The answer to everything wrong in health care

TOP Alberta has released a beautiful infographic Evidence Summary: The Benefits of Continuity in Primary Care, and the document also serves as an overview of the 112 publications they reviewed.

It speaks for itself. Maybe the title of this post is a bit grandiose, but as a shameful hypocrite [I have very little continuity in my clinical practice, something I'm working to remedy] I cannot underscore how important this idea is.

Every physician, nurse, administrator (yes, you!), health policy person, and their uncle needs to not only know this but act on it. Continuity is what we need.

It's not a fad. It's something that we used to have. And it has slowly been eroded, without too many people noticing, as we kept focussing on the newest technology and the latest pharmaceuticals as if they would solve everything.

In BC, the essential nature of continuity has been recognized particularly with the work of Marcus Hollander and was implemented in the GP for Me/Attachment Initiative. Unfortunately (some might dispute this), changing physician incentives to try to encourage more attachment hasn't made much of a difference for patients. So while we know that we need continuity, we don't know how to 'make' the system or the providers do it.

It's a perfect storm for patients: Can't find a GP, or if you can it's hard to build a relationship with them because they are so busy/unavailable/don't have enough time to spend with you; the GP doesn't know all the details of your care as pharmacists/naturopaths and others expand their scope and don't communicate with the GP; the medical records at the hospital or from the specialist in the other city don't link with those of the GP so no one knows what is going on; when a referral or requisition is sent, there is no confirmation that is was received so it might be that you are just waiting, or it might be that it has been lost and you will never hear back about the appointment; when a home care support worker or nurse comes, it is a different person each day and they don't know you or your needs, and they aren't allowed to do the things you need help with most.

Health care really is about caring for people, and how can we do this when we do not build robust and lasting relationships?

The review did not cover provider satisfaction but personally and in BC studies so far, physician satisfaction is improved by continuity with patients. However, this is not how most young graduates are practicing; Yet another great reason that we need to look more into this.

Is it too good to be true? Before we rush ahead and try to force the "magic pill" of continuity, we need to know more about why it's being eroded, and if we can save it, then how?

 

Source: http://www.topalbertadoctors.org/file/top-...

No evidence that N95 respirators are better than surgical masks

From NinjaCat14 on  Deviant Art  I can't make this stuff up!

From NinjaCat14 on Deviant Art
I can't make this stuff up!

Specialized technologies are always sexier than their basic alternatives.

We often think that new and complicated is better. Or that if something is more expensive if must work better, right? 

One small trial found that a more expensive placebo was much more effective than the cheap one in Parkinson's patients. There is a lot of interesting research around how cost influences thinking and choice, and much of it is applied by manufacturers to influence their markets (see for example: Relative thinking in consumer choice between differentiated goods and services and its implications for business strategy).

Sometimes we think again about something that is not new, but an existing technology or process that we just use by habit, having assumed for years that it was better than the alternatives. Rarely are these things scrutinized, but sometimes when they are, we find out we are  "all wrong." For example, we have long assumed that acetaminophen is helpful for lower back pain but a meta-analysis in the BMJ in March 2015 found this is not the case.

In a recent Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) article, Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis, we learned that there really is not a lot of clinical research that supports the effectiveness of N95 masks. In the lab, yes, surrogate markers suggest the N95 masks could be "better" than normal surgical masks, but the data in practice is so lacking. 

Smith et al. concluded that "Although N95 respirators appeared to have a protective advantage over surgical masks in laboratory settings, our meta-analysis showed that there were insufficient data to determine definitively whether N95 respirators are superior to surgical masks in protecting health care workers against transmissible acute respiratory infections in clinical settings."

Of course 'insufficient data' doesn't mean we should abandon these masks. While I will still wear N95s for seeing TB patients and for performing high risk interventions on patients with influenza like illness, I now begin to wonder if this is really necessary.

There are so many 'fancy' technologies that we have discovered are no better than the old ones, and our knowledge of the waste, cost, and sometimes harms associated with them makes it hard to  not carefully scrutinize every 'new alternative' and 'innovation.' 

As I head to Toronto for a meeting of the CMA's Joule Innovation Council this week, I must laugh a bit. I imagine my experience in critical review of medical literature and knowledge of the harms from overtesting/treating/diagnosis, will make me one of the toughest judges of our colleagues' submissions! We are reviewing grant proposals for development of innovations from Canadian physicians.

I hope that with this privilege, I can be both enthusiastic and measured in my assessments, though I won't be surprised if I'm one of the more, uh 'fiery,' of the dragons in the den. With the collective wisdom of the group, I'm certain we will support some elegant, thoughtful, and effective innovations to make a positive difference for patients and health care systems.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2695252...