Friday, April 10, 2020

Covid 19: Is Marketing in Health Care taking Precedence over Safety? Are some institutions designated as "health-care" suppressing internal information about Covid-19?

This story concerns an elderly physician we'll just call "Dad. " This saga was submitted by his son whose name is being protected by this newsletter since we've not yet called him for further follow up. We're also not yet disclosing the name of the hospital since the hospital itself has so far not had opportunity to respond to this story. Here is what we have learned so far. 

Dad is a private practice internist whose patients include geriatric patients in a rehabilitation hospital. Out of an abundance of caution to protect these patients Dad has been wearing a PPE mask while attending these patients. He felt he was doing the right thing. We are told that the hospital administration did not agree. We are told that the hospital administration was afraid that their patients would worry if they even thought that their doctors were worried about Covid-19. In economic terms the administration worried that families would pull relatives from the hospital, in short, would facilitate early discharge. For the hospital we were told that the concern for a possible medical problem for the patients was being supplanted by an anticipated economic problem for the hospital. 

We are also told that some hospital staff and patients tested positive for Covid and that since then the hospital administration has endeavored to enforce measures to block disclosure of this information. Disclosure is seen as a marketing risk. 

The person who submitted this story to us wrote that "there needs to be recourse for hospitals and administrators that are behaving this way. Making money is not more important than protecting our patients." 

Further follow-up is indicated, not just with reference to the unnamed hospital in this story, but to determine to what extent this narrative pertains to other hospitals and institutions designated as "health-care." We need to ask if the politics of health-care -- what this newsletter is all about -- has taken an ugly turn or not. 

Updated comment, 04/22/20: we've received comments of interest, e.g., some would like the AMA to take up this story whereas others think we should inform Pro Publica. In general, everybody is uncomfortable with the prospect of  physicians being intimidated and silenced by business or political interests. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Corona Virus versus QMEs

Our office, designated to do a Panel QME, ran into a plethora of unexpected complications on a recent case. Various involved parties were worried, for example, about the assigned date -- they were fearful of travel, time spent in any doctor's office where a previous Corona patient might have been, and the unpredictability of the virus itself. Parties expressing trepidation included medical office staff, persons that might be asked to do diagnostic testing such as imaging studies or legal staff that might have to deal with a client who had just been to a medical office where somebody else might have left a viral particle. Lawyers' offices, saddled with their clients' medical legal problems, now also worried about exposure of their clients and their own legal staff to a novel virus known to have the ability to cause death. In all cases, front office persons were worried about their own exposure. What to do?

Here's what we did. All the parties were called. It turned out that the patient was willing to reschedule to a date that  might be safer, his attorney was agreeable and so was defense. The adjuster was compliant. The exam was rescheduled to a later date by which it was hoped the virus problem would be resolved. If not the above process could be repeated, i.e., postponed again. 


There has been considerable discussion of use of telemedicine but no overall agreement to date how it would be fair to all parties. In the meantime, it appears as though we'll need to rely on good faith negotiations. That task is likely to be as challenging as the Corona Virus already is. We should try anyway. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Re AB 890 (Wood): Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners 

AB 890, authored by Assemblyman Wood, DDS, is reportedly designed to fill a gap in access to healthcare. The underlying problem is that there are not enough physicians especially for injured workers (these patients are seen via workers comp). While attempts are made to train more physicians, this effort is not seen as adequate. Wood's solution is to allow Nurse Practitioners (NP) to fill the gap.The claim is made that NPs will gravitate to underserved areas and work for less remuneration than their physician colleagues. 

Nothing, however, in the current written legislation guarantees that NPs will gravitate to underserved areas or stay there if they do -- the NPs will not be obliged to give up chances for employment in better served areas or to charge less for services that the legislatue has deemed equivalent. Pay parity for the same job or equivalent services is to be expected especially by NPs who are properly organized. 

Unfortunately, The bill has verbiage harmful to physicians, patients, and hospital medical staffs. 

Item # 1: The bill says that "a nurse practitioner shall be eligible to serve on medical staff and hopital committees." So much for the exquisite education, training, and preparation that have to date been required of physicians. 

Item # 2: under Section 2637.101 it is stated that "there is in the Department of Consumer Affairs the Advanced Practice Registered Nursing Board consisting of nine (underlining added) members."

Item # 3: this item is under Section 2637, 103. It states that "commencing January 1, 2026, four (underlining added) members of the board shall be nurse practioners licensed under this chapter. 

Item # 4: Three members of the board shall be physicians and surgeons licensed by the Medical Board of California or by the Osteopathic Board of California and that "at least one of the physician and surgeon members shall (underlining added) work closely with a nurse practitioner" and that "the remaining physician and surgeon members shall focus on primary care in their practice." 

Item # 5: Two members of the board shall represent the public at large and shall not be licensed under any board under this division or any board referred to in Section 1000 3600."

Conclusion can be drawn with reasonable accuracy that the chief purpose of this bill is to change practice standards such that medical and/or osteopathic professional standards are no longer required for medical practice. 

Further conclusion is that AB 890 shows how a bill ostensibly designed to increase access to care evolved into legislation pitting one group's fiscal and professional prerogatives against another group's fiscal and professional percs.