|Today's "Paperless" Medical Office|
h/t: A faithful follower of this blog.
|Click image to enlarge|
"Dr. Fisher, I'm applying to a cardiology fellowship - could I ask you to write me a letter?"It sounded innocent enough until thirty-five addresses were forwarded to us for delivery.
"Sure," I said, "To whom should I address the letter?"
"Oh, don't worry about that, I'll give your administrative assistant a list of the programs."
Just as monumental as graduation day is “Match Day,” when medical school students get sealed envelopes that tell them what city and hospital they’ll be going to for training. But advocates say the number of grads could severely outnumber the amount of residency positions by 2015 — or sooner — if hospitals don’t substantially expand the number of residency positions they offer. While medical school enrollment is on track to grow by 30% by 2016 from 2002 levels, the number of residency training positions have only grown by 8% since 2002, according to the AAMC. Even as there’s an impending doctor shortage, “We’re worried we’re going to have a group of MDs that have studied but can’t practice because they can’t find a training spot,” says Grover of the AAMC. Part of the problem is that there’s a cap on the amount of Medicare dollars that can go to residency programs that has been in place since 1997, when some health experts predicted that there was going to be an oversupply of physicians in the U.S.
About 20% of the $13 billion spent annually on training 110,000 young doctors is provided by Medicare, down from roughly 30% a decade ago, estimates Grover. If Congress doesn’t act to allow Medicare to fund a larger number of positions, hospitals may need to find additional revenue to fill the gap, and some may need to reduce the number of positions they offer, he adds. At a time when the federal government is cutting Medicare spending and some hospitals are already seeing their budgets squeezed, finding additional revenue for new training positions will be tough, says Grover. It’s even possible that graduates might soon also be asked to pay for the training — an option that some insiders say would place an unreasonable burden on already debt-laden doctors — instead of the current model where they are paid while they work at the hospitals, says John Norcini, president of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research: "There's a whole series of possibilities."
|Street Scene - Mumbai, India|
We deleted all identifying patient information and lead information; programmed them to nonpacing mode, when possible, or lowered the outputs to the minimum possible values; turned off all sensing and therapies for ventricular tachycardia (VT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF); and deactivated all ICD alerts (auditory and vibratory). When a sufficient number of devices were collected, they were transported to India in batches. Transport was most often done by physicians (or friends and family members of physicians) who were traveling from the United States. The devices were placed in checked-in baggage in a clear plastic bag, and 2 letters were placed in prominent view. The first letter was signed by the donating physician, stating that the devices were of no commercial value and that they were being donated for reuse in patients who could not afford such devices. The second letter was signed by the Chief Executive Officer of Holy Family Hospital, stating that the hospital was expecting the devices for donation to such patients. Contact information for all physicians was provided in the letters.
Attempts at sending explanted devices by courier or mail proved difficult; without precedent, it was simply not possible to describe the purpose and nature of the shipment to shipping authorities or to insure the contents. We finally resorted to carrying the devices during travel to India in our personal baggage, as described. Some difficulties (requiring lengthy explanations) were encountered during baggage screening and, especially, at Customs in Mumbai.
Device Resterilization Protocol in IndiaThe devices ultimately functioned well, but social and societal limitations caused six of 81 patients to be lost to follow-up. No device infections occurred and three patients even received three such devices over their lifetime.
Once received, the ICDs were removed from their bags and rinsed under running water. We cleaned the headers (lead ports) with pipe cleaners and inspected the seams and body for residual biological debris. We immersed the ICDs in hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes and then in povidone-iodine for 2 minutes. They were then rinsed with running water for 2 minutes and dried with an air blower. Finally, we double-packaged the devices and sealed them with special indicator-marked paper for ethylene oxide gas sterilization in an automatic ethylene oxide machine (certified by Pest Control of India, Mumbai) at 38 °C. The protocol included 4 hours of ethylene oxide gas exposure followed by 6 hours of aeration, after which inspection confirmed that the package indicator label had changed from brown to lime green. The resterilized ICDs were aerated for at least 12 hours in an open, dry space.
In September, the Government Accountability Office issued a report warning that computerized medical devices could be vulnerable to hacking, posing a safety threat, and asked the FDA to address the issue. The GAO report focused mostly on the threat to two kinds of wireless implanted devices: implanted defibrillators and insulin pumps. The vulnerability of these devices has received widespread press attention (see "Personal Security" and "Keeping Pacemakers Safe from Hackers"), but no actual attacks on them have been reported.
Fu, who is a leader in researching the risks described in the GAO report, said those two classes of device are "a drop in the bucket": thousands of other network-connected devices used for patient care are also vulnerable to infection. "These are life-saving devices. Patients are overwhelmingly safer with them than without them. But cracks are showing," he said. (Fu was Technology Review's Innovator of the Year in 2009.)-Wes