Monday, 16 October 2017

The face as a mirror... of the pocket!

Pedro Rey

As this is my first post on this blog, let me introduce myself. I am a researcher into behavioural economics, a field that uses ideas from psychology to enrich the study of economic problems. More specifically, at present we are working on a project that – as I will explain at the end of this piece, and for various reasons – may have interesting implications in the field of medicine.

Our research aims to answer a simple question: what is the relationship between how much consumers like the products they buy and how much they are willing to pay for them?

This is a vital question is for economists, as we construct all our theories around the assumption that there is a very close relationship between the two. However, it is very difficult to prove the assumption, as that requires us to ascertain two things that are also difficult to measure. There is no clear way to objectively measure how much a consumer enjoys a product, nor is it in the consumer’s interest to tell us how much they are really prepared to pay for something. For this reason, we conducted an experiment in a theatre, the Sala Becket in Barcelona. There, we asked spectators to fill in questionnaires before and after the performance. Crucially, admission was not by conventional pre-paid ticket; rather, spectators could pay what they wanted after the show. The questionnaires provided two important measurements of enjoyment: how much spectators had enjoyed the show; and how much they expected to enjoy it before coming to the theatre. Asking audiences to pay what they want enables us to compare willingness to pay with what they really pay. Obviously, spectators could decide to pay nothing, but the production company we worked with, Sixto Paz, has been using the “pay what you want” strategy successfully for some years now. The most interesting result we have noted so far is that the amount paid depends less on how much spectators say they enjoyed the play than on the difference between how much they thought they would enjoy it and how much they actually enjoyed it. We therefore conclude that the most important thing is to satisfy expectations and that, although, in principle, one might think that it would be best to attract potential consumers by greatly raising these expectations, there also exists the risk of disappointing them. Accordingly, the greatest care should be taken when designing advertisements.

Nevertheless, we find using the method conventionally employed in marketing to measure levels of consumer satisfaction, the questionnaire, somewhat unsatisfactory. This is because the fact that we can find a link between how much a consumer pays and how much they say they enjoy a product may be due, simply, to the fact that we all try to be consistent. For this reason, we also used technology to obtain an alternative measure of enjoyment: deploying high-definition cameras, we filmed spectators during the performance, then processed the results using facial recognition software. This enables us to ascertain precisely, for example, how many times and how intensely a spectator laughs during a comedy, and how much attention they pay to the show. Obviously, people go to see comedies in order to enjoy a good laugh, so how much someone laughs can be a good way of measuring their enjoyment. We therefore decided to seek the relationship between data on payment and on facial expression.

I mentioned at the beginning that our study may be of medical interest. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the show we used for the experiment, Lucy Prebble’s play The Effect, about a clinical trial for a new antidepressant drug. The plot is of interest to researchers, as the lead characters fall in love during the trial, and it is not clear whether this is due to the effects of the drug or whether the fact that they fall in love spoils the study, as it seems to demonstrate that the drug works, though this is not really proven. This gave us the idea of including this theme in our own experiment by conducting a clinical trial with the audience. Before the play, spectators were asked to take one of two pills: a placebo or a “real” pill (in fact, another placebo), which we said we were studying to see whether it enabled people to enjoy the show more. A surprisingly high proportion of spectators actually took one of these pills, without knowing which, and this enabled us to study whether the fact that someone is told that they have taken something that will increase their enjoyment effectively raises their expectations, their enjoyment or even how much they are willing to pay for a product. We have not yet obtained the final results, but we can note that the “supposedly effective” pill – like advertising which claims that those who buy a product will feel better – appears to generate positive effects on all three variables.

Moreover, the employment of facial recognition software may also have clinical utility. In particular, just as it is by no means easy for economists to measure a consumer’s enjoyment of a product, so doctors have difficulties in objectively assessing the degree of pain that a patient feels, and this can present problems when it comes to taking decisions about treatment. In both cases, the problem is similar: how do different people interpret the same scale? Different people may rate the same pain as a “7” or a “9”. That is why we are also conducting research to see whether we can use patients’ facial microexpressions when different levels of pain are applied to establish a new, more objective scale or link such a scale to conventional methods of assessing pain. As I hope to continue contributing to this blog, I will reveal the results in the near future. For now, I leave you with a video to give you an idea of the direction our research is taking.

Monday, 9 October 2017

An extensive model for complex chronic patients

The emergent phenomenon of multi-chronicity and geriatric fragility is analyzed from all points of view: demographic, epidemiological, the use of resources and the economic impact, to mention only the most outstanding. Now familiar with the tendency, we’re facing the challenge of finding out how to provide appropriate services to patients who, due to the precariousness of their health, or their social circumstances, or both, suffer instability and become frequent and directionless visitors.

This group of complex patients, although not too large, is stressing the rigidities of health systems in three ways: a) the saturation of hospital emergency services consuming ambulances and observation beds is unable to give effective responses to the needs of these people, b) lack of coordination of transfers between levels, especially between the hospital and primary care, and c) poly-medication due to prescription fragmentation.

Monday, 2 October 2017

What do chronic patients want?

Fragmentation of services is a disgrace for complex chronic patients, for people with combined health and social needs, for fragile people and, in short, for the elderly population. Hence, most governments are engaged in service integration initiatives, but progress is slow and the results are disappointing because systems are too fragmented: in budgets, in access rights, in circuits, in professional cultures, in institutions, in public and private providers, etc. However, the British have proposed a merger of services by 2020, and since they recognize that, as things stand, offering people-centred care will be a bulky process, in the summer of 2013 they launched a project, “People helping people", a project that is ambitious in vision but modest in methodology and budget.

What is "People helping people"?

The program is working on 25 pilot areas that volunteered to test (as previously done in Torbay) different ways of coordinating and integrating services in order to promote patient-centred care, for which they rely on a single operative objective of elaborating, on the part of all the actors, of individualized plans that adapt to each person’s particular needs and way of life. In terms of methodology, the project has adopted the "triple aim" (Institute for Healthcare Improvement), which develops the following principles: a) improve patient experience, b) improve the health and well-being of the population, and c) reduce the waste and, therefore, the cost per capita.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Hospitalizations and patients’ experiences

Peter Pronovost, a renowned expert in clinical quality and safety, argues that it’s a mistake for hospitals to focus on patient satisfaction surveys and states that instead it would be more helpful to ask selected patients what proposals they would make in order to improve the hospitalization experience. For example, one of the people Johns Hopkins chose for this assignment was Podge Reed Jr., a double lung transplant patient who had amassed six hospitalizations, two surgical and four medical, eight anaesthesia outpatient procedures, more than one hundred visits to appointments and 700 laboratory tests. With this curriculum, the hospital felt that Mr.Reed should be a person with a clear opinion.

In the article, Jane Hill, Johns Hopkins’ Patient Relations Director, says that most hospitalised people, although appreciating the technical quality of services, also ask to be treated with kindness and care. Not surprising, given that being bedridden in a hospital is not a pleasant experience for anyone. As a result of patients' contributions, Jane Hill has developed a Decalogue that should be read as a basis for transforming hospitalization rooms, on one hand from the perspective of tasks, functions and competencies and on the other hand, with a view of patients’ experience.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Sleeping well, a determinant of health

There are some health determinants that we can’t do much about such as those that are marked by our genetic endowment, our family, the place where we have to live and the historical moment that is contemporary to us. Other factors, however, are linked to the lifestyle we decide to lead, such as sleeping well (in quantity and quality) a factor that doesn’t yet occupy a prominent place in the collective imagination. However, many studies aim towards common sense: if one sleeps well, the next day is better, and vice versa. That is why I was not surprised by the finding of a Finnish research that associates sleeping insufficient hours with drowsiness and life quality for adolescents or another collected from Harvard Health Publications that limited sleep to five hours a night for one group of students at the Singapore institute for a week and compared their abilities to another group who had slept for nine hours each night, with predictable results of cognitive impairment due to lack of sleep.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Value Based Medicine (VBM)

Evidence-based medicine (EBM), after 25 years, has generated substantial advances in research methodology and has made it possible to distinguish more clearly between good and bad treatments, to identify biases of any order and even evidence of conflicts of interest between research and industry. However, a group of English authors (The importance of values in EBM, Kelly MP 2016) believes that, despite the uncontested advances, EBM has put too much focus on the technical aspects and has forgotten that values ​​have a lot of influence at all stages of the evidence-building processes.

What do we mean when we talk about values?

Science strives to understand the world as it is, but conversely, values ​​are what humans reflect upon. Seen this way, the conflict is served and, therefore EBM should learn to navigate better between these two waters according to the authors of the article quoted below, "Values may act as heuristics – shortcuts in our thinking of which we are barely aware – which get us to quick answers to complicated problems. They form the lens through which we perceive and act on our world. Values are often tricky to pin down because they are such a pervasive part of things we take for granted. A necessary first step towards achieving this is to make our values as explicit as we can, so that we can reflect on them individually and deliberate on them collectively".

Monday, 4 September 2017

Do we need "bonsai" hospitals?

Joan Escarrabill

The ideal size of the hospital and the minimal activity (number of procedures) it has to do to ensure quality is a recurring debate. Sometimes the issue of the hospital size is related to the primary care’s ability to solve and, therefore, the possibility of closing acute beds (and redistributing the budget that was intended for its operation). In the 2009 EESRI edition, in Table 10 (page 21), there’s a very significant information: the number of acute beds per 1,000 inhabitants. According to this document, in Catalonia we have 2.4 beds per 1,000 inhabitants and in the whole of Spain 2.5. Only Turkey (2.3) and Finland (1.9) have fewer beds per 1,000 inhabitants than we do. Despite the data, there are people who insist on the convenience of closing acute beds if the primary care resolution capacity increases. It seems to me that there’s a better question: too many beds or too many hospitals?

Monday, 28 August 2017

Parachute trial: on the subject of knee arthroplasties

The concept "parachute trial" has been adopted to visualize that when a treatment is really effective perhaps one should not invest money in demonstrating what everyone knows, just as no one would think to make an essay on the effectiveness of the parachute. The New England Journal of Medicine has published a clinical trial (Skou 2015) that evaluates the clinical effectiveness of knee arthroplasty, and the journalist of the magazine asks: Did it have to be done? Arthroscopic knee replacements are one of the most significant advances in modern medicine. Everyone knows that many older people who could not leave the house, invalidated by pain, now not only go out every day to the market square but they often go cruising. Seen like this, is this not a "parachute trial"? A waste?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Keep calm and leave the mobile for a while

Josep Mª Monguet

The trade fairs tend to present the technological innovations somewhat passed by the commercial magic, which puts at risk the necessary objectivity to evaluate what they will actually contribute. This is aggravated if we consider that technology is nowadays advancing much faster than human capabilities. As technological innovation progresses exponentially, the adaptive and changing capacity of individuals and organizations is logarithmic.

In general, to take advantage of the new options that technology offers, you have to know where you want to go and what to do to get there; the problem is that we just grope. The good news, however, and the fair is a good exponent, is that so many of us are doing it that the possibilities for progress don’t stop multiplying. Remember Edison when he said he had discovered 10,000 ways of not making a light bulb.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Emergency services specific to the elderly

Elderly care is best resolved at the primary care level, with a geriatric orientation and in a community setting. However, sometimes older people need to go to the emergency room for a variety of reasons, such as a fracture, fibrillation, retention, sudden choking or blockage, to name just a few reasons. What happens then is easy to imagine, the geriatric patient is subjected to a triage that leads to a box full of devices, with many people asking the same things repeatedly, some of them with very little tact and almost always with little respect for intimacy, not to mention the discomfort caused by the racking in the corridor, bells and alarms, noise from machines and monitors, and a long etcetera, that easily produces the disorientation of the elderly patient, or delirium in the worst cases.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Improving by playing

David Font

Volkswagen launched a campaign, The Fun Theory, aiming to improve habits by introducing game techniques. Let's look at an example.

Anna Sort, a nurse, a professor at several universities and an expert in gamification (a new word) in health, in her blog Lost Nurse in the Digital Era defines gamification as "the use of playing techniques in activities that initially contained no play" with the objective of involving people and solving problems. She argues that we are all potential players and that video games have introduced the game into many aspects of our lives. Mechanics such as collecting, awarding points, providing feedback, promoting exchanges or personalizing, favour motivation and involvement. The challenge is to transform any activity into fun and to make the game difficult enough for people to be enthusiastic about solving it, without finding it impossible.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Evidence in the care continuum - one of the keys to the telemedicine’s success or failure?

Josep M. Picas

It’s notorious that there are a great number of experiments, publications and studies on the application of telemedicine. Over the last few years, this phenomenon that we could label as the "apps revolution" has given telemedicine a great boost. However, the results, in many cases, have not reached the expectations. 

Many studies have tried to identify the causes of this unsuccessful outcome. In a brief reference, we could mention the professionals’ inertia and resistance to change in their work processes, errors of design, i.e. not being focused on patients, regulatory aspects, lack of resources and patient adherence problems caused by, to name just two, little health literacy or the digital gap issue.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Justice and equity in the health system

Xavier Bayona

Should we review the principle of justice from an ethical perspective? If so, we’ll notice that it’s a principle of minimums (of coexistence) faced with the principle of happiness – a principle of maximums ("individual justice") and, unfortunately, we’re often erring by thinking we speak of justice when in fact we speak of happiness (or individual convenience). Similarly, from the bioethical standpoint, justice can be defined as the fact of treating each one appropriately, in order to reduce situations of inequality (ideological, social, cultural, economic, etc.). On the other hand, equity is defined as giving each individual no more and no less of what they need. Following these definitions, when we speak of justice and equity, deep down, we are doing a reiteration, because they are synonymous.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Dying in the hospital: some considerations

Gloria Gálvez

Health inequalities are related to individual and social factors. The way people live, work and grow old as well as the political, social or economic factors that accompany them, vary greatly according to the place where they live. Death, which could be "the great equalizer", doesn’t appear to be equal at all, as Dr. Puri states in his article "Unequal Lives, Unequal Deaths," in which she argues that social and health differences during life, are also present at the time of death. As a group of Danish authors suggest in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care: "Socioeconomic position and place of death of cancer patients” for people with fewer resources it’s more difficult to benefit from a worthy death in their own home.

When a patient chooses to die in a health institution he does it for different reasons. Higginson et al., In "Dying at home - is it better: A narrative appraisal of the state of the science" identified, besides the socioeconomic level, other determinant elements as the preferences of the patients, the access to the home attendance or the support of the family. Let's look at each one separately.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Cancer committees - a brake on shared clinical decisions?

Cancer committees are instruments for the coordination of cancer practice that have existed for many years. Now, however, a joint German-US research group (with the collaboration of Glyn Elwyn) wanted to know not only the quality of the work of these committees but also how they address the demand for greater involvement of patients in clinical decisions, and an observational study has been carried out on 15 cancer committees of the University Cancer Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. From the publication of this paper, I would like to highlight two key aspects: a) the reality of the organizational quality of cancer committees, and b) how these committees contemplate patients' preferences.

a) Organizational quality of cancer committees

The first observation is that the majority of the tumour committees’ members are doctors in senior positions and, on the other hand, the presence of young doctors is scarce. The participation of other professionals, also important for cancer patients, such as nurses or psycho-oncologists has not been observed in any of the cases. Researchers believe that the hierarchical influence of key members of the committees and the need to close many cases in a short time are limiting factors for productive and quality multidisciplinary work. In summary, the observation notes that guidelines and recommendations are generally applied with margins too scarce for other considerations.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Buurtzorg, a nurse work project with blue ocean strategy

10 years ago, the home care scenario for people with complex social and health needs in the Netherlands followed a bureaucratic scheme based on nursing work on one hand, social work on the other, in addition to the home support actions offered by companies, many of them from the cleaning service world. Jos de Blok, a community nurse, dissatisfied with this fragmented model, put an entrepreneur hat on, assembled a small group of nurses with whom he shared vision and discussed as much at large about a new model of care based on real needs of people. In an interview, Jos de Blok says, "What I wanted to show was that if you are a good nurse, you should know how to focus on the relationship and to build trust with patients in order to make them live with the maximum of independence possible. "

Monday, 26 June 2017

I do therefore I am or the bias of intervention in medicine

Cristina Roure

This week, thanks to a post of Sergio Minué in the blog "El Gerente de Mediado", I discovered the recent publication of "Ending Medical Reversal" The book refers to situations in which new studies more robust than the pre-existing ones contradict the standards of commonly accepted practices, which have now proved ineffective or even harmful.

Some will recall such vivid examples as the use of protein C activated in sepsis, high dose chemotherapy combined with autotransplant of stem cell in metastatic breast cancer, the aprotinin in cardiac surgery, or hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women. All of them were used for years until proven harmful.

I have not been able to read the book yet, but I read a report by the same author; Dr. Vinay Prasad in Mayo Clinical Proceedings exposes his vast research. Over ten years, 363 studies evaluating established practices were published, out of which 146 (40%), between 12 and 19 per year, were revoked (1). The author explains in the following video that such revocations usually occur after the precipitous adoption of new therapies based on incomplete or inadequate studies.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Chronic Complex Patients and the Blue Ocean Strategy

The book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne has been celebrating 10 years, having sold more than three and a half million copies, and now, to celebrate, a revised edition has just been published. The central thesis of the book is that today's markets are characterized by oversupply and therefore, companies must compete fiercely between them and the oceans (It’s a metaphor) are stained red with the blood of the fight. For this reason, the authors propose to companies to go on the search for blue oceans, like Cirque du Soleil or Ikea, where their products or services will be incontestable because people will see them as novel and useful. The strategy of these companies is clear: their contribution must be perceived as a value innovation, and as a consequence would able to open new unexplored markets like oceans that will not go red.

Leaving aside the commercial aspects of the theory, the book left me with the (attractive) vision of a blue ocean that, inevitably, I have contrasted with the difficulties that all health systems have when it comes to implementing convincing programs of patients’ care and I thought that perhaps at this point a blue ocean strategy would be beneficial when aiming to implement new projects that would arise from overcoming current difficulties. I have to admit that applying Chan and Mauborgne's theories to complex chronic patients is a bit far fetched, but I am convinced that there are some strategic methodology proposals that could be of some use.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The diagnostic process and medical errors

The past 15 years, since the publication of "To Err Is Human" report, has seen a great deal of progress in projects that promote patient safety, especially in programs such as increasing hand washing, identifying patients, surgical checklists or changes in nursing care, but on the other hand the diagnostic process continues to be a matter almost exclusive to medical work although it’s known that this is a very sensitive area for the safety of patients. This new report from the National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine), "Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare," is a follow up document to the aforementioned one, specifically focused on diagnostic errors.

The report defines the diagnostic error as the failure to obtain a detailed, timely explanation of a health problem. Experts have also included in the definition the physician’s inability to know how to explain the diagnosis to the patient. According to the report, diagnostic errors would have an incidence on medical consultations of 5%, accounting for 10% of deaths, 6-7% of adverse reactions in hospitals, as well as the leading cause of litigation in the health area (the figures correspond to the US).

Monday, 5 June 2017

Life quantity or more quality?

Ventricular assisting devices, VAD, or LVAD if for the left ventricle (the most common) are implantable instruments that help pump blood in situations where ventricular ejection force is severely compromised. In some cases the implantation of an LVAD facilitates the waiting for a cardiac transplant, but in others it’s adopted as a definitive solution. The price of the device is around $150,000 while the cost per QALY (cost per year of life earned) is between $200,000 and $400,000. The cost-effectiveness studies still don’t line up much, but the range of documented amounts is nowadays far above the $30,000 of Spanish per capita income. Remember that the WHO introduced the criterion of considering if a treatment is cost-effective when it doesn’t exceed three times the per capita income of a country.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Caesarean section as a consumer good

In private medicine in Brazil, the rate of caesarean section has reached 90% of births. In that country, gynaecologists and midwives, if any, have lost the job of helping women to give birth, and some obstetrical clinics only work to schedule and during office hours. Bad research has not helped either. In the year 2000, a team of researchers led by Dr. Mary Hannah revealed that the caesarean section was a safer practice in breech presentations, information that had an almost immediate impact on clinical practice. Four years later it was found that the research had been poorly done and that its conclusions were wrong, but gynaecologists had already lost the skills (not easy) to practice vaginal births for breech babies. The result is that nowadays the breech foetal position is, assumed to be equivalent to caesarean section, despite the lack of evidence that supports the indication.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Beyond the reforms (on the subject of Franco Basaglia)

What can we do when reforms are in short supply? This is a question that many of us ask ourselves when rigidities and bureaucracies show us their sordid face. Without going any further, the integration of services and community work is the only way (I think there are no dissenters in this) to adequately care for complex chronic patients, but when it comes to the truth, it turns out that the levels of care, professionals’ abilities and the fragmentation of medical specialties are a drag on the progress of the necessary reforms.

I’ve pondered on this when I read that The Guardian had just published a book by John Foot, "The man who closed the asylum" that tells the life of Franco Basaglia, a psychiatrist with an exceptional entrepreneurial force. During the war, according to the author, Basaglia was imprisoned as an antifascist and this experience was key to the fact that when he was appointed director of an asylum in the early 1960s, he realized that the psychiatry practiced in that establishment was inspired by and took the shape of prisons.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The controversy of health checks

The National Health Service announces health checks by making use of the mood of the "Full Monty" or "The Calendar Girls." Let yourself be undressed for a good cause - they say - your body deserves it. In Spain, on the other hand, this approach is more typical to the private offer. "The best way to take care of your health is to open your eyes to possible diseases and not hesitate to undergo periodic tests to prevent them," says "10 Minutos" magazine in an article on the subject. Many private centres have "Medical check-ups" and most insurers and clinics offer health check-ups, as can be seen in an announcement from the Quirón Teknon Hospital: "basic preventive check-up: previously € 820 - now € 690; advanced preventive check: was € 1,800 - now € 1,520". The Sanitas proposal that offers the possibility of choosing between "checks: classic, integral and complete" is also interesting just as the National Conference of Marketing and Sales Management of the Health Sector that says "the most demanded from the iGlobalMed platform are the health checks for managers who are going to work abroad". To end this journey through the world of health reviews, see the clip below from the University Hospital of Navarre website:

Monday, 8 May 2017

What if I decide to do nothing?

TIME magazine has surprised us with a question on its front page: "What would happen if I decided to do nothing?" Desiree Basila, a 60-year-old teacher, had just been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and, overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of the treatment proposals offered to her, began to investigate on her own and realized that there were many unknown elements about the progression of this type of injury and also saw that there was no agreement in the scientific community on what should be the most appropriate therapy for her case. For this reason she made a bold decision and asked her oncologist to do nothing, which resulted in two checks a year and a treatment with Tamoxifen, a drug that blocks estrogens that could cause the tumour to grow.

The case of Desiree Basila is quite valuable because when she made this decision, 8 years ago, it was not yet known that the mortality of women with DCIS, regardless of the type of treatment they adopt, is 3.3%, a figure comparable to that of the general population, and it was also not known that chemotherapy has no effect on tumours in initial staging. But to better understand the pressure that Desiree had to endure, it should be added that the attitude of most oncologists, even in the case of DCIS, was, and remains, "the sooner the better and the more the better."

Monday, 1 May 2017

Primary care: segment to reform?

In a paper published in Health Affairs, Redesigning Primary Care: A strategic vision to improve value by organizing around patients' needs (see commented post) Michael Porter invited us to rethink the organizational model of primary care in accordance with the real needs of the population.

Following the Porterian advice, and just to think a little, it’s worth the excellent Memory of the Catalan Institute of Health (ICS) of 2013, with data from 288 primary health care teams spread throughout the territory, from small local clinics to metropolitan centres with several basic health areas under their care. On page 7 of the document you will see a table elaborated with the attendance of more than 4 million people (who have been visited at least once during the year). The segmentation of this population, grouped with Clinical Risk Group, shows that segments 5, 6 and 7 (different intensities of chronicity) have represented 64.5% of the people who have visited, a group that has consumed 88.8% of the pharmacy and generated 74.7% of urgent hospitalizations (among patients who have been hospitalized two or more times in a year).

Monday, 24 April 2017

The value of clinical practice in chronic complex patients

Lost in the country of the pink bibs

To illustrate what kind of patients Dr. Meier is talking about, I found an article in The New York Times, where the writer Marcy Cottrell House explains the case of her father, who at age seventy, developed dementia and also broke his femur. Cottrell says that during the long postoperative period, the father got much worse and often found him in a room with other insane patients, all of them with a pink bib around their necks. The quiet of the place was impressive and the old man's gaze no longer recognized anyone. The nurse told them not to worry, it was normal to be more disconnected because of the tranquilizers they gave him to avoid the aggressiveness that he displayed during his stay. The writer ended up going in the office of a good geriatrician, who told him that the postoperative pain or that of poly-arthritis was likely to be torturing his father. He clarified that cognitive problems don’t stop him feeling the pain of bones and joints. The fact - explains the author - is that with a gram of Tylenol three times a day (a painkiller), his father revived and returned to smile when he heard his music and, better still, managed to escape the country the pink bibs.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The attitude of the doctor when faced with the biological opportunity of death

Gustavo Tolchinsky

During one of my postings in a small county hospital I found myself in the resuscitation room. A colleague had been trying for some time to understand how to tackle the cascade of problems harbored by an elderly patient: the monitor roars at 150 beats per minute, the pulse-oximeter shows 78%, despite the FiO2 1 of the high concentration mask; the patient, with a blank stare, the breathing strongly audible and the arterial tensions hardly captured. While the nurses are desperate to find a vein, to probe, to administer the prescribed corticosteroids and digoxin, to perform the electrocardiogram and to anticipate the next steps that the emergency doctor will order. Around her, another nurse points out, with great conscientiousness, what time it is and what procedure has been performed.

Faced with this situation it is reasonable to act by instinct driven by our eagerness to ‘solve’ the problem. I had already framed a first diagnosis. The patient presents a fall in rapid atrial fibrillation in the context of acute respiratory failure due to a respiratory infection, perhaps caused by bronchoaspiration. The hypotension is secondary to the haemodynamically poorly tolerated tachyarrhythmia. At this moment, knowledge put into practice demands that you slow down the heart rate, indicates serum therapy to overcome stress and starting treatment with antibiotics, relieving symptoms, etc.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Strategies for the integration of services

King's Fund has published a timely and in depth document "Acute Hospitals and Integrated Care" where they question what role should hospitals play in the integration of services. Given the approach, one could ask: What role should primary care play? How about community services? And the social health services? However it may be best, King's Fund has focused on it in this way and I believe it has its reasons for doing so because, right now, the organizational model that everyone tends to is that of territorial management or that of integrated health organizations, all of which are intended to integrate services from a hospital-centred position.

Who should lead the integration of services?

According to the document, it’s fundamental to generate the network of services on a territorial basis and the question of leadership should depend on the nature of each clinical process. Let's take a few examples: a) A remote dermatology project should be led by specialized care, b) An infarct ought to be led by cardiologists, intensive carers and emergency specialists, c) Care for type 2 diabetes mellitus, should be led by the primary care, d) Individualized therapeutic plans of complex chronic patients, should be led by primary care with the community nurse and the social worker taking a high profile role, e) Complex end-of-life processes should be led by community-based multidisciplinary palliative teams.