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Party Drug for PTSD; Rating the Online Physician Ratings; Robo Docs


Noteworthy items from Physicians Practice.


59 The percentage of U.S. adults who said they have looked online for health information in the past year.

Source: Pew Research Center's "Pew Internet & American Life Project: Health Online 2013"

Legal Limits

"It would be nice if physicians could direct patients to reputable sources for high-quality, lab-tested cannabis, but this is not legal. When patients leave my office, they are on their own."

Dustin Sulak, MD, in a Practice Notes blog

The Doctor Difference

"Why did I train for an extra three to four years as a doctor, incur several hundred thousand dollars in debt, and go through years of residency training to do the same work as someone who has done a fraction of this?"

Doug Olson, MD, in a blog on KevinMd.com, on the notion that 85 percent of his job can be done by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

Conquering Physician Writer's Block

Coming up with ideas for your blog or the "patient education" section of your website can be a chore, C. Noel Henley, an orthopedic hand surgeon and contributor to Practice Notes recently noted. One way to get your creative juices flowing: Do what professional writers do and use the "How to" style, where you start with, and answer, a specific question (e.g., "How do doctors diagnose diabetes?") or the "story" style, where you start with something like, "Sue was a 45-year-old mother of two who started having chest pain ..." For more examples of writing styles, see Henley's blog at http://bit.ly/patient_edu_writing.

Gun Violence and Physicians

Should physicians be required to be part of gun discussions - to be the screeners of not only mental health and physical well being but also of a patient's ability to be a safe gun owner? Physician Melissa Young says "no." In a heartfelt Practice Notes blog, Young expressed concern that "physicians are once again being called to be in the front line; to be the screeners and enforcers." Young's blog was posted just days after President Obama unveiled his multifaceted plan to reduce gun violence. The initiative calls for doctors to talk to patients about gun safety and warn law enforcement about threats of violence, American Medical News reported. Read the rest of the blog and weigh in: http://bit.ly/Physicians-and-Guns.

EHR Implementation Obstacles

How well is your practice integrating its EHR into its work flow? The answer could provide clues to whether your practice will successfully implement the new technology, according to a white paper recently issued by Qualis Health, a nonprofit healthcare consulting company that manages the Washington and Idaho Regional Extension Center (WIREC). For the 15-page white paper, Qualis Health drew upon the experience of 700 primary-care practices that participate in WIREC. The most common errors in EHR implementation, according to researchers, are:

• Lack of unconditional leadership support with learning the skills;

• Lack of knowledge and engagement to manage the project;

• Poor decision-making structure, or the wrong people in leadership to drive the project;

• Lack of good bidirectional communication between leadership and staff; and

• Failure to understand the principles of change management.

Facebook Foible

Even though she didn't name her patient by name, a St. Louis hospital OB/GYN came under fire by her employer for ranting about an expectant mother who was three hours late for her labor induction (and had a prior stillbirth). Though the doctor's rant got several likes and comments from sympathetic healthcare workers, not everyone appreciated the posting. The hospital issued a statement lambasting the physician's social media activity, stating that it would review the comments to see if she violated patient privacy laws, Huffington Post reported. Bradley H. Crotty, a physician who has studied the use of social media like Facebook in healthcare, told the Boston Globe following a similar incident that physicians should put themselves in their patients' shoes before posting comments.

Party Drug for PTSD?

A Mount Pleasant, S.C., physician believes he is easing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder by offering patients a drug typically reserved for nighttime rave parties: ecstasy, or MDMA. So far, the psychiatrist, Michael Mithoefer, has twice received FDA approval to treat PTSD patients : In 2001, for a trial involving sexual assault victims, and in 2011 for civil servants and veterans. "Our thinking is that MDMA allows people to revisit the trauma without being overwhelmed with fear but also be in connection with the emotion," Mithoefer told ABC News.

Robo Docs

iRobot Corp., best known for its Roomba vacuum cleaners, has won FDA clearance for a new line of robots that will help physicians interact with hospital patients remotely. The first RP-VITA robots - sleek 5-foot-6-inch devices that physicians can control via an iPad app - are slated to make their debut in U.S. medical centers within the next couple of months. The 'bots don't come cheap, however. Each will cost hospitals between $4,000 and $6,000 a month to operate, the Boston Globe noted. On news of the telehealth device's release, iRobot's stock spiked $2.21, or 10.5 percent, to $23.32, according to Forbes.

Vicodin Crackdown

An advisory panel of experts to the FDA recently voted 19 to 10 in favor of tougher restrictions on painkillers that contain hydrocodone, the most infamous of which is Vicodin. The recommendation, which the FDA is likely to follow, would limit access to the drugs by making them harder to prescribe, reports the New York Times, adding that opponents were skeptical that the change would do much to combat abuse.

Rating Doc Ratings

A new survey found that physician leaders view online physician ratings as inaccurate, unreliable, and not widely used among patients. Here are some of the key findings of the survey, answered by 730 members of the American College of Physician Executives:

• Only 12 percent of respondents believe patient online reviews are helpful;

• 29 percent of respondents said online reviews are not used much by patients and don't affect their organization;

• 69 percent of respondents said they checked their profile on an online consumer website; and

• Of physicians who checked their online profiles, 39 percent fully agreed with their ratings, 42 percent said they partially agreed, and 19 percent said they didn't agree.

The survey findings were highlighted in Modern Healthcare.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Physicians Practice.

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