Shocking statistics for Jefferson & Clallam Counties in opioid database from Washington Post.

In the battle to determine who is to blame for the opioid epidemic that has killed more people than Viet Nam, it turns out that not only was West Virginia a capital of opioid prescriptions, but Clallam County was also. Between Jefferson and Clallam Counties, in a six year period both counties received and distributed over 43 million opioid pills!

According to the Washington Post that reformatted the data into searchable form, from 2006 to 2012 there were 5,817,030 prescription pain pills, enough for 28 pills per person per year, supplied to Jefferson County, Wash. Safeway was the largest distributor, selling 2,331,220 pills. Don’s pharmacy came in at 1,367,550 pills distributed, behind second place QFC in Hadlock.

But even those numbers were dwarfed by Clallam county, who distributed 37,838,060 prescription pain pills, enough for 76 pills per person per year.

•18,067,280 of the pills in Clallam County were distributed by McKesson Corporation and 19,907,900 were manufactured by SpecGx LLC.

JIM’S PHARMACY, PORT ANGELES pharmacy received the highest number of pills. They distributed 5,280,190 pills. But Chinook Pharmacy in Forks was not far behind with over 4.6 Million pills distributed.

It is clear to anyone following this story that a number of people are at the root cause of this human tragedy. Let’s count the ways:

  • There is clear evidence now that the pharmaceutical companies lied to the public and the government. Lawsuits underway have established that fact. Their salespeople spread misinformation about the products.
  • The Federal government, lawmakers, FDA and others, blindly took the word of the drug companies as to the safety and efficacy of these drugs.
  • The medical community bought the medical findings and the pharmaceutical sales peoples pitches. This included the medical providers at our local hospital, Jefferson Healthcare. This can be seen as a damning indictment of the the medical providers there, along with the administration of the hospital and it’s hospital commissioners. Who was watching the amount of pills being provided to patients? There were clear signs that there were problems with opioid prescriptions much earlier than 2012. What was Jefferson Healthcare doing to monitor their staff?
  • At the same time the medical professionals at JHC were writing all these prescriptions for opioids, they were well aware of problems with them,because Dr. James Kimber Rotchford was treating many of their patients for abuse of these same pain killers at his independent clinic, Olympic Pain and Addiction Services . It was widely known within the local medical community and a number of these providers were quite dismissive of Dr. Rotchford’s efforts. Dr. Rochford’s clinic was raided by the DEA in 2010 but was cleared of any wrongdoing. The basis for the raid was never uncovered.
  • The pharmacies ignored clear warning signs that vastly too many pills to make sense were being sold for their communities.

The outcome was a trail of broken lives, broken communities, massively enriched sales people and companies, many of whom then recycled these gains into political candidates campaign chests.

Read the whole story

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/dea-pain-pill-database/?utm_term=.9591a96b0d8e

Hospital lobby ramps up ‘Medicare for all’ opposition – Healthcare Dive

We had an inkling that the Medicare for All would find heavy opposition quickly. Was debating a supporter on FB just yesterday saying essentially exactly what this article states. A day later, here we are. Want to state clearly here and now that I support getting the U.S. to a universal healthcare place, but I’m very dubious that Medicare for All is a way that will garner enough support. Why? Because the government has done a terrible job of reimbursing front line providers for their time. Many front line providers are not accepting Medicare patients, or new Medicare patients. Hospitals are subsidizing this cost by higher costs elsewhere. This has to be fixed before this idea will gain ground with providers. While it would be great to tear down the whole system and start fresh, that just is political rhetoric to get the base motivated to vote next year, a non starter in this current climate with Republicans controlling two branches of government. And we haven’t yet seen the money from the special interest groups show up in any large scale way.

The article points out that the AMA, PHrMa, American Health Insurance Plans, and the Federation of American Hospitals have come out against it, asking Congress to “fix what’s broken and improve what’s working, don’t start over”. My guess is that for a start, raising reimbursals for Primary Care would be a good place for Congress to begin, to slow the bleeding of funds from hospitals etc. In fact, the article points this out, from a document from the coalition of these providers, showing that “66% of hospitals received Medicare payments less than the cost of care, for an industry wide shortfall of $53.9 Billion dollars. Locally, I know that Jefferson Healthcare would be considered part of that amount. While the nurses union claims that hospital coffers have ‘swelled’ there is no truth in that here locally. Of course, we are a public hospital, but the ACA has helped our bottom line, allowing for JCH to better support primary care by hiring more providers, for example. While proponents are arguing that the reduction in administrative costs would help, there is no real understanding of whether these costs would be offset here locally.

Read the whole article for a better understanding. It brings the Koch Brothers into the picture for their efforts, along with the Nurses Union, etc.

Hospital lobbies are mounting a coordinated effort to dissuade legislators from supporting Medicare for all, a policy health systems argue would cut into profits and ultimately force facilities to shutter.

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/hospital-lobby-ramps-up-medicare-for-all-opposition/547678/

Why Doctors Hate their Computers – New Yorker

Atul Gawande is one of the best writers today, writing on the subject of healthcare, end of life issues and modern medicine in general. You likely have heard him on NPR. Finally, he tackles the aggravation and lost promise of  electronic medical record systems (EMR).

EMRs have been viewed as a panacea by the medical community, primarily by politicians and government administrators lured by the promises of centralized control of medicine with rising costs of patient care, along with lawyers who are seeking to minimize risk of lawsuits. Add to that  hospital administrators, many of whom have never had to fill in a screen of medical data in their lives.

From the medical practitioners I’ve talked to about EMRs they are frustrated with the level of work they have had to do to keep up and the difficulty of finding useful information in the systems. Some patients have lost their lives due to EMRs, as specialized practitioners enter data that is not easily found, and when a patient is admitted to an ER room, often these instructions are lost to the ER techs. Or, to be more precise, they can’t take the time to find them in the mountains of screens. Yes, because of EMRs patients that otherwise may have lived are dead. Gawande alludes to this issue in his article.

Once, physicians could dictate and have the dictation sent to India overnight for translation. They’d have it the next morning. Or they wrote notes that were good enough and ended up in charts where they could be found quickly.

We are now in the worse of all worlds. EMRs are not automated enough to actually save practitioners time. Because of the use of EMRs, the expectations that medical providers can do the work faster and better mean that funding agencies drive providers to work faster and see more patients. A PA I know would spend two hours after seeing over 25 patients a day, before finishing the work of  filling out her EMR records. She was not reimbursed for this effort and she said it affected her home life as well. It’s a story I’m hearing from many practitioners.  At some point in the future dictation will be perfected and finding data that’s critical to patient care in an emergency will be easy to do. Until then, providers will continue to burn out and leave the system, just at a time when we need them more than ever.

We encounter, in Gawande’s article, an administrator who claims that the EMRs are not for the doctors but for the patients. While it’s true that patients use these systems a lot, (myself included) the results that most of us get are simply lab results and some easy to understand notes from our providers. That someone would think that the patient is the focus of all of this is misguided and shows a lack of understanding of systems.  The patient could just have easily have been given this information without the vast back end systems that affect every moment of provider time.  Think I’m wrong? It’s the backbone of every app you run on your smart phones. They are small and customer/consumer focused. We create these systems all the time. Requirements? Just listen to the customer. No need for thousands of hours of input meetings and lawyers.

It’s time to demand better EMR systems, focused on the needs of the providers and patients, not the hospital administrators, the lawyers, government and private insurers and the like. It can be done.

With all that said, Gawande’s article is the best thing I’ve read yet that gives a clear lay of the land of the frustration that physicians are feeling about EMRs. Take a read.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/12/why-doctors-hate-their-computers/amp

 

 

 

One-of-a kind collaboration expected to train health care workers on Peninsula – PDN

This is a great idea to try and work to train and bring on qualified local people quickly.  Thanks to the Littlejohns and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe for also helping to fund the initiative. Jefferson Healthcare has tried with little success to find medical professionals willing to relocate here for the long term. I personally have seen them pass over qualified local candidates in favor of people from elsewhere, only to see them leave after a few years of work here. Now this program presents the opportunity to grow candidates on the peninsula, which is far more likely to having them stay for the long haul. A good use of our tax dollars, I’d say.

PORT ANGELES — Peninsula College is teaming up with health care providers from Clallam and Jefferson counties in a wide-ranging $1 million effort funded by state lawmakers, the college foundation, local hospitals and others. The goal: Add registered nurses, medical assistants and certified nursing assistants to a rural medical industry workforce on the North Olympic Peninsula that is typically starving for job applicants.

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/one-of-a-kind-collaboration-expected-to-train-health-care-workers-on-peninsula/

A new kind of doctor’s office that doesn’t take insurance and charges a monthly fee is ‘popping up everywhere’ — and that could change how we think about healthcare – Business Insider

Interesting article after the previous post.

Direct primary care is a small but fast-growing movement of doctors who don’t accept insurance and instead charges a monthly membership fee.

http://www.businessinsider.com/direct-primary-care-no-insurance-healthcare-2018-3

The PA/RN/MD/DO will see you now. Consumer Reports

Good article demystifying the medical provider landscape. While I have some small issues with it, it is a good layman overview.  What they say about a seeing a P.A. “avoid relying on them for complicated procedures.” is quite off base. Many P.A.s work right alongside M.D.s in offices, doing all the same procedures that M.D.s do. It is more a matter of how long a P.A. has been working, and the background they came out of, just like any other professional, that determines there effectiveness on more complicated procedures. Some P.A.s came out of EMT work, and they are highly trained in some fields, some have spent extra years of education as orthopedic P.A.s. Some P.A.s have worked in the operating rooms for years, doing surgeries alongside the attending M.D. And the M.D. that they are assigned to is often relying on them to stand on their own and only bring them the more difficult issues. I’m sure there are many younger M.D.s who are still learning their craft and I wouldn’t want to take my complicated procedures to them either! I’d rather see an experienced P.A. than a brand new M.D. any day of the week!

It’s getting harder to see a doctor, but you can still get quality care from a host of other professionals if you know who’s who

https://www.consumerreports.org/doctors/will-you-see-an-actual-doctor-when-you-go-to-the-doctor/