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Over half of doctors report patient bias: survey

Baltimore, MD — Black doctors and nurses smeared with racial insults.  Asian medical professionals tagged with cultural stereotypes.  And Middle Eastern immigrant physicians all but physically attacked.


These are but some of the negative experiences reported by 822 U.S. physicians responding to a joint survey by WebMD, Medscape and STAT News.


In the survey, conducted this past summer and published this October on STAT, some 60 percent of respondents—six out of ten—recounted patients calling them names, making rude assumptions or comments pertaining to their race, religion, age, appearance or height, or refusing treatment from non-white professionals over the past five years.


African-American and Asian-American physicians reported the most offenses, STAT reported.


One surveyed doctor opined that patient attitudes towards minority physicians have probably been there all along, only emerging now in a polarized society.  On the other hand, another pointed out that patients are at their lowest when unwell and thus engage in primitive responses to the stressful situation—including targeting the other when feeling cornered or vulnerable.


The vast majority of surveyed physicians also reported neither formal policies on handling patient bias nor training for said. 


According to respondents, patient bias is as subtle as commenting on an immigrant doctor’s well-spoken English, or as extreme as refusing treatment by anyone but a white doctor.


Report: Hospital industry consolidation grows, wages hurt

Washington, DC — According to “Organizational Restructuring in U.S. Healthcare Systems: Implications for Jobs, Wages, and Inequality,” a recently released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, hospital systems’ mergers and acquisitions (M&As) do increase industry employment, but do not improve workers’ wages.


Savings realized by large-scale M&As are not being reinvested in pay raises for healthcare workers, the report states.  It found that hospital worker wages are stagnant, and that outpatient center worker wages have dropped six percent over the past decade.  


Healthcare forms one-sixth of the U.S. economy, which means stagnant or declining wages can lead to a drag on overall national wages.


While hospitals remain one of the largest employers in healthcare, outpatient care jobs grew six times the rate of hospitals between 2005 and 2015.  Healthcare is still expected to be among the fastest growing industries through 2024.


Anthem joins industry shift to non-hospital scans

Indianapolis, IN — Major health insurer Anthem recently announced that it will no longer pay for MRIs and CT scans performed at a hospital on an outpatient basis.


The decision reflects an industry movement that’s gaining speed, with commercial and government payers increasingly limiting reimbursements for services that can be performed outside a hospital.


As a result, with payers—now including Anthem, which insures customers in over a dozen states—looking to force more services to lower-cost settings, hospitals have to react to losing some of their main profit sources.  Policies restricting the services hospitals count on for steady cash flow could be a major disruption.


Hospital system using VR ‘game’ to train ER staff

Columbia, MD — In the near future, if plans by the Washington, D.C.-region MedStar hospital system go as planned, emergency-room doctors will have a training advantage in treating life-threatening situations that is straight out of today’s highest-tech computer games.

For the past four years MedStar’s Simulation Training & Education Lab (SiTEL) has been working on Trauma Yellow, a virtual-reality (VR) medical video game of sorts.  It uses high-tech equipment to make a surgeon wearing VR video goggles in an empty room see and hear the sights and sounds of real-life but computer-generated ER simulation, in actual 3D.


The system uses wall-mounted lasers to “see” where the surgeon is standing and moving relative to the computer-generated surgical table—and ER staff and equipment—on the goggles’ screens, adjusting all those images in real-time to surprisingly realistic three-dimensional effect.


SiTEL hopes that Trauma Yellow will one day be honed enough for mainstream usage.  Its objective is to train new ER doctors and surgeons in the first 30 minutes of trauma treatment—giving them decision-making practice without real lives on the line.


Survey: Most U.S. docs behind schedule at least weekly

[city here], [state here] — In the recently released Medscape Practice Workflow Report 2017: Physicians' Bottlenecks, Challenges, and Time, 36 percent of surveyed doctors reported that they fell behind their appointment schedules several times a week.  Over 25 percent said it happens daily.


The good news is that most of those same surveyed doctors also reported that they were a maximum of 30 minutes behind at a time—with 45 percent putting it at 15 to 30 minutes late, and 37 percent reporting tardy appointments at 15 minutes or less late.


But why are doctors behind schedule?  More good news there: The reason most cited by the nearly 1,200 docs across 25 specialties is that patients are getting more attention.


In related news, the 2017 Great American Physician Survey found that doctors most consider government regulations and third-party interference their largest barrier to good patient care.


Hospitals fight U.S. nurse shortage with free degrees, free rent, other incentives

Morgantown, WV — To come work at West Virginia University (WVU) Medicine in late 2015 in this picturesque Appalachian town, out-of-town RNs were offered no-cost digs at the health system’s 44-bed dormitory.


That’s increasingly the picture across the country, as hospitals come up with ever-creative incentives to combat the growing national dearth of nurses—and the resulting staffing shortage. 


For example, signing bonuses—long four-figure ones—are now sometimes upwards of five.


A Texas health system offers free nursing degrees to existing staff and volunteers (as long as they sign on for at least two years).  A Missouri health system offers a loan forgiveness program.  A Kentucky hospital even gave newly-hired nurses a chance to win a new luxury car.


The crunch isn’t just due to a shortage of registered nurses (RNs), but also due to turnover.  Traditional hospital nurses are flocking to outpatient work because of industry changes—at the same time leaving those hospitals with an acute and sometimes desperate need for RNs. 


As a result, some hospitals have cut back on available beds or even closed full units.  But others, resorting to unconventional but effective incentives, overcame their staffing crunches.


Memo to tomorrow’s workforce: Now’s the best time to get into nursing.  The American Nursing Association (ANA) predicts that by 2022, the U.S. may need over one million new nurses to both care for a growing number of older Americans and replace retiring nurses.


What’s more, citing their own teacher shortage, nursing schools reject tens of thousands of qualified applicants each year from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs.