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Indiana doctors face challenge to medical liability cap
Indiana physicians continue to battle a legal challenge over the state's medical liability damages cap. Indiana Court of Appeals judges on Oct. 25 allowed a lawsuit against the cap to move forward, denying a request by Community Hospitals of Indiana to throw out the case based on procedural grounds. The case stems from the death of patient Debra Plank, 47. In 2001, she sought treatment at Community Hospital in Indianapolis after experiencing abdominal pain. She was prescribed pain medication and sent home, said John Muller, the family's attorney. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with a small bowel obstruction, according to court documents. As a result of the missed diagnosis, Plank contracted sepsis and died, court documents show. Timothy Plank, her husband, sued the hospital and his wife's doctors. All but one physician were dismissed from the case. Jurors found the doctor was not negligent, but ruled the hospital was responsible. Timothy Plank was awarded $8.5 million [Read more]
Military veterans to benefit from federal health training grants
Washington -- New White House initiatives are prodding medical schools to train military veterans for health care jobs and encouraging health centers to hire veterans. Universities and colleges that train veterans to be physician assistants will be given higher scores when applying for federal physician assistant training grants, according to an Oct. 25 announcement by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the Dept. of Health and Human Services. The move is part of White House efforts to connect veterans to jobs. "No veteran should have to fight for a job at home after they fight for our nation overseas," President Obama said on Nov. 7. "Our war fighters have been hit disproportionately hard by the economic downturn with unemployment rates that eclipse their non-military cohorts," said Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. The Obama administration also encouraged employers to list their job openings on a new da [Read more]
Only 1 in 10 physicians asks patients what they expect from care
Eighty-five percent of physicians say it is important to know what patients expect from a hospital stay to ensure high-quality care, yet only one in 10 doctors asks about patient expectations. Nurses are likelier to quiz patients about their expectations, with 20% doing so, according to a survey of more than 1,000 physicians and nurses in the U.S. and three other countries published in November's BMJ Quality and Safety. Forty-seven percent of respondents were physicians and 53% were nurses. The gap between physicians' recognition that patient expectations are important and their failure to ask about them constitutes a "blind spot," the study says. "Expectations are definitely an important component of patient satisfaction, which is the congruence between the patient's expectations and his perceptions at the end of treatment," said Ronen Rozenblum, PhD, MPH, director of the unit for innovative health care practice and technology in the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Pa [Read more]
AMA announces App Challenge winners
The idea to replace the index cards that many physicians carry in their lab coats to keep track of hospitalized patients with a smartphone application was a winning one, the American Medical Association decided. The AMA selected the idea for the "Rounder" app as one of two winners to its 2011 AMA App Challenge, which invited physicians, residents and medical students to submit medical app ideas for a smartphone or tablet application. The other winning app, "JAMA Clinical Challenge," is a learning tool that tests physicians' diagnostic skills and offers educational information on specific diagnoses. The app contest was launched last summer and had hundreds of entries. There were two categories: one for ideas submitted by physicians and the other for ideas submitted by residents or medical students. In September, five finalists from each category were announced. Michael Ray Bykhovsky, a third-year medical student at Georgia Health Science University in Augusta, was the winner in [Read more]
AMA helping physicians broach the subject of obesity
The patient depicted in the video is 50 pounds overweight, stressed and daunted by the task of trying to slim down. It's a common scenario for physicians facing the medical consequences of patients' poor lifestyle choices. Research shows that doctors can influence patients to eat better and be more active, but they have to know how to broach the subject with patients. The American Medical Association has released new continuing medical education tools to help doctors discuss weight with patients. The materials have been certified for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit and include two videos and a report. They provide tips on how to talk with patients about making positive lifestyle changes for themselves and their children, how to overcome patient negativity and how to encourage patients to persevere. "By using these tools, physicians will gain a better understanding of why patients make unhealthy decisions and will learn how to initiate conversations about healthy eating and physic [Read more]
Kansas looks to managed care for Medicaid overhaul
Kansas is turning to managed care organizations to provide Medicaid enrollees more integrated, higher-quality care and to limit Medicaid spending growth. The state on Nov. 9 released a request for proposals for KanCare, both a consolidation of existing agencies that serve the state's 378,000 Medicaid enrollees and an attempt to recruit managed care organizations to provide comprehensive, coordinated, quality care. Bids are due by Jan. 13, and the state expects to sign statewide contracts with three MCOs. "Serving the needs of the whole person as well as ensuring long-term fiscal sustainability are the principles this plan is built upon," said Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, MD, who led the initiative. The reform will require federal approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but the state hopes to receive it and begin KanCare by January 2013. Historically, the state's Medicaid program hasn't focused sufficiently on quality outcomes, according to a KanCare summary [Read more]
Judge halts graphic warnings on cigarette packages
A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new rule requiring graphic warning labels on cigarette packages. The decision was a victory for tobacco companies who say the warnings are unfair and would cost millions of dollars to produce. The Food and Drug Administration in June said the nine text and graphic health warnings would be required in an effort to curb tobacco use and encourage users to quit smoking. The labels -- scheduled to appear on packages and cartons by September 2012 -- include images of a man smoking through a tracheotomy hole and a dead person with a surgery-scarred chest. In his Nov. 7 opinion, Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the tobacco companies showed they probably will prevail on their claim that the mandatory graphic images unconstitutionally force commercial speech. "This case poses a constitutional challenge to a bold new tack by the Congress and the FDA, in their obvious and continuing efforts to mini [Read more]
Physicians, theologians examine faith and medical practice
Chicago -- Nashville, Tenn., psychiatrist Andrew Michel, MD, often feels frustrated in his practice. He says his specialty's diagnostic system is not well-validated, that psychotropic medications are frequently ineffective, and that managed care means there is never enough time to plumb the depths of his patients' mental anguish. Dr. Michel draws upon his Christian faith to find the will to sustain his commitment to medicine amid these challenges. On a busy day, moving from one all-too-brief appointment to the next, he has time only for a simple prayer: "Lord, have mercy." How medical practice and religious faith intersect was the subject of a Nov. 10 symposium hosted by the University of Chicago Program on Medicine and Religion. The event drew about 120 physicians, theologians, chaplains and clergy to hear lectures on topics such as "Judaism and the Practice of Medicine," "Christian Witness in Health Care" and "Medicine in an Apocalyptic Context." The one-day event is just [Read more]
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