Alaska’s Director of Health Care Services has notified Medicaid providers that their claims won’t be paid for an undisclosed period of time. In a letter sent to providers, Director Margaret Brodie states that “we are challenged by a tight budget situation” and therefore “it is necessary for us to temporarily pend some Medicaid claims while Medicaid funds are reallocated among accounts”.
Thanks to increased funding from the State, The University of Washington School of Medicine will be welcoming the largest ever student body. In partnership with Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA is set to see 60 new medical school students matriculate in August. In the midst of news reports about a coming physician shortage, this new public and private partnership indicates that the state is taking steps to address the shortfall.
A study by Studdert, Bismark, et al. in the New England Journal of Medicine has revealed that 32% of all malpractice claims paid out in the United States can be attributed to just 1% of physicians. The study also finds that doctors who have paid more than two claims have a 24% chance of doing so again within the following two years.
The impending shortage of medical practitioners looks to be dire. Washington State will be short 7,000 nurses by 2025 according to a 2014 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). 57,800 Registered Nurses were actively practicing in 2012, with an expected increase to 68,100 in 2025. The DHHS estimates that Washington State will require 75,100 RNs in order to meet the growing demand for aide in the state.
The Overlake Medical Center has been recognized by the American College of Surgeons and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery as a Comprehensive Center, meeting high standards for quality in bariatric patient care. Overlake credits their superb staff and leadership surgeons for meeting and exceeding the highest expectations for structure, process, and outcomes.
Lisa Herrick of GraysHarbor Talk investigates the qualities which make this community hospital such a destination for perinatal mothers. Staff are credited with exceptional leadership and experience among the physician and nursing team, who are integral to the welcoming environment at the Family Birth Center. Private birthing suites and post-partum rooms allow for each patient to have personalized care with highly-qualified practitioners.
The Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill Campus currently serves 380,000 neurological and vascular care patients annually. Already operating at 100% capacity, Swedish has predicted that 500,000 patients will seek care at this facility in coming years, and they’ve sought approval from the Seattle City Council to expand the campus to address this need. The project has become a contentious issue for neighborhood activists who argue that the additional 1.4 million square feet expansion will negatively affect traffic, community appeal, and sun exposure. The city council is expected to announce a decision shortly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published a study this morning indicating that global life expectancy has increased by five years since the turn of the millennium. Life expectancy for children born last year is 71.4 years on average, with great deviation depending on the region.
The average lifespan had declined in the 1990s due to the African AIDS epidemic and the fall of the Soviet Union, according to WHO. This five-year increase from 2000 to 2015 makes up for that decrease and more.
While much of this is good news, the WHO is careful to point out that the increases are not spread out evenly across nations. In 29 countries, newborns have an expectancy of 80 years or more. Switzerland boasts the longest average survival rate for men at 81.3 years, while women in Japan reach, on average, a whopping 86.8 years! Those born in sub-Saharan Africa, however, are looking at a life expectancy of fewer than 60 years. The country with the worst life expectancy is Sierra Leone, with women expected to live 50.8 years and men just 49.3. This variation is distressing to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO:
“The world has made great strides in reducing the needless suffering and premature deaths that arise from preventable and treatable diseases… But the gains have been uneven. Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no-one is left behind.”
The world faces many challenges to elongating the life span. The WHO estimates that 53% of global deaths aren’t reported accurately, meaning we have to extrapolate on the available data. Even in nations which have achieved greater access to healthcare have seen out-of-pocket expenses sky-rocket, reaching 25% of total household spending or more.
The other major challenge? Procuring the necessary resources to provide improved healthcare around the globe. Universal health coverage is the goal, and it’s going to take a lot of committed individuals to help make that a reality. The coming practitioner shortage is an indication that access to healthcare and improved life expectancy is as much an issue of quantity as it is about quality.
An article by Mohammed Kloub posted on Crosscut.com highlights some of the efforts being made to make healthcare more accessible outside of the Seattle area. Citing the coming Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine opening in 2017 and a new partnership between Gonzaga University and the University of Washington, Kloub makes a compelling argument that high quality medical care will be more accessible in the Eastern part of the state in coming years.
As Kaiser’s “Health Care Career Scholarship Program” enters its eighth year, external reviews have shown that the program is reaching a diverse student body across Washington and Oregon states. The program awards $2,000, $5,000, and $10,000 scholarships to one high school senior at each of 133 public high schools in their service area. The program has awarded scholarships to 900+ students, the vast majority of whom are from demographics racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the healthcare industry.
Molly Rosbach, writing for the Yakima Herald, takes readers into the world of medical scribes in emergency rooms around Washington state. Medical Scribes allow medical practitioners to spend more time with patients without having to worry about paperwork in between visits. Medical Scribes, often pre-med students, are able to increase a hospital’s capacity for patient care while simultaneously learning about the process of seeing patients as a physician.
One emergency room doctor notes that “[b]y the time these kids start med school, they’ve literally witnessed thousands and thousands of patient encounters, and they’re light years ahead of their classmates”.
A survey of 450,000 employees has indicated that employees won’t always choose the least expensive option for the same treatments. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, actually found that only 10% of employees opened the price calculator, and of those the average out-of-pocket spending actually increased by an average $18.
The National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome has released a DVD and phone app designed to help parents cope with an overly-vocal newborn. Early adopters MultiCare Health System report that the program has been a success. One new mother reported that the app provided extra comfort by offering tips about when to worry about a crying baby, and some advice on how to get through a difficult phase. Read more about the Period of PURPLE Crying program at http://purplecrying.info/
Jefferson Healthcare has once again earned top marks in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual survey of health care facilities. Jefferson has met nondiscrimination and training criteria reflective of an organization that offers care inclusive of LGBT patients and their families.
The Allen Institute for Brain Science has published a comprehensive online portal which enables the public to learn more about brain injury. Brain-map.org is the result of a collaboration between the Allen Institute, the University of Washington Medicine, Group Health.
Edmonds Family Medicine, EvergreenHealth Partners, MultiCare Connected Care, Overlake Medical Center, Seattle Children’s and Virginia Mason have formed The Puget Sound High Value Network. The goal is to create competition for high quality and cost-effective care in the Seattle area, without consolidating organizations.
IHC, inc has published a report on the future physician shortfall in America.The report projects there will be between 61K-94K fewer physicians than needed by 2025, and that demand for practitioners will increase at the same time as the population over 65 grows by 41%.
Major research has been published in The BMJ Journal which warns that medical error causes more than 250,000 deaths annually. Researchers suggest that more data is needed in order to understand the problem, and propose death certificates be amended to more accurately reflect the cause of death.
An article in Health Affairs has determined that 7 of the 10 most profitable hospitals in America are not-for-profit organizations. Non profit status allows many organizations to avoid property and other taxes, which may contribute to reduced expenses. Hospital associations report that profitability should be an indication of proper management and greater efficiency, and that increased revenues are used to train staff and purchase better equipment.
An article published in The BMJ Journal by Martin Makary and Michael Daniel on May 3rd, 2016 identified that medical errors are the third most common killer in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not report medical error on death certificates, resulting in public ignorance as to the scale of fatal mistakes during patient care. Death certificates rely on the International Classification of Diseases coding system, which does not include a classification for “medical error”.
According to the researchers, medical error was the cause of death in 251,000 cases in 2013, beating lung disease, suicide and motor vehicle deaths combined. The two leading causes of death in 2013 were heart disease (661,000) and cancer (585,000). Examples of such errors include patients being handed the incorrect medication, infections from improperly sterilized equipment, accidental cuts on the operating table, and many more.
“Although we cannot eliminate human error, we can better measure the problem to design safer systems mitigating its frequency, visibility, and consequences” say the authors. “Strategies to reduce death from medical care should include three steps: making errors more visible when they occur so their effects can be intercepted; having remedies at hand to rescue patients; and making errors less frequent by following principles that take human limitations into account”. Of course another major strategy should be educating practitioners on best practices for those procedures which most commonly result in accidental deaths.
Clearly this study has implications for healthcare recruiters and human resources managers as well. When hiring for open positions it is crucial that an employer has the opportunity to interview the most highly qualified candidate. That isn’t possible if only one or two applicants express interest and show up for a job interview. Strong recruiting platforms are necessary to empower employers to survey a range of would-be employees, and that’s where the quantity of applicants breeds quality in eventual employee performance.
Patients should also be empowered to make intelligent decisions about their care. By publishing more data about medical errors, and utilizing resources like Hospital Safety Score, patients can choose the medical teams which are more likely to provide incident-free care.
Martin A Makary, Michael Daniel. “Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US”. BMJ 2016;353:i2139
WSHHRA holds two conferences each year in the Spring and in the Fall, and this event in Chelan was top-notch! Washington Healthcare Careers has been proud to support the event in the past, and the new staff this year were very excited to attend their first conference. The Chelan conference featured presentations such as “Managing Organizational Transition” from Amanda Adams and “The Anatomy of a Jury Trial” by Jeffrey James, and it offered a great opportunity to network with other healthcare human resource professionals in the state.
The new Washington Healthcare Careers staff are grateful for the warm welcome received at this conference. WSHHRA members lived up to their reputation as an energetic bunch who know how to have a good time! We thank our hosts deeply and look forward to our next meeting.