SHM Exhibit Hall
I'm attending the Society of Hospital Medicine's 2010 meeting in Washington, D.C. This morning I toured the Exhibit Hall over a tasty (free) breakfast of fruit and pastry products. I saw the GE Vscan which is a PDA sized ultrasound device that would allow nonradiologist physicians to do simple imaging as an adjunct to physical exam. It does not allow for ultrasound guidance of central line placement but it does allow visualization of the heart (i.e. to look for wall motion abnormalities and pericardial effusions), aorta, liver, kidney and gall bladder. The cost is in the $8000 range for a unit one could slip in a pocket. Later in the day (again over free munchies), I was able to contrast the Vscan with the SonoSite M-Turbo which is about the size of a laptop and with a heftier price tag starting $30000. It appears to be able to do anything that is worth doing with ultrasound.
I also checked out the documentation solutions from Shareable Ink which uses Livescribe technology and custom forms to allow handwritten documentation to be immediately available in an electronic medical record. It also has applications for billing. I got to drive the "robohospitalist" or InTouch Health RP-7 Robot. In addition I spoke to the representatives for PNA FISH which offers rapid identification of certain species of bacteria in particular MRSA and VRE as well as candida differentiation within 90 minutes rather than waiting for 2 days for culture results. This begs the question will the Surviving Sepsis Campaign guidelines change in the future? Also I picked up some articles regarding hyponatremia management using vasopressin antagonists as an adjunct in patients resistant to conventional hyponatremia management.
Of course no conference trip for me is complete without a little bit of shopping so I picked up some books (Evidence-Based Medicine: In Sherlock Holmes' Footsteps by Jörgen Nordenström, The 10-minute Clinical Assessment by Knut Schroeder, and ICU Chest Radiology by Harold Moskowitz) at the Wiley Interscience booth and ordered custom heavy weight cotton lab coats with chef's buttons in orange and blue respectively from On Call Medical Coats.
Plenary Session: Hospitalists are Becoming Influencers of Healthcare Policy
The plenary session began with a panel discussion regarding healthcare reform. The idea of the CMS Development Center whose goal is to decrease cost while increasing quality was applauded warily as a great idea already hamstrung by limited vision. One key area of praise was that it would be allowed to independently contract with companies to decrease costs, i.e. rewarding those whose systems work. Meanwhile, terms like "Super-MedPAC", "bundle payments", "medical homes", and "accountable care organization" flew. I'm not entirely clear on what they all meant (nor do I think any of us are) but these are the tools to provide that higher quality of care at less cost. The models of these are places like Mayo and Geysinger, qualifications for accountable care organizations are in the pipe. The argument was made that hospitals, like major academic centers, are actually potential lobbying groups and need to do so to compete with special interest groups.
The bottom line was that "fee for service" will disappear and in its void remains opportunities and challenges for providing as well as reimbursing healthcare. There will be a change from "profit" centers to "cost" centers that create value in non-value based ways. This was summarized best as we need to limit healthcare, not because we don't care but because rising costs do not provide more care. Medicare the "big dumb payer" sends 33% of it's money to hospitals and another 20% to physicians. By stopping paying for readmits, theoretical we increase a hospital's responsibility for readmissions.
Despite the disagreement with "cook book medicine" the use of "comparative effectiveness" will mandate the usage of evidence-based medicine in healthcare. There was some discussion regarding patient autonomy and the entitlement society, particularly in discussion of patient accountability for their own healthcare. One example of how less insurance drove down costs was in Lasix surgery, since it is mostly out of pocket and not covered demand drove down the price.
Plenary Session: Paul Levy
Paul Levy is CEO of Beth Deacon Isreal hospital and runs a blog called Running a Hospital. He presented a paradox: Doctors are dedicated to alleviating suffering but are the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S. In fact the chance of patients being killed in American hospitals each year was greater than the chance of American soldiers in Iraq during the height of the Gulf War being killed.
Doctors like to finish tasks so they often resort to "work arounds" that transiently solve a single problem and not the systemic issue. Mr. Levy discussed the work of Steve Spear examining the the lean approach to production as applied to healthcare. The lean approach as optimized by Toyota up until recently states that when a worker identifies a problem they call the supervisor who initiates a team to work on it, i.e. "root cause analysis".
Mr. Levy also discussed "transparency" as a management tool, stating that after releasing numbers on central line infection and VAP this helped to decrease these complications without more costs. He also noted that leadership takes audacious statements that cannot be scientifically met.