Health Care

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare wants you to call 911 if you're having a real emergency. But he says most calls these days - more than 75 percent - aren't emergencies. And that's stretching city resources thin.

"Look, every time we send a rescue out on average to pick up a person anywhere in the city and transport them it's costing the taxpayer $550 dollars."

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) published an op-ed on Politico Tuesday urging President Obama not to agree to any Medicare cuts in the fiscal cliff negotiations. The reason: reforming the health care system, including the way we deliver and pay for health care, will add up to all the savings we need.

Whitehouse writes:

Researchers writing in Academic Medicine, the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, think so. Or rather, after crunching the numbers – medical school debt load to potential income and expenses – they think medical students who decide to go into primary care as a specialty will be able to pay off their school debt on a primary care doctor’s salary.


Perhaps you’ve been wondering where things stand with Rhode Island’s efforts to build its own online health insurance marketplace?

Wonder no more! I joined our All Things Considered host Dave Fallon in the studio yesterday to give an update on the exchange. That’s because I got the chance to catch up with Christy Ferguson, who heads the group that’s planning and developing the exchange, and wanted to share what I learned.

We’re checking in on our Future Docs Sarah and Peter, whom we’re following all year to learn more about becoming a doctor in today’s changing health care landscape. They’re half way through their second year of medical school now, and they’re already grappling with career decisions and the realities of a hospital’s sickest patients.

Medical residents still work loooong hours, longer than most of us will ever work in a single week at a paying job: 80+ hours. But that’s down from much longer work-weeks, a mandate from the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) after complaints that long hours were contributing to woozy residents, too sleepy to make the best decisions for their patients.

A new study in the Annals of Family Medicine projects the country will need about 52,000 more primary care doctors by 2025. The study’s authors calculated that we currently have about 206,000.They based their projections on the number of patients primary care docs currently see in office visits per year, and how many might be expected based on how much our population is set to grow, how much more an aging population will need primary care, and how many people will have access to a primary care doctor for the first time as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

After medical school, most doctors go through a kind of on-the-job training called residency. Residency programs have been around for a while, but some recent changes in those programs are impacting not only how residents practice but how patients receive care. So in the next Future Docs story, we take a look at residency from two angles. First, we meet third year general surgery resident Anne Kuritzky, who takes us on morning rounds on the surgical intensive care unit. Then, I join our Morning Edition host Elisabeth Harrison in the studio to talk about the showdown ahead on Capitol Hill over residency program funding and the changing needs driving residency specialization.

Coming up next in Future Docs, meet third-year surgical resident Anne Kuritzky. This Thursday on Morning Edition on Rhode Island Public Radio, join Anne on her morning surgical rounds, and then join me right after for a brief discussion about what’s changing for residency programs and how that affects patients and doctors.

And that matters to you because….?  Well, because if the bacterial infection you’re suffering from has evolved a resistance to available antibiotics, it will be harder to treat. There’s some new data about the spread of resistance, and new attention on it today.

There have been lots of great stories in the last day or so about what President Obama’s reelection means for health care reform under the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare. A few of my favorites are linked below.

Brown University

Ed Wing, Dean of Medicine and Biology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, will be stepping down at the end of this academic year. He’ll return to Brown after a sabbatical to continue teaching, researching, and writing. Meanwhile, the university will launch a national search for his replacement.

Sure, it’s been a stressful few weeks – months, even. Debates, political ads, campaigning, flyers, you name it, we’re all tired of it, right? It might even be taking a toll on our mental health. And according to one study by some Israeli researchers, there’s a bit more stress in store just before you cast your vote:

A new study in the journal Academic Medicine provides one of the first looks at a program created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to train more primary care doctors. It’s a pretty different model than the traditional one, where the government, through Medicare, makes payments to teaching hospitals to help fund graduate medical education (like a residency program for doctors-in-training).

Superstorm Sandy took out power, down trees, canceled classes and meetings and flights galore. But she also sent some unexpected disruptions. The Red Cross says the storm forced it to cancel about 300 blood drives. And it’s not sure yet what might be the long term impacts of those lost donations and power outages. Here’s what Red Cross chief medical officer Dr. Richard Benjamin said on their web site about what is known: