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.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Overdiagnosis: the case of thyroid cancer

The thyroid cancer rate has doubled or possible tripled in the last twenty years in most Western countries; however there’s a paradigmatic case, according to an article published in New England by Ahn HS and collaborators: South Korea, where this rate has multiplied by fifteen. What has happened in this country? Is there an epidemic? This should not be the case given that when experts analyse specific population mortality (as shown in the chart), this figure remains unchanged. Therefore, everything points to a spectacular case of national over-diagnosis.

The authors explain that many government-encouraged providers offer very attractive and widely accepted preventive packs, including the use of ultrasound and other more sophisticated imaging tests for the early detection of thyroid cancer. It should be clarified that in South Korea, despite there being a national health system, there are co-payments for almost all health activities and as a consequence people pay close attention to the price of combined service offerings.