Articles Posted in Emergency Medicine

LV100117-300x215Caregivers and the community in Las Vegas, Nev., deserve a salute for their response to the gun violence last week, which could have overwhelmed a less-prepared community’s medical system.

Las Vegas  isn’t a giant metropolis (pop. 2 million in its metro area), and, due to the high costs to operate such a facility, it has just one Level 1 trauma center. That’s a facility staffed and equipped to provide a “gold standard” of emergency care. In the state of Nevada, the only such center is at the 541-bed University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.

It was slammed with more than 100 critical patients, many with life-threatening or fatal gunshot wounds.  A torrent of patients also was routed to the hospital, some for treatment of injuries they suffered while fleeing Stephen Paddock’s rampage. First-responders soon were flooding another facility, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas—a Level II trauma facility—with hundreds more.

Donald_Trump-1-225x300Even as President Trump belittles Puerto Rican political leaders, the Americans on the island have been swamped by a hurricane-caused health care crisis, according to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes there.

The disturbing news reports show that sick and injured patients, with gas supplies limited, are struggling to navigate tree-blocked roads to get to hospitals that often lack power for cooling and to provide medical services. Doctors are reporting shortages of drugs and medical supplies.

Public health experts increasingly fear that health conditions will worsen, even as more rescue and recovery aid slowly trickles to a spot that long has wrestled with poverty and the isolation of many of its rural communities.

mwhc-front-entrance-300x174MedStar Washington Hospital Center, described by its chief medical officer as “the most important hospital in the most important city in the most important country in the world,” is under investigation by regulators in the District of Columbia due to maintenance failures that allowed sewage to seep down walls and onto operating room floors.

USA Today deserves credit for reporting on problems  in the 900-plus-bed hospital, which serves many of the District’s poor as well as providing trauma care sufficiently vital that it is supposed to be the go-to place of emergency treatment for top officials.

Its elite patients have included House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was taken to MedStar Washington after a deranged gunman wounded him while shooting up a Congressional baseball practice. USA Today says a room where Scalise was treated, later, after he was out of it, was among those affected by maintenance and sanitation woes.

flanursinghome-300x190Although Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have stormed off into the record books, their harms, particularly to health, persist for Texans, Floridians, and residents of the Caribbean. Recovery and return to normalcy will take the ravaged areas longer than many Americans realize, experts say. And they already are uncovering systemic woes, some fatal, with which planners and lawmakers will need to reckon with to better prepare for the next storm.

In Florida, for example, while hospitals, generally speaking, had adapted and rode out Irma maybe better than might be expected, nursing homes did not. They’re under new scrutiny, notably after eight residents died in an already troubled and roasting Hollywood, Fla., nursing home.

That incident refocused official attention on a sizable and particularly storm-afflicted population in the Sunshine State: its senior citizens. Whether in others’ care or ostensibly on their own, millions of older Floridians were left even more vulnerable after Irma, which cut off critical life services, including power, cooling, transportation, and access to medical services and food and other supplies.

harvey-300x200Houston’s medical system was staggered, but it stood up to the pounding inflicted by Hurricane Harvey’s winds and rains. But for the millions of residents of the nation’s fourth largest city huge challenges will persist for some time to their health and well-being.  Texans’ tragedies may offer us painful reminders we should heed about planning and disaster preparedness.

The Gulf Coast, of course, knows hurricanes well, and experiences with Katrina, Rita, and other storms had gotten doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other care=giving facilities well-launched into emergency planning.

Still, Ben Taub—one of the metropolis’s major emergency and public care facilities—found itself inundated and struggling with sudden patient evacuations, while other hospitals, including many in the city’s sprawling medical center complex, stayed drier and open. The big Texas Medical Center had installed huge submarine protective doors, which it shut to successfully protect vital equipment critical to running hospital infrastructure. Even so, rising, rushing waters cut the center and many other hospitals off, making them islands away from stranded staff and patients in potential need.

clockYour time is precious, and when you are a patient, you may feel it’s more so, especially if you’re ill or even in the end stage of your life.

So why do health care providers keep us waiting, or worse, why must doctors and hospitals act downright oblivious to how valuable our time might be as opposed to theirs—and what might be done about it?

Take a look at a thoughtful piece on how one health system has tried to keep true to the idea that patients matter above everything else and the delivery of care needs to focus on them:

sepsis-300x249Although public health officials have launched national campaigns against sepsis, it may be that new initiatives at the state and local levels will be more effective in battling the deadly scourge, particularly as it harms kids.

Sepsis, experts say, happens when the body is overwhelmed by infection and responds by shutting down key organs. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It’s difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. As Stat, the online news service, reports:

Sepsis hospitalizes some 75,000 children and teens each year in the United States. Nearly 7,000 will die, according to one 2013 study. That’s more than three times as many annual deaths as are caused by pediatric cancers. And some of the children who survive sepsis may suffer long-term consequencesincluding organ damage and amputated limbs.

med-records-300x200In the best of all worlds, none of us will need any time soon to race to a nearby urgent care center or to pop by the retail, walk-in clinics that have sprouted in neighborhood drug stores across the country. But if you do find yourself at one of these “doc-in-a-box” clinics, here is some good advice. A lot of this applies to regular doctor visits, too.

A tip of the hat to Dr. Peter Ubel, who posted recently at Forbes and KevinMD.com, the physician information-sharing site, his suggestions of a half dozen “essentials” that patient-consumers might need to know before a retail clinic visit. He based these on positions taken by the American College of Physicians and published in the peer reviewed  Annals of Internal Medicine.

Ubel says “doc in a box” operations (retail clinics, often staffed with physician assistants or nurses) are suitable for low-level, ordinary treatment for things like poison ivy or sore throat. When patients go to these clinics, they need later to fully inform their doctors about the care they got (see the next paragraph). They shouldn’t take referrals to specialists from staff at walk-in clinics. The facilities are OK for patients who are “relatively healthy,” and who don’t have a “complex medical history,” meaning they lack chronic or difficult conditions. Patients with greater challenges need to see their own doctors, regularly if need be. Ubel calls out his colleagues, noting that if they were more responsive to their patients, or figured out alternatives when they can’t, docs in boxes wouldn’t be flourishing as they are.

emergency-services_overviewYour kid takes a tumble and breaks an arm at a sleep-over. Your spouse, on a business trip, suffers sudden chest pain and shortness of breath. You’re in beach slippers and step by accident on a shard of glass stuck in the sand. Now, you’ve got oodles of time to check your insurance policy to  find the nearest emergency room that’s covered by your insurer, right? And you’ll be asking every physician who treats you if they’re part of your network, right?  Well, no, nobody does that.

So brace yourself: a new study says that 1 in 5 Americans gets whacked after their ER visit with added charges not covered by insurers for out-of-network care. The surprise medical bills averaged $900 but ran as much as $19,000.

“To put it in very, very blunt terms: This is the health equivalent of a carjacking,” Zack Cooper, an assistant professor of health policy and economics at Yale University, commented to the New York Times. He is a co-author of the paper on surprise medical bills, published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.

commty care ncHospitals and health systems are making stark choices between offering models to assist their communities and reduce medical costs−or raking in profits, no matter how outrageous and shame-provoking their charges might be. Evidence of the extremes came this week in reports about alternative realities.

Let’s start with the positive view, recognizing exemplary efforts in the Charlotte, N.C.-area to both help patients and to sharply cut medical costs. Forward-looking health policy experts decided to dive into the highest Medicaid users of emergency services, discovering, for example, that just one patient, a homeless alcoholic man, visited the ER 223 times in 15 months and had undergone 150 redundant and needless X-rays or other scans. Many of the top 100 “frequent flyers,” poor and repeat ER patients, took an exceedingly costly route to fill prescriptions or to seek pregnancy or other routine tests; 86 of these individuals were known to have behavioral woes, including depression or bipolar disease. The experts found that these individuals visited multiple ERs on the same day, sometimes crossing a street or two to do so. They appeared on hot or cold days, suggesting their real need might not be medical but for shelter.

Community Care North Carolina — an umbrella group, with cooperation and support from hospitals, social workers, nurses, and social service agencies — searched out the heaviest using Medicaid-ER patients. They needed to comb the streets, jails, and even a strip club. They helped the patients find responsive primary care doctors, and other assistance, for example, in managing chronic illnesses and conditions. They connected them with social service agencies for assistance with existing housing, nutrition, jobs, and transportation programs. As the Charlotte Observer reports:

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
Washingtonian Top Lawyer 2011
Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb Top Attorney Best Lawyers Firm
Contact Information