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Hospital News

With doctor numbers dropping, U.S. hospital “freelance doctor” usage soaring

Coppell, TX — The number of U.S. doctors working freelance has nearly doubled to 48,000 since 2002, according to a survey from Staff Care, a Texas-based freelance physician staffing company.

 

Doctors freelancing instead of working fulltime is known as “locum tenens” (Latin for “to hold a place”) in the hospital industry.  And some health care recruiters predict that number will double again in the decade to come.

 

Doctors going the locum tenens route were once stigmatized; patient data suggested freelance doctors weren’t as skilled as those with more stable careers.  Today, though, the skills gap seems to have closed as more and more doctors opt for the flexibility of contract work—and more and more hospitals, desperate to fill staffing shortages, bring them on board.

 

U.S. hospitals set record for fast heart attack care

Denver, CO — U.S. hospitals have set a record for how quickly they open blocked arteries—averaging less than one hour for the first time since these results have been tracked, according to new research at the University of Colorado.

 

The study says that over 93 percent of patients now have their arteries opened within the recommended 90 minutes of arrival.  The sooner blood flow is restored, the less chance of permanent damage.

 

Patient risk of dying goes up 42 percent if care is delayed even half an hour beyond the 90 minutes that U.S. guidelines say patients should be treated after arrival.

 

The study reviewed records from about 85 percent of U.S. hospitals that do the artery procedure called angioplasty, in which a tiny balloon flatten the clog blocking the artery, then leaving behind a mesh tube called a stent to keep it propped open.

 

In 2005, this “door-to-balloon” time averaged a dismal 96 minutes.  By 2014, the report found it down to 59 minutes.

 

Study: home antibiotic IVs as safe as hospitals

Melbourne, Australia — Intravenous (IV) injections of antibiotics for kids with severe infections are just as safe given at home as they are in hospitals, a review of previous studies now confirms.

 

According to the review by the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, home-based treatment is not riskier than hospital care.  Families also prefer to treat children at home, partly because it cuts costs, according to the review.  The study was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

 

Industry survey: Hospitals not maximizing EHR potential

Bethesda, MD — According to results from a recent nationwide hospital survey by the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems by hospitals has come a long way in recent years—but is not fully where it should be.

 

The survey of 3,538 U.S. hospitals found that almost 81 percent of hospitals are now using at least a basic EHR system. 

 

But the survey also found that only 38 percent of hospitals are using at least eight of ten EHR data points to measure and improve in-house performance.  It likewise found that only 42 percent of hospitals are using at least eight EHR data points to measure and improve patient engagement.

 

Hospitals brace for lower reimbursements

Washington, D.C. — Ongoing healthcare proposals from Capitol Hill and the White House’s proposed federal budget have hospitals nationwide bracing for possible lower reimbursements.

 

Hospitals are primarily concerned with possible cuts to Medicaid—especially safety-net facilities whose patient majorities typically consist of members of Medicaid.

 

Many safety-net hospitals depend critically on income from federal Medicaid reimbursements to stay financially alive; further cuts to Medicaid could drive them closer to going out of business.

 

These hospitals are equally concerned that proposed cuts to Medicaid could leave millions without healthcare.  About 11 previously-uninsured people got healthcare through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with many of those getting their new healthcare at local safety-net hospitals. 

 

Call for testing older doctors triggers industry debate

Seattle, WA — A new study in JAMA Surgery has elicited strong opinions across the spectrum of the medical industry—calling as it does for healthcare organizations to test older doctors for competence.

 

According to the study—a review of existing literature on aging physicians, really—physicians should tested for mental competence and physical health at some as-of-yet undetermined age.

 

Much of the ensuing debate dwells on the study’s ostensible ageism—calling discriminatory its premise of some to-be-decided age as a cut-off age for mandatory testing or worse, retirement.

 

On the other hand, others point out that age-related decline is wide-ranging—with one surgeon in full command of mental and fine-motor faculties at 81 and another in decline at age 62.

 

But many do agree that older doctors should be tested regularly.  However, the big questions remain: What should doctors be tested for?  And at what age—if at any age?

 

The study, interestingly, was led by University of Washington surgery professor Dr. E. Patchen Dellinger, himself active at 73.