fully 4 in 10 of these diagnoses will be colorectal cancer (CRC). CRC is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States; however, 60% of CRC deaths could be prevented if everyone 50 years old and older were screened. By instituting patient-centered communication, we… Read More »

Should Women Rush to Get IUDs Post-Election? They Should’ve Been Rushing all Along!

The unintended pregnancy rate (reflecting pregnancies that are unwanted or mistimed) for women in the U.S. has hovered at around 50% for the last 35 years.  Only recently has that rate dropped to 45%, but the burden continues to fall most heavily on poor, undereducated women, women from racial or ethnic minority backgrounds, and young women.  Much talk… Read More »

Hospital interpretation and payment incentives

Access to interpreters improves health care and is generally required by law. Why then, is interpretation access hard to come by in hospitals? From a hospital staff perspective, appropriate policies may be in place, and hospital staff motivated to offer excellent patient care, but all the demands of providing medical care can lead to system breakdown.… Read More »

The childhood roots of health inequity: Part 1 – Dr. Paula Braveman

Children who grow up in stressful environments, without adequate adult support, are at much greater risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases as adults. This is partly because of the coping behaviors that people use to deal with stress, but also because of the cumulative effects of toxic stress. Thus, many of… Read More »

Confusing the Confused: The impact of lacking professional interpretation services

Being hospitalized with a serious medical condition, surrounded by strange equipment, and listening to medical jargon you’ve never heard before is an intimidating situation for anyone. Compounding the uncertainty and stress of the situation would be not understanding the primary language spoken by your providers, not being able to read your procedure consents, and knowing… Read More »

APHA 2016 – One Student’s Experience

Posters and banners declaring “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health” were hung throughout the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver last month, celebrating the theme of the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) 144th Annual Meeting and Expo.  As a first time attendee, one of approximately 11,600 people, I was a bit overwhelmed;… Read More »

Data sharing between patient-centered medical homes and addiction treatment providers

In my medical practice, lacking the tools to communicate meaningfully with other providers who are caring for my patients is a daily frustration. This is only magnified when it comes to caring for my most vulnerable patients who have difficulty communicating for themselves, such as those suffering from substance use disorders (SUDs), so I was… Read More »

The Person-Centered Wellness Home: Reflections on a Conversation with Dr. Thelma Mielenz

With the mania of the presidential election in full tilt and the election just days away, it’s hard to have a rational public discussion about health care.  Supporters of the two presidential candidates have drawn a deep and divisive line (or rather a tectonic fissure) in the sand about health care reform.  This is due, in great part, to the bombastic, and ultimately… Read More »

Healthcare Utilization Rates after Oregon’s 2008 Medicaid Expansion: The Long View

Expanding health insurance coverage may improve health care access [PDF] and reduce financial stress [PDF]. Ideally, having health insurance and the resultant access to care should improve health outcomes and well-being, although the evidence is complicated and mixed. One thing is sure: expanded insurance coverage typically leads to more utilization – a concern for policymakers and administrators because… Read More »

APHA16 Preview

In just a few days, thousands of public health practitioners, students, scholars, and activists will descend on Denver, Colorado for APHA 2016. This year, your faithful co-editors will be there, live-tweeting about sessions! So be sure to follow @MedCareBloggers for real-time updates. Here are just a few of the sessions we’re looking forward to this year:… Read More »

Health insurance access and State Innovation Waivers

A small section of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) packs a potentially big punch: State Innovation Waivers allow states to ask the federal government for authority to change parts of the ACA, namely the individual and employer mandates, establishment of state exchanges, and financial help to purchase insurance.  These waivers can be used by states… Read More »

Do financial incentives affect the delivery of mental health care?

Paying for value, rewarding high-value care, pay-for-performance—all are examples of terminology used to describe aligning financial incentives with clinical goals and processes. Essentially, these policies and programs seek to link quality to payment and their influence is growing, extending even to Medicare. While these concepts have been discussed repeatedly by many in healthcare, including the… Read More »

Hostility During Training: Primary Care Disparagement

The lack of primary care infrastructure in the U.S. has been blamed for our extremely high health expenditures, as we spend about 2.5 times what other comparable countries spend (OECD Health at a Glance) without better health outcomes. Increasing our primary care workforce is an important part of controlling health care costs while also providing… Read More »

Freezing or boiling? Measuring workplace climate in primary care

Provider burnout and turnover [PDF] is a major challenge for many community health centers. One factor contributing to this problem is workplace climate, or what the experience of working at the health center is like. As anyone in primary care will tell you, at times it can be overwhelming. Thus it was with great interest that… Read More »

Economic Burden of the Opioid Epidemic

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, in 2014, more than 240 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than sufficient for each American adult to have one full bottle of opioids. Prescription drugs are second only to marijuana as the most abused category of drug in the United States. A recent article… Read More »

The ACA vs. the doughnut hole: Medicare part D utilization and costs

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) included provisions to gradually reduce the Medicare part D “doughnut hole” – a much-maligned gap in coverage that was an economizing feature of President Bush’s legislation. So, how have these changes affected drug use and spending by seniors? A new article in Medical Care provides insights. Under the standard part D benefit… Read More »

Gap in Payment for Medicare Cost Sharing Limits Access to Care for the Poor

Dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid is expected to improve access to care for low-income individuals who qualify for both programs, relative to eligibility for either program alone. Medicaid coverage of Medicare deductibles and co-payments can reduce the financial burdens that these cost sharing requirements may pose for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. These dual eligible beneficiaries… Read More »

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Community Health Workers

According to the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, hospital inpatient expenses account for a large portion (nearly 30%) of total health care expenses and health care spending is highly concentrated among a relatively small proportion of individuals. The top 1% of spenders accounted for 21.5% of total expenditures while the lower 50% accounted for just… Read More »

How do Medical Errors Affect Healthcare Professionals?

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine released a report called To Err is Human. This report estimated that 44,000 to 98,000 hospitalized patients die each year as a result of preventable medical errors. But how do medical errors affect healthcare workers? A recent article by Van Gerven and colleagues, published ahead of print in Medical Care, addresses that… Read More »

Health care services use after Medicaid-to-dual transition for adults with mental illness

In 2013, there were 10.7 million people enrolled [PDF] in both Medicare and Medicaid. Dual eligibility depends on age, income, and disability. Dually enrolled beneficiaries are also responsible for a large share of program costs overall; 31% of Medicare fee-for-services spending for 18% of beneficiaries [PDF] who are dually enrolled. Given the additional health challenges [PDF] faced by dual eligibles, this… Read More »

Time for a vacation?

As I sat at my desk daydreaming about my family’s upcoming August beach vacation and remembering good times from last year’s beach trip with the kids, I began to feel the anxiety creeping in. I think you know the kind of anxiety I’m talking about: worry about falling behind on work, concern that my lack… Read More »

Tools to improve coordination in primary care

Last month, I left readers with a bit of cliffhanger: How do we actually improve care coordination? Last time, I suggested there were some great ideas, and now it’s time to delve into three promising strategies: 1) individualize and personalize the electronic medical record (EMR); 2. fix the hospital discharge process; and 3) make it a part of normal practice to measure care coordination. Read on for more about each of these tools…

Quality Measurement in Home Care: Avoiding Unintended Effects

In theory, quality measurement and reporting generally benefits patients and their families, as (PDF link) public data on quality increases transparency and provider accountability. It also may benefit providers as a tool for quality assurance and improvement; however, the evidence does not always provide a clear picture. Unique challenges exist for patients receiving home care… Read More »

Autism and iPads: An Interview with Speech Language Pathologist Lauren Ross

In 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in every 68 children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Consequently, there is a lot of discussion regarding potential causes of autism. However, for this post, I wanted to move away from this more commonly discussed topic and focus instead on how assistive technology (specifically iPads) are being… Read More »

Call for Contributors

The Medical Care Blog is always looking for new contributors! We’re especially interested in people who can commit to writing one blog post per month or every 3 months. We are open to contributors at all stages of career development. Prior blogging experience preferred, but not required. Our posts cover a wide range of topics. Many… Read More »

Seeking Clarity on Opioid Prescribing

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 18,000 people died from overdoses of prescription opioids in 2014. This is more than the number of overdose deaths attributed to heroin (10,854) and cocaine (5,415) combined. Opioids are pain relievers that are chemically similar to morphine. Existing clinical guidelines recommend against exceeding a threshold… Read More »

Affordable Care Act reduced cost-sharing for long-acting reversible contraceptive methods

Since January 2013, most private insurance plans have been required to cover contraceptive services without patient cost-sharing. While health insurance plans have covered some methods of contraception with low cost-sharing, not all plans or methods have been covered equally. This is particularly the case of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants,… Read More »

Broadening participation in clinical trials

Diversity in clinical trials is critically important. Each new treatment needs to be tested in a broad, diverse population, because men and women of different ancestries have different responses to both diseases and treatments.  If only certain groups of people participate in clinical trials, it can increase disparities and worsen outcomes for people underrepresented in the clinical trial data. Until… Read More »

Feasibility of MDS 3.0 in Constructing Meaningful End-of-Life Quality Measures

Since the launch of Nursing Home Compare (NHC) in 2002, consumers have had access to information about the quality of care provided by most nursing homes (NHs) throughout the country. The intention is to help consumers distinguish among NHs and motivate informed decision making based on quality. For NHC to be useful, the quality measures… Read More »

Access to Care for US Latino Children in Traditional and Emerging Latino Communities

About one-quarter of all children born in the United States today are of Latino origin. Over the last twenty years, the under-18 US Latino population has grown rapidly – a result of both immigration and higher fertility rates among Latino adults relative to other groups. The Latino population more than doubled in 9 states between 2000 and… Read More »

All Falls Are Not Equal

All falls are not equal, nor is the financial impact of how Medicare defines fall-related injuries (FRI). In a new Medical Care article published ahead of print, I worked with colleagues at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health to explore whether Medicare expenditures associated with fall-related injuries (FRI) depend on how FRIs are identified in… Read More »

Is Care Coordination the Magic Bullet in Primary Care?

Decades of thoughtful research into how we design health care systems has shown that primary care is essential.  We know enough to confidently say that systems responsible for the overall health of patients (like health insurance plans or the Veterans Administration) that choose to skimp on primary care do so at their own peril.  But in a time… Read More »

Multidimensional frailty score as a predictor of postoperative mortality

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 40 million people (13% of the population) older than 65 years of age living in the U.S. This population has increased dramatically during the last two decades. Currently more than half of all surgeries are performed on this group of patients in the U.S. Frailty is typically defined by… Read More »

Which Bias is Which?

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) seeks to compare alternative treatments and ways to deliver healthcare to inform healthcare decisions. It can provide evidence of the harms, benefits, and effectiveness of different treatment options. As the number of studies in CER continues to grow, it is vitally important that the types of bias that exist as a function of the study design be explained. In a Medical Care article published in April, Dr. Sebastien Haneuse lays out definitions and examples of selection bias and confounding bias in CER, with a particular emphasis on distinguishing between the two.

Coverage May Not Solve Disparities in Delayed or Forgone Care Due to Cost

In a new Medical Care article published ahead of print, Cheryl R. Clark, MD, ScD, and colleagues, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard, provide pre-ACA implementation estimates of income-based disparities in delayed or forgone care due to cost by race/ethnicity, by state-level Medicaid expansion status. Reforms can be unevenly implemented even if they address the primary causes of… Read More »

Pressure ulcers: risk factors and the power of policy

Medical Care has recently published two papers on the topic of pressure ulcers — costly, painful, largely preventable infections associated with poorer quality care. In the first, from researchers at the University of Manitoba, York University, and the University of British Columbia, lead author Malcolm Doupe, PhD and colleagues focus on the risk of developing stage… Read More »

The Impact of Gasoline Costs on the Healthcare Industry

The higher the cost of gasoline, the higher the healthcare costs for the treatment of injuries caused by motorcycle crashes. In an article published ahead of print in Medical Care this week, He Zhu and colleagues discuss the association between gas prices in the United States, hospital costs, and utilization for both motorcycle and non-motorcycle related injuries. Remember… Read More »