Untangled Health

Consumers Unite To Drive The Changes We Need

Tag: Don Berwick

SalesForce as a Patient-Centered Longitudinal Care Platform | I am one happy Diabetic!

The technology facilitating Patient Centered Care arrived over ten years ago. It was all a matter of configuration!

The technology facilitating Patient Centered Care arrived over ten years ago. It was all a matter of configuration!

I am pumped!
Years ago…1997 I believe; I had a job working for DocSite: the company founded by Physiatrist John Haughton MD that became one of the premier Registry products used as the EMR community was attempting to define itself. In the DocSite product we collected measures or “clinical indicators” that were compiled around the patient and associated with an infinity of conditions. Essentially the data design allowed physicians and grant recipients to have a single patient record yet extract, analyze and report on any constellation of outcome measures without having to spend money on redundant disease registry products. Example: Blood pressure is an important measurement for diabetes and heart failure. In diabetes the measure importance is 1) how often it is done and 2) the blood pressure value. In Heart failure the same measures of process (measurement frequency) and outcome (BP value) are required but they might be different depending on the cardiovascular guideline and contrasting diabetes guideline. In the DocSite system the blood pressure recording was simply a vital sign. The rules defining threshold for compliance with guideline were defined separately and associated with multiple conditions. When the doctor generated the data for PQRI and the Cardiovascular Excellence programs a single patient outcomes dataset was generated based on the programs associated with the patient. When the patient returned to any clinician using the Docsite system the Visit Encounter Sheet displayed the current measures due, the last values and trends for each measure and gave the physician or extender a place to generate an education note. Inexpensive, simple, multi-user, modifiable for EBG and data submission automated through clerical “generate and send PQRI data”. Now, I owned some stock in the company so I am biased but quite frankly I thought the system was elegant once it received data feeds from pharma and labs!

All of us at DocSite used a Client Relationship Management cloud application in our client services department. After using it for three years or so those of us that had worked in a previous company “the forerunner of DocSite” called Cognimed all thought that Sales Force had the proper design to create a community wide care coordination and patient centered care planning tool We had built one in the 1990s and sold it and moved on with our lives.
Today I see SalesForce has entered the arena. Knowing what I know about its capabilities I hope they capture the market by landslide. Please if you thinking about building a new care management platform…dont. As a patient, I would love to see this thing as an App. in all of my clinicians hands and on my IPhone please. Check out their demo. I am sure it all does not work as advertised but I can attest to the fact that they had the correct data model ten years ago!

Reconciling data in my six health portals

Reconciling data in my six health portals

An advocate gets busy while every politician and “talking head” takes credit for healthcare model ideas published long ago.

Reconciling data in my six health portals

Reconciling data in my six health portals

I watched Barbara Starfield again last night. She passed away in 2011 but it seamed as though she was sitting in my living room telling me everything will be alright but many of us will never get our way. Barbara spent several decades studying the characteristics of health systems all over the world. Her final conclusions were simple and easy to implement as long as social agreements were made between consumers of healthcare services and their providers. The contract (sort of) is that my primary care doctor will be available when needed if I promise to contact his or her office before going to the ER for an earache or other non-emergent condition; my doctor also agrees to follow my care as I transition through life stages and address all mental and physical health conditions as they arise by assuring I connect with the correct specialist if required. The specialists in return are in constant contact with my primary care doctor so the primary care clinic is coordinating continuous and comprehensive care and reviewing all interactions between myself and other medical environments. Like I said earlier this week. Someone to watch over me. I first learned of Dr. Starfield in 2001 and followed her publications. Funny, she was never accepted to sit on any best-practice boards but the scientific community considered her work to be spectacular in terms of statistical approach and quality. In other words, she looked for the null hypothesis also.

Again…concerns over repeal and replace.

Some more diatribe with hope at sarcastic humor is written for you below. Please follow through to the end as I pasted a really cool graphic pointing you to a new society of consumers and professionals that might fix the system over the long run.

The conversation doesn’t stop at my dinner table, on my phone, through IM or Facebook. It seems as though my popularity index took a healthy bump after November 8th, 2016. I wish I could be happy about the reasons for the traffic.
“Jeff, you are on Medicare are you concerned?”

Well yes; you see, as we become older the likelihood of needing assistance from case managers, specialists, short stays in skilled nursing or rehabilitation facilities increases. Same with home health services which is always the preferred place to recover from the self-inflicted fractured hip that occurred while my masculine ego informed me of my capacity to clean out my gutters.
One of the most important changes to the clinical language coming from Obamacare is the right for all patients cared for by primary care doctors with Medicare contracts to receive “Coordinated, Comprehensive Care”. Lately you might have heard the terms: “Patient Centered Care” or “Medical Home”. You probably heard President Elect Trump mention “Patient Centered” or a new commercial by Humana presented by a handsome young doctor stating that Humana’s system of Patient Centered Care is superior because of their capacity to coordinate your care within their “medical community”. Then you will watch a local conservative pundit state: “those stupid narrow networks tried through Obamacare didn’t work: here is a toast to repeal and replace.
This stuff cracks me up for the same proponents of patient centered care realize that closely collaborating narrow networks can provide you with clinical personnel that understand your needs better than anyone else! In fact, they have the same attributes of a Patient Centered Care Team using a single medical record and plan of care to increase safety and minimize mistakes. Yet you will hear no one (perhaps save me and a few of us that are tired of scraping the poop off our boots) tell you that the words Patient Centered, Narrow Network, Accountable Outcomes, Value Added Payment, Medical Homes, and all other terms implying a tightly coordinated, error free clinical team surrounding all patients are not original concepts. In fact, they are in place in many of our successful neighbor nations who provide universal enrollment and have always demonstrated lower reliance on emergency room services for basic medicine, better health outcomes and no difference in treatment effectiveness for cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other leading causes of premature mortality. Our own CMS (The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) have published the policy here July 2016:
So all of a sudden the administration of 2017 will be using terminology invented by others to describe care models that work after years of academic surveillance by healthcare policy analysists and already written into The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act or what the opponents call “Obama-Care”.
My prediction is we will keep the new payment systems for coordinated care and chronic disease care management. However, the credit for the success will fall under a new Trump label. My fears is that the same three insurance companies comprising the oligopoly of payers for American Healthcare will recoup their lost profits of mandated care without premium inflation for the chronically ill by shifting the premiums higher for those with pre-existing conditions. So here is another question from the week:
“Jeff, what will I do now I couldn’t get covered because of my history of cancer before the ACA?” “What if “Trump-care” requires coverage for pre-existing illnesses but allows insurance companies to include the illness in the premium pricing model? “ My response to this question was “not sure, my cost in the NC High Risk Insurance Pool for my diabetes prior to Obamacare was $1200.00 per month not including co-pays. Today it is $350.00.
More on Patient Centered Care AKA Medical Homes AKA Integrated Care AKA Chronic Illness Care.
I discussed the integrated care model and its payment adjustments to my Men’s group on Thursday night as they requested a primer on planning for their last ten years of life. Their hope was that our system of care had evolved and they would not have to lose their homes to cover the long-term care charges. Many of the guys in my group neglected to buy long term care insurance when they were young and healthy, had since suffered a chronic disease diagnosis and episode of treatment and no longer qualified for long term care insurance. They could however place $10 K per month into an account to pre-pay up to one year of long term care. This is what my father did: In 2006 he entered into a contract with a transitional care organization. He paid them $350,000 for full access to assisted living and long term care until his death. They also allowed him to live in the attached apartment complex for independent seniors for an additional rent of $3200 per month including one meal per day. Not a bad deal eh? Oh yeah…one more oversight: My friends ; all retired upper middle class professionals had no idea that Medicare didn’t pay for long term custodial care either in home or inpatient facility.
Now, like I said the other day, I am a bit tired of shouting the truth to those who were unfortunate enough to buy into the following promise: “Oh we will have the most wonderful healthcare system in the world” and “We promise to repeal the expensive policies and replace with something better.
We were on our way folks: The biggest mistake, President Obama’s team was denied the necessary Medicaid expansion for ALL not SOME States by our supreme courts. If you don’t understand the math I will be pleased to describe it in another column. Basically when the folks that would have had access to Medicaid don’t receive the insurance they still consume services. The loss of revenue winds up on the balance sheets of hospitals and providers and they respond by increasing their cost per service. The insurance companies pay more and your premiums increase. So… my neighbors policy (55 year old male) in NC costs $11,000 per year. The very same policy in New Hampshire where they expanded Medicaid costs $5,500 per year. As Mr. Obama leaves keep in mind that the rate of increase in health costs since the inception of Obama Care is the lowest it has been in 40 years.
Somehow, someway; we need to cover everybody. If we do not we cannot cover the losses incurred in the private sector without the Magical Thinking that has been sold you for so many decade. Hide the losses, get others to pay for the losses through modest increases in cost of living and blame the doctors, and hospitals who give away more free care than you could ever imagine.
What would happen if our incredible consumer driven internet harnessed the decision support technology that we use daily on Amazon and instantly brings the right service to you when needed should you or a loved one become ill? What if we harnessed IBM Watson to make the diagnosis thereby reducing error rates and reducing unnecessary utilization of expensive diagnostic procedures?
What if we didn’t need insurance companies any more to assess population risk and perform preauthorization services while we waited for our new medication?
Since we have all of the data connecting lifestyle, culture, nutrition, infection and the human genome can anyone appreciate where we are headed with our capacity to discover the cause of disease and effect of treatment? This is not decades from now my friends; it is within the reach of our children’s lifetime. I have wonderful friends with incredible scientific minds that are creating open source technologies to accomplish human collaboration like humankind has never witnessed. The only barrier to their success is a loss of priority to cure disease, increase well-being and expand the functional-years of human life.
Or…we can keep these technologies secret, forget those we have developed through the natural sequestration of competing private enterprise and traditional silo thinking. If this is where we are headed then the best investment to assure a painless end of life if you are not surrounded by humanitarian friends is my undying support for the second amendment. If you catch my drift.

Check out Right Care Folks!

Right Care Now

Right Care Now

From Obama to ObamaTrumpCare

someone-to-watch

Someone to watch over me…….
Dear Doctor, will you please make sure I receive the RIGHT CARE!
What do you know about me Doc?
Do you have time to spend with me today; perhaps discuss who I am in the world, what my goals are and what I think might help me feel better?
Are you interested in my Well-Being? Do you and your staff ever discuss Well-Being or is it all veiled in a pile of healthcare acronyms; where Well-Being is described by absence of symptoms and disease?
Do you have the opportunity to discuss my goals and interventions with my other doctors? Sometimes I am not sure you folks talk because my information: from religion and employment history to list of medicines varies between practices. I thought someone was fixing all of the electronic health record issues ten years ago?
I noticed that all of my personal physicians that I have chosen over the last fifteen years are selling their practice or merging into some sort of healthcare system that appears to be managed by the local hospital; is this a good thing? I am really not sure you see me because the person at the registration desk doesn’t recognize me and your Medical Assistant told me that you only had time for 10 a minute appointment today.
Actually, to be honest with you; I am concerned for your Well-Being Doc because you have dark circles below your eyes and tell me that you are up until 10:00 PM each night completing your records at home. I realize that the new electronic health records are cool but shouldn’t they increase your quality of life as opposed to drain any remaining discretionary time you have with your family?
Ya know Doc, I have learned allot about healthcare in my life: Yeah, some because of my training and work but mostly because I have these….”conditions”. The “conditions” have presented adequate challenge to require me to understand the “bits and pieces” that string this system together. I’ll bet you don’t learn much about being a patient in medical school. I am not sure how you could do it without adding another two years to your fourteen years of post-grad education.
Did you know that I have spent ten hours in the last month trying to get a prescription authorized? You know the prescription that makes living with RSD and diabetic neuropathy tolerable! It appears that someone didn’t install your e-prescribing system correctly; something to do with prescription received and filled acknowledgments? I don’t know Man; it seems like the fax machine and pharmacy calls worked better than this e-Rx stuff. The long and short of it is that between your practice, my insurance carrier, and my CVS pharmacy the most efficient transaction I can hope for when I am in pain is 48 hours. My “Well-Being” wasn’t so “Well” this month…..
BUT my A1c is 6.5, my blood pressure is 124/78, my immunizations and other measures of health process and management outcomes are all great. I am pleased to be one of the good data points on your quality report and certainly testify to CMS and Blue Cross that you deserve an extra 5% for your hard work. Might be nice though if I received a discount on my insulin copay for the snappy A1c that has kept my feet attached to my legs and my body out of the hospital these last 50 years.

So what is Right Care? How do we know if we get it? Is it through the Diabetes DM report? Is it through the patient satisfaction survey that I take at each and every service provider I see? They all are very similar, I wonder if anyone has ever considered a “whole system measure”; at least something better than the Service Excellence Survey that reminds me of the material sent to me by American Airlines after every business trip. By the way, I always give my providers 5 stars with the exception of the conglomerate that bought up the primary care practices; their employees seem miserable. I find it amusing that their employees all where buttons that say “Ask me about the “Name of Healthcare Institutions” WAY. I guess they all have some kind of culture that is supposed to make my experience less painful as a consumer? Perhaps more like Disney Land I suppose.
What I really long for is my diabetes pediatrician from 1965. Dr. Lipmann. He always asked me to discuss how I was feeling about school, whether I had enough to eat at home, did I have any dreams and whether or not my diabetes would prevent me from achieving my dreams. Heck, he called me on Sunday night to as how I was feeling when my urine sugars were running 4 plus. When I left his care at the age of thirteen he had illuminated an interest in human biology that has carried me through my life. On a darker side of my childhood life he also notified “Children’s Protective Services” when he discovered I was living in an alcoholic flop-house!
My friend Tony is from another country. His mom had a CVA last year. She was transported to the ER, hospitalized, transferred to a facility with real rehabilitation specialists and doctors on staff daily, discharged home with visiting nurses and therapists and returned to society as a healthy 75 year old woman who is now completely independent. Her cost? Well there was no cost to her and the average cost per person for health services in her country is 1/2 of what it is in the USA.
In meeting with my insurance adviser the other day I was informed that my healthcare cost will be more than $500,000 between now and my death; with my diabetes, RSD, neuropathy etc. I wonder how we will cover the services. I really don’t want to be one of those patients that I cared for early on in my career. You know….like the old man and WWII B17 Aviator that looked up at me shortly before he died and said “Ya know Jeff; I used to be somebody once”.
The end of his life was no different than my fathers. Dad died last year from pneumonia at the age of 87. We had just celebrated Memorial Day. He called me complaining of a chest cold and 48 hours later I found myself sitting at his bedside with new onset dementia, consolidated breath sounds, a temperature of 101 degrees and abdominal cramps. I asked the Nursing Assistant to get him a bed pan and she informed me that he “just got off the pan”. A few minutes later I overheard her complaining to her supervisor that she had no intention of getting my Pop out of bed because he was a difficult transfer due to his combativeness. Pop was angry for sure but not combative. Then I witnessed the IV nurse insert a 18 gauge catheter into my pops wrist. She never registered IV access and proceeded to deliver 500 cc of solution into the sub-cutaneous space. This was the only vein he had left since they had made the same error the night before in the opposite hand. By 6PM his hand was as large as a soft-ball and this was hours after I complained about her technique.
So the following day Pop got a PICC line. PICC lines are infection risks!

Three days later I took him to the SNF with his PICC line and met with the therapists. Dad was becoming more lucid but I had concerns. I met with the Charge Nurse and facility director to assure his good care. I was concerned about the additional risk for infection from his new PICC line. You see, this facility was part of his life-long $450,000 investment in a continuing care environment; supposedly the best available in Huntsville Alabama. I used to direct clinical services departments in these facilities earlier in my career and was aware of their financial strain as they attempted to deliver hospital level care for 1/3 the cost.
I saw Pop the next day while he was cycling on the recumbent bicycle in the rehabilitation department. He had 20 minutes of therapy to go but as soon as I showed up to watch his work-out the therapist terminated the session and quickly wheeled Pop to his room so we could chat. Dad looked horribly sad, I knelt down to say good-bye kissing him on the forehead I said “I love you Dad!”; he looked up and said “And I love you Jeff”. These were our last words.
Three days later I received a call at 3AM from a person who could not speak English. He mentioned my father’s name and I asked for someone who could speak more clearly. The second person I spoke with also could not speak English. Finally a paramedic picked up the phone…”Mr. Harris, your father is unresponsive and we are taking him to the hospital”.
After a quick dialog I was able to determine that Pop had explosive diarrhea several hours earlier and simply lost consciousness. I called ahead to the Emergency Department to inform them of my father’s forthcoming arrival and that I was worried he might be septic. I told the doctor that Pop was a DNR patient and he should call me when he arrived. When Pop was evaluated the ER Doctor called me with his lab results and it was quite evident that he was dying and most certainly had been allowed to dehydrate while at the Rehabilitation Hospital OOPS I mean Skilled Nursing Facility OOPS I am not sure what I mean. God did I weep as the ER doctor and I discussed his DNR.
I wrestle with the fact that I might have been able to save Pop if I had pushed for re-hydration, antibiotics and other therapy but I couldn’t help think about Pops state of well-being. You see my brother and I had spent years shuffling him around between neurosurgery in Birmingham and other clinical facilities. At one point I had imitated a physician to keep my father from being discharged prematurely after his brain tumor operation. He had been in the hospital for a week. The Medicare Prospective Payment was going to pay for eight days and the hospital was pushing him out to a skilled nursing facility. I watched my Pop eating and realized he had an aspiration problem. Fearful of aspiration pneumonia I asked to have him discharged to the rehabilitation beds at the University Medical Center. I wanted him to receive a speech language therapy evaluation for aspiration risk and rehabilitation services. To get the transfer to rehabilitation where a doctor and therapists would be available; I had to retrieve every clinical skill I had when meeting with the staff to justify his case. When they assumed I was a doctor, I let it ride. Feeling shame the next day I convinced myself that I would do whatever I needed to protect my father.
You know, to make sure he would receive the
Right Care.

As the ACA (Obamacare) was implemented I began to have hope. You see, this year 2017 is the beginning of Medicare’s observation of how well inpatient hospitals and post-acute care facilities integrate. One important measure they are watching is the frequency of readmission to acute care for the same diagnosis. This combined measure of how well institutions, nursing homes, home health networks and primary care communicate regarding a patient’s process as they are handed off between facilities is to prevent patients from becoming ill and requiring re-hospitalization. Trust me folks, it used to be horrible: I can remember turning patients around as they arrived at our rehabilitation hospital and sending them straight back to the Medical Center that had just discharged them. You see, some were still in heart failure and semi-conscious; not only could they not participate in rehabilitation; to attempt rehabilitation might have killed them. But you see, the hospitals were not linked to the rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities through a common therapeutic goal and reimbursement mechanism. The hospital in Boston just wanted to discharge the patient prior to exceeding their Medicare reimbursement allotment. We however had marketing nurses out in the field accepting any warm body with a heartbeat that just might survive a 21 day Medicare stay in a Skilled Nursing Environment.
My friends had no idea why I never lost my job by reversing the trajectory of these patients. What they did not know was that I had a compassionate family owned corporation employing me who trusted my clinical intuition.
Alas… as of today….Obamacare is being repealed and we have yet to be informed about “TrumpCare”. My guess us that we will return to the past with the exception of mandatory care for persons with pre-existing conditions. Then we will see just how much our policies cost and what our end of year out of pocket expense will be.
For my wife and I,
We are searching once more for our peeps. This week I have looked at my well-being through the end of my life if we ex-patriate to Canada. My cost will be $0.00 for healthcare. My waiting time for a CAT scan will double but Canada’s outcomes for Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease and diabetes are slightly better than in the USA. So what do we have to lose? In fact, Canada doesn’t amputate many diabetic limbs. You know why? Because all of their diabetics have access to care!

Fondly thinking of you fellow patients and consumers;
Jeffrey Halbstein-Harris
• An advocate for those who feel lost
• Always watching
• Harnessing the compassion that surrounds you in a time of crisis
• Connecting you with the best science available
• Minding your pocketbook
• Working to return you home safely

Doctor Price? Should we run for the hills?

A serene day in St. Croix

 

His history might clue you in.

Tom Price on healthcare: What should we expect?

What happens when you strip coordinated care incentives through repeal of the PPACA. One outcome is certain: orthopedic surgeons like Dr. Price perform more amputations for which they receive several thousand dollars for a fifteen minute procedure.

What happens when you strip coordinated care incentives through repeal of the PPACA.
One outcome is certain: orthopedic surgeons like Dr. Price perform more amputations for which they receive several thousand dollars for a fifteen minute procedure.

Click link above to access Dr. Price’s priorities. First please read my fears, doubts and insecurities below?

 

 

 

Pres. Elect Trump hired Rep. Tom Price as the new Director of US HHS today.
Mr. Price is a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump when other republicans were not. It appears Mr. Trump continues to hire loyalists.
Dr. Price is a successful physician having authored numerous bills to replace PPACA. When hired he stated his objective is to repeal and replace.
The bills authored by Price do have language that sounds attractive e.g. Patient Empowerment but when read…show a clear intent to remove the most important economic controls on health cost escalation in the PPACA. These include: DME competitive bidding for items such as prosthetics, motorized wheelchairs etc. Competitive bidding on drugs purchased by Medicaid and Medicare, Removal of our veto on using genetic data to derive insurance premiums for individuals and many more.

I have long thought that it is weird that Americans who place so much emphasis on pure free market tactics in all industries vote for politicians that author bills to veto competitive pricing virtually eliminating 100 million people from hiring a government payer to reduce the cost of medicine.

Now, I always suggest we follow the money.
Dr. Price’s three leading PACs and individual campaign contributors fall within these industry’s.
Physician Membership Organizations
Hospital Systems including HCA ( brought to testify on anti trust and fraud several times in front of congressional committees)
Pharmaceutical Industry
Insurance Industry

Where I have worked for HCA, consulted to the American Academy of Family Practice, Anthem Blue Cross, NY BC, and State Government I am confident in my conclusions about their business objectives. If you trust me and want more info please feel free to call on me.

I highly suggest that everyone who voted for PETUS look at who has been appointed to lead US agencies and fill important cabinet posts. My prediction and I hope to eat my words is that the middle class is about to be dealt a final death-blow that will eliminate any hope of having enough left over at our death to pass on to future generations.
I am suggesting people like myself: aging with chronic illness describe what they hope for quality of life in their final years and make preparations. The only way to do this is to understand how necessities are priced and determine individual bargains strength.
We had Price transparency tools created through the PPACA. My guess is they will disappear in short order .

My colleagues who believe in universal enrollment for defined evidence based public health and personal health interventions will be fighting any changes that do not provide consumer-facing competitive shopping tools that dispense with confusing terminology commonly used by healthcare institutions and insurance organizations. I also look to the millennial to jump in since they have a future at stake.
Tony Antony Williams may be right in his suggestion that PETUS is a liar.

Doing my best to stay healthy enough to escalate beyond the occasional battle into a Full Blown War against Wall Street.

The War in DC is for campaign reform and term limits.

“Oh what a drag it is getting old”

Wait, Wait, Don’t Kill Me; I have my data and you don’t! A Chronic Disease Patients Point of View Part 1

 

A 33 year veteran worker from the US HealthCare Industry who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1966 describes his  realization that health care efficiency solutions must first address social and business barriers prior to implementing technology and hope for the future.

Reconciling data in my six health portals

Reconciling data in my six health portals

Keeping our eye on the ball: Let us not forget why we showed up over these last few years and started shouting out!

A small sample of issues that we learned about in the last fifteen years:

  • Disproportionate Growth in Healthcare Costs (greater than GDP and growing as a multiple of consumer price index) with poorer health outcomes
  • Disparities in care and care outcomes directly related to personal income. (as family income falls so does family health)
  • Lack 0f availability of critical, decision influencing data when and where we are treated (The Patient Information Gap) arising from lack of governance of data exchange between industry segments, physicians and payers at local, State and Federal levels, (often hidden behind well intentioned efforts to secure the privacy of patients).
  • Reliance on antique point of care exam model: Patient and family as historian.
  • Poor price transparency due to confusing and always changing industry syntax such as: Facility charge, Allowed amount, Deductible, Co-Pay, Co-insurance, Patients responsibility, Cost Sharing, Plan Type, Episode of care; Discharging to next lower level of care;  Medical Savings Account appeared to us as a shell game where we would always find our total cost out of pocket living under a different shell!
  • Certification processes: JCAHO Ambulatory, JCAHO Hospital, NCQA, URAC, CARF, Insurance Company’s Center of Excellence! What does it all mean! 
  • Questionable ethics of pharmaceutical industry: Tiers level 1,2,3,4. When our doctors told us they prefered a brand drug because of evidence that the drug was more effective but the insurance company required we pay 4X cost of their PBMs generic who do we trust! Will I die because I spent $200 less per month on my medication than my Dr.Recommended?
  • Numerous Business to Business relationships that supposedly have value for payers but only decrease the size of the consumers wallet. What is a PBM anyway? A Pharmacy Benefits Manager! You mean my medical insurance company needs another company to manage the medications!!!!
  • Disease Management Companies: Nurse calls me monthly who works for Depression Institute LLC who evidently subcontracts (like the pharmacy benefit manager) to my insurance company or my employer. She asks me if I am” downhearted and blue.” I say “yes” and she sends me some uplifting books and websites to look into. Meanwhile I would like to see a therapist because I am loosing function at work due to diabetes and am very sad and can not concentrate. My primary care provider sees 10 patients per hour and is empathetic but can only refer me to a psychiatrist associated with his institution. The institution psychiatrist places me on multiple medications to address my depression and the nurse from the DM company calls me monthly. I feel no better. Months later I begin having heart palpitations which turn out to be a side effect of the antidepressants. I am now afraid to work out.

Then we approved the HITECH ACT, ARRA and ACA all of which contain system enhancing improvements that are to address our concerns and help us feel safer, have better health outcomes and have better consumer capacity to analyze the state of our own health, determine our care needs. plan for our care needs and finance our care. Because as we all know: We are all temporarily able-bodied individuals; that is unless we are delusional.

My mission with these next series of posts, articles and perhaps a self-care book is to frame America’s Healthcare System as it evolves in front of you. How is it that I can do this when others can not? Well many, more qualified people can. Most will not due to the shackles of our industry and survival instinct. Ezekiel Emanuel will lay it all out for you if you listening to a compassionate physician who gets the big picture. For now: I am no longer dependent on this industry to support me. I have no fear of exposing the truth including those elements of my past that cause me to carry shame, anger, fear and a substantial amount of JOY. The truth is; all of the commentary I have heard at cocktail parties attended by physicians, employers, patient rights groups, hospital administrators, nurses, mixtures of all levels of worker-bees is beautiful material and quite humorous. If you are a healthcare worker and are reading this than you know this material is true. If you are recently graduated from your professional training venue whether it be nursing. medical school or other and you find my words a bit offensive then please forgive me and disengage 

So for now: Let’s get started, I welcome all feedback as this material comes belching forth from my repressed memory and will try to frame my words with ego disengaged.

 

My first experience with accidental death bordering on murder:
In 1982 I experienced one of three medical errors in my career that culminated in a person’s death. I was 26 years old so I took it less seriously than I do now: but it was the start of a change in consciousness regarding my thoughts on communication breakdown within the care delivery system. Ultimately this one focus would become my life’s pursuit.
Setting: A beautiful, crisp fall day in New Hampshire, My duties that day were respiratory therapist ‘on call’ for code blue (resuscitation events): A man of about fifty walked into our emergency room noticeably distraught. “I can’t catch my breath he said, it feels like my heart is coming out of my chest”. We took him immediately to our trauma room where all of the equipment would be available should we need to perform complex procedures (temporary pacemakers etc). Laying him down on the gurney the EKG technician hooked him up to the monitor and I reached up to turn it on. My job was to assist the team if the patient arrested and then intubate and ventilate him upon order of the physician. What I saw on the EKG appeared to be a life threatening rhythm yet the physician ran into the room and announced the rhythm to be less threatening  which requires a completely different treatment approach: So I figured “well he is the doc and knows much more than little old me”. This was back in the days when a patient’s personal physician could deliver direct care in the ER as opposed to a board certified emergency room physician. This Navy Dr. was quite sure of himself and demanded respect. At the time the Dr’s diagnosis called for electrical cardioversion with a defibrillator to establish a normal rhythm so I began preparing the defibrillator. However, this was 1982 and we had a new cardiologist on staff so the Dr. in charge thought it best to ask the cardiologist if there was a less traumatic way to correct the patient’s rhythm. He yelled out Hey Dr. XXXX; what is the standard for cardioversion for intraventricular tachycardia? Now keep in mind that the nurse and I were concerned that this was a missed diagnosis and that the patient was in-fact having a heart attack.  We spoke up at this point but were dismissed due to our lower level of credentials RCP and RN vs. MD. The cardiologist said “there is a great new class of drugs that have been used for years in Europe they are Calcium Inlet Channel Blocking agents. Give your patient 4 mg of Verapamil! So our esteemed leader –without running the EKG to show it to the cardiologist pulled up 10 mg of verapamil –not 4 into a 3cc syringe and handed it to the nurse. “You will be okay in a minute Mr. Smith said his doctor, we will take your shortness of breath away shortly by giving you this drug”. The poor man was terrified and his horror made worse when my nurse friend refused to push the drugs into the patient’s IV. Dr. (Navy Save the Day) said “Fine I will do it”; injected the medicine, looked at the patient and then up at the EKG monitor. Mr. Smith sat straight up in bed, grabbed his chest and fell unconscious. As we looked at the monitor we could see that there was a clear EKG rhythm but the patient had no blood pressure nor could we feel a pulse. He had stopped breathing and his eyes were wide open with pupils dilatesd.We worked on the poor man for almost an hour. I intubated him and started ventilating while the nurse began chest compressions. The cardiologist had come into the room to take over the resuscitation effort. As soon as he looked at Mr. Smith’s first EKG he knew that he and the other doctor had made a terrible mistake. Had he looked at the EKG before recommending verapamil he would have labeled the rhythm as acute myocardial infarction with ventricular tachycardia and suggested defibrillation immediately.  What confused the patients doctor who had little clinical experience in cardiology was the fact that his patient was walking and talking.One is taught in school that a person usually loses consciousness when in “V-Tach” however, those of us who spent hours our lives reading 24 hour EKG recordings knew that many patients with good strong heart muscle can be in this rhythm while having coffee with a friend and simply complain of some shortness of breath. So this was an old-school clinical decision support error: the wrong diagnosis (bad data) given to the cardiologist (software decision support engine) caused the report (feedback loop) to the patient’s doctor to recommend the wrong therapy. Taking the advice the physician administered verapamil caused the patient’s cardiac muscle to stop contracting due to the lack of exchange of calcium across the cell membrane.

The patient’s wife arrived 30 minutes later to be informed that her partner had died from a heart attack. It’s hard to forget the screams of agony one hears throughout a career in the hospital ER. There was no incident report or mortality round on this case. The nurse and I were dumbfounded as the patient’s physician took off his gloves, through them on the patient’s chest and said “that’s the last time I ever take advice from a cardiologist”!

What I have just illustrated is a failure to communicate and validate; even in the presence of communication technology. Years later we would have computerized EKG interpretation algorithms that were often ignored due to as lack of trust in the computer. After a decade or so the interpretation algorithms became spot on and many stopped arguing with the machine.

I always wondered after this event “would this happen to me?”

Our time has come: In my opinion we have some brilliant people speaking to the topic of healthcare reform and its multiple components today. The same personalities have formed organizations that bring patients into the fold of healthcare transformation such as the Society for Participatory Medicine and its Sister E-Patients.net.

Furthermore research has confirmed that some basic tenants of care are major correlates of lower cost and higher health outcomes. These are ease of access to a primary care physician, assurance that the primary care physician treats the patient with comprehensive techniques; assurance that the primary care physicians practice coordinates the patient’s care as he or she develops new conditions and problems and requires interventions from other providers or facilities such as hospitals. Furthermore there is evidence that if the primary care database is queried on a regular basis to identify patients with chronic disease that have not been seen or are experiencing a deterioration in health status that populations can be identified and engaged well before they show up in the local emergency room. This type of procedure is titled Population Medicine.

So here we are with all this knowledge and interest. On top of that we approved a National program for the expansion of electronic medical record technology under the Bush administration. This HITECH bill was primarily a jobs creation bill but it was to create something of immeasurable value for us patients, doctors and our loved ones. A single record or location on the internet called a portal where any one clinician that might have an interest in caring for us would be presented with a thorough historical record of our problems, diseases, interventions, therapeutic outcomes, medicines etc. This alone was worth the billions spent since it could make our safe at a time in history when the institute of medicine was quoting over 100,000 deaths per year due to therapeutic misadventure. I call this permanent record “the life-long plan of care”

This engineering feat was not rocket science: it required technology that we had in place and a social infrastructure that we did not. By social infrastructure I mean an agreement among industry providers, provider specialities, hospital organizations, employers and insurance companies to settle on a standard clinical and business syntax defined by the context of the workflow or data flow and not interfere with the transfer of information between organizations holding information and their competitors since patients are transient. Metaphorically speaking it is similar to my exchanging the service records on my car between competing car dealerships and then downloading a copy for myself at home. In fact here is evidence that it is not happening while the private eHR companies selling their wares are owned by CEOs worth billions! Doctors challenged by data exchange

Crap! We still don’t have it! I am reading about campaigns “give me my data!” #gmmdd because evidently patients are having trouble accessing their records, test result etc.

My friends all tell me that they have been told by their providers and doctors that they have their own portal access their records, talk with their docs and download records. In fact they do. Here in the RTP area of NC I can count seven clinical portals that a patient’s clinical information may reside in. I have tested them all and have no problem downloading my personal or a friend’s personal information from each portal. This leaves me wondering if the campaign should be labeled Give Me My Data or “Wait Wait Don’t Kill Me” ,#WWDKM “I have data and you do not.” This is a much more succinct description of the problem in my world anyway. (credit to NPR for paraphrasing their wonderful show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”)

What scares me is that I understand the cost of sharing information and it is not just some random charge made up by vendors. You see the vendors were given three guidelines to meet for interoperable data. However, during implementation it is possible to modify the system templates thereby creating artifacts as data cross the street from hospital A where Blood Pressure means Blood Pressure and Hospital B where Blood Pressure means Respiratory Rate. These are the CCDA documents that your physicians patient portal allows you to download either in the form of a pdf document or .xml document adhering to CCDA guidelines. So where you and I can download our information, good luck uploading it into another facilities records. So, once again…I am doing what I did in 1981 and hand carrying my test results and visit summaries to each specialist and each hospital that performs surgery. From the surgery perspective it is important because I am diabetic and have a family history of hyperpyrexia; a condition where in reaction to an anaesthetic agent your body heats up to 105 degrees and starts to melt on the OR table.

So as we riot against the machine because we are afraid for our very own lives remember who the villains are: No body! The manufacturers have certified their ability to interoperate. The ONC did not consider a standard where it is suggested that you document your capacity to exchange data in all contexts: Administrative, Financial, Result Observation, Continuing Care Document Architecture Record between every known vendor of eHR software that has received the same level of accreditation. This is an oversight or someone was paid off I am not sure. All I know is that the Epic enterprise EHR is deployed in three hospital systems that I use including their partnering physicians and I am unable to transfer my data between systems without a download and manual entry of results which never make it to my medical record because patient entered data are considered unreliable. Such arrogance! Don’t you think?

Below I illustrate and describe my current processes which include the use of MS Healthvault for data consolidation. This will be part 1 of a series that I construct with the objective of embarrassing an industry that has been playing a shell game for three decades with our private and taxpayer dollars. In the end you will hopefully have more clarity on why it has never worked, why it won’t work without a change in societal attitude toward health care as a right vs commodity and how we might change the future by getting clear with our healthcare business leaders and policy wonks now about our understanding of their special interest controlled industry.

I have been reading the same complaints for three decades; I have worked in provider industries and taken advantage of others in accordance with corporate doctrine, I have struggled to get my long-term needs met as well as those of friends, neighbors and family members. I have seen us come around now through three complete cycles of “novel idea that will fix medicine” followed by “new opportunity for new industries to form and to get wealthy on the suffering of patients and the majority of the workers who provide the most nurturing experience while they earn $15.00 per hour. I have had 45-year-old physician friends throw up their hands and walk out the clinic door with tears in their eyes as they dropped their career while still paying their student loans. It goes on and on but I do not. So now, with neuropathy advancing, fingers aching from arthritis as I type I say to you: I might need to rest and bleed for a while but I ask that you carry me to the next gathering to continue the fight.

Patient commits suicide faulting pharmaceutical prior authorization rules as the cause.

Many untold stories

 

Patient commits suicide claiming prior authorization pharmaceutical rules as the cause.

Melt down, do you ever have them?

Well I will share mine with the world in this very moment.

I have carried hepatitis c for thirty-eight years now. That is until two days ago when my blood work returned the result of no detectable virus.

My family’s cheer is magnificent as everyone had considered this diagnosis to be the reason for my premature demise.

The medication I am taking (Harvoni) was approved for 90 days by the Federal Blue Cross program and I am now completing the second month of therapy. The protocol calls for 12 weeks of therapy due to a history of viral re-emergence using an 8 week protocol. We were lucky to get the medication as one course of therapy is $100,000! That is in the USA of course. In Egypt it is $1000.

CVS Care Mark was denied my refill as the date of the prior authorization expiration is tomorrow. That’s right TOMORROW!!!

It turns out that the Blue Cross administered program has a 24 hour lead time required for refills. Their internal processes begin flagging patients for cancellation one day before the actual term date!

So here I sit, just another patient with a life threatening illness who was given the hope of cure one week ago and now is pedaling as fast as he can to get help from his physician to extend the authorization of a medicine that is –on paper- still authorized!

They tell us patients with chronic disease that we are subject to depression. Feelings of hopelessness, loss of energy, inability to concentrate, suicidal ideation: Well I have all of them now. After 48 years of chronic disease, a 33 year career in healthcare where I operated at executive levels high enough to find out some ‘very ugly truths’ regarding this sector of the free market I feel ready to throw in the towel.

So for the next generation of patients: know this…you are on your own. This means it is up to you to find the best team of physicians, nurses, employers, insurance companies and friends to respond to your needs. It will be up to you to command them. It is time to stop being a passenger in the system.

I am the captain of my vessel. I have a wonderful team who is trying their hardest to get me the final dose of medication needed to save my life. I have just been wounded brother and sister so I will lay here for a while and bleed. Then –with your help; I will stand-up and continue telling my truth.

The truth that spills forth in the form of factual events involving actual people making life and death decisions has been held back until this point. I still try to earn a few dollars in the industry and do not want to become one of the untouchables. Perhaps it is time to execute my right to free speech.

When I am done I will rest and figure out another strategy for supplemental income in retirement.  It might be time to close this chapter and dance.

Patient Care Alert! Don’t accept free self monitoring supplies through telephone solicitation without involving your physician.

IMAG0110Patient Centered Care requires patients and families to assume an active role in their health management.Recently, I have fallen victim to daily calls from “National Diabetes Supply Experts” offering free testing equipment. If I accepted  each offer I would need to change supply brands through requesting a new prescription from my Medical Home. This process happens thousands of times per week without the inclusion of the physician and patient in a discussion regarding the benefit of supply change. Your data, including diagnostic information (for me Diabetes) is being leaked, purchased or stolen. I have now filed a case for data breach through the OCR mechanism.

Your decisions matter: Not just for you, but for the Nation as a whole.

The priorities of Health Reform include improving access to services, medicines and supplies to all who are in need. One special population: Those with chronic illness; require recurrent refills for home monitoring and therapeutic supplies. For example: As a diabetic I require home glucose monitoring supplies and much more. The photo above shows my kitchen table while preparing for a business trip. You will observe that I have an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitoring instrument, the associated catheters and an impressive array of prescription medications.

The cost of supplies to me personally exceed $5000 per year in addition to my current $800 per month insurance premium. The cost of my supplies to my insurance company also exceed $8,000 per year over the past two decades.

Now! Another purpose EQUALLY IMPORTANT of the Affordable Care Act is to make health care AFFORDABLE!

Because we decided to maintain a multiple payer system we continue to have a dichotomy between public and private funding sources e.g. Medicare and Blue Cross. As a result many entities are competing for your business as a healthcare product consumer.

Where we have free market, we have human entrepreneurial ingenuity. As I have said in the past, folks like me have always managed to figure out a way to maintain our cash flow during times of legislative change. So, lately: through the lens of a patient and former healthcare entrepreneur I have witnessed the following behavior:

Somewhere, somehow a bunch of mail order diabetes supply services have been calling my home. Over the past three weeks, the calls occurred daily from three different telephone numbers. Each call represented a different company and each agent had the same script:

“Hello Mr. Harris; I represent “Acme Diabetes Excellence” we have been chosen by your insurance company to provide you with a new technology for blood sugar monitoring. I need to collect some basic information to fulfill this order and your free supplies will be mailed shortly.”

No agent has been able to inform me of how they obtained my protected health information and not one agent has allowed me to speak with their supervisor. I have filed a HIPAA data breach complaint with the Office of Civil Rights but suspect nothing will happen.

Most insured diabetics today have multiple blood sugar monitors that have been given to them by their physicians, drug stores and other vendors to try the technology and conclude which device has the most appropriate for their life style. The meters are free because the profit is in the resale of test-strips which have retail prices between $10.00 and $50.00 per package of 50. Each b.rand will only work when coupled to the monitor given away through such wonderful corporate generosity!!

What these companies are doing is taking advantage of some database products that have evidently become available. I find this infuriating as the intrusion on my self-care plan which is negotiated between my medical home personnel, my insurance company and myself will serve no purpose other than inflating individual and aggregate healthcare costs. THIS IS A PROBLEM! IT CAN UNDERMINE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE ACA AND I AM ASKING FEDERAL CONSUMER PROTECTION AGENCIES TO RESEARCH THE ISSUE.

I support free market economies. However I suggest human behavior arising from free-market opportunity might be the largest determinant of uncontrolled health care cost escalation.

So, as we work toward building a comprehensive, coordinated team approach to chronic disease, let’s not forget the impact of our decisions when we select self-care technologies.

Duke Medicine offers to ‘show interest in my life-goals’ for $1500.00 per year!

 

My medical stuff for a 3 day trip!

My medical stuff for a 3 day trip!

February 2013

Last month my father called and complained of being ‘dumped by his primary care physician of 25 years unless he was able to pay an additional $2000.00 per year for concierge services. He said: “Jeff, Dr. Xxx’s nurse called and said that this new program would assure 30 minute follow-up appointments and 60 minute annual evaluations along with a 24 hour, 7 day per week personal communication with the primary care physicians in the practice. I told dad to pay the fee since he could afford it. With disgust, my 84 year-old father and former career NASA aerospace engineer told his Dr. to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

Then; on a personal level: I started visiting the Duke Integrative Primary Care program. They have made wonderful changes to my treatment after uncovering several unknown nutritional and biochemical deficiencies. Unfortunately, they tell me today that they will be pleased to accept my commercial insurance but no Medicaid and no Medicare. They also now require that I pay $1500 per year in addition as a membership to the practice as they are limiting the practice size to 600 patients. The administrative RN tells me that this is the only way I can get the services one would expect from a ‘medical home’ such as appointments of sufficient length to “ADDRESS MY LIFE GOALS”. With a smile, the RN says: “Well, with your background Jeff, you know that it is impossible to do without additional funding”. My response was to illuminate (with colorful words) the purpose and methodology of practice re-design when implementing Medical Homes. I find it hysterical that Duke itself claims to be a leader in their own primary care system in the evolution of Medical Home concepts and adherence to Meaningful Use Criteria. I find it disgusting that their ‘offering’ of this concierge service is really nothing more than what over 3000 physicians have been providing through NC Medicaid’s Community Care of North Carolina contract for a decade. I find it nauseating that we are continuing to squeeze profit from a dwindling consumer base and refusing services which are noted to be ‘best practice’ to the poor. People are people I suppose…and subject to greed.
I am writing this as I leave the Duke Integrative Primary Care clinic today, probably for the last time. These folks diagnosed my metabolic issues and low testosterone: I feel better. If I did not ask for the appointment with my “10 minute visit primary care doctor” she would have never referred me to the clinic. I will now return to her and when I am able to afford it I will return for further investigation and treatment of the many factors that decrease my health related quality of life.

March 2013

Note: I returned to my PCP yesterday March 15th, 2013:

She was angry that I had been placed on testosterone since she had worked me up last year for prostatitis. Had she read the notes in the wonderful e-HR that inter-operates with only duke physicians she would have noted that prostatitis is now ruled out, neurogenic bladder is the new dx and that Dukes own specialty physicians had started testosterone replacement with the intention of having primary care pick up the prescription writing responsibility.

She stated she would not write the prescription.

My next move was to walk her through the notes of the physicians she had referred my case to. I then told her that the Duke Integrative Medical practice would charge me $1500 per year if I needed to return to them for the prescription and that I would leave Duke and her primary care practice if she couldn’t address this with the other doctors on my health team.
My doctor says: “Well why would you leave, what is it that you expect?”
I followed with: “Dr. XXX; I would expect that you would have read the consulting notes prior to entering the exam room so we would not wind up in this tense situation where you are asking me to run all over the locality to describe your directions to my specialists as far as who prescribes what” ”Beyond that, I find your employer ‘Duke Primary Care’ attempting to drive my SSDI money as a private payment to their concierge doctors by not allowing the consulting physician to prescribe medications. In other words, he finds the chronic disease which is treatable with integrative techniques and then refers the patient to the front desk to get them enrolled with the two new primary care physicians in the concierge program.” “Furthermore, not only has this new system of care created a barrier to me getting the medications I need but it has done this by not addressing the educational issues that are clearly needed among their own medical staff.” “Oh yeah, one more thing I realize this is not your fault with the exception that you neglected to read the consult results. I believe this is due to the fact that you carry a case load of 2500 patients and become overwhelmed at times.” “Actually Duke has insulted both you and I. You call me whenever I need you and that is why I choose to be treated by your practice. In my view you have a nice start with your Medical Home right here. But your employer is selling a package wherein they differentiate the offering by noting that the concierge physicians are 1) more available and 2) interested in my ‘life goals’. I realize nothing will happen as a result of this discussion today because it relates to Duke Politics. However, if you think about it we have just touched on: Cost of Care, Quality of Care, Patient Satisfaction, Provider Satisfaction and reputation.”

She nodded, said nothing else; spent ten minutes reading my chart and looked up at me with a sad expression. She apologized for “not getting it right”: I responded with “You did not have enough information, you were not educated as to the changes in program marketing and none of this is your fault.” “I promise you that I will only take medications that are prescribed by you for chronic conditions once I return from the specialty consults. I count on you to interact with my other doctors and resolve conflicts on my medication list; but I need to trust the system of care.”
Dr. XXX of Duke and me are still together, we have agreed to how we will relate in the future and how we will survive in a patient-primary care relationship within the context of the Duke System. I think that what transpired over this last month models patient participation in medical decision making, cost control and providing feedback. I hope that my doctor stays with Duke, it seems their turn-over is quite high. Perhaps they should look at those data!

Dear Brother and Sister Patients,

You will find many physicians not agreeing with me when I state that all should have access to 100% of my health record, care plans and prescriptions. They might further disagree (for legal issues) with owning the responsibility of taking into consideration 100% of available information so may be less supportive of data exchange between electronic medical records. 

Please understand: We, that is you and I paid for a seamless ‘inter-operative healths record through ARRA-HITECH funding. Our purpose in asking for this feature was to make sure we did not fall victim to therapeutic misadventure e.g. a physician prescribing a medication that could interfere with your ‘well-being’. YOU NEED THIS as it is one issue, which we call poly-pharmacy that is responsible for well over 100,000 errors in medical practice per year. 

When your doctor gives you your visit summary which should include a problem list and medication list make sure that it correlates with other doctors in your treating team. You might just save your own life!

Trouble Across the Pond. Once again, no one to blame but everyone. Look at the entire system for your answers.

A good day

Once again my friends, any system which places organizational success in the media, executive bonus, or ridiculous ‘service excellence’ survey results over clear-cut measures of process, and medical outcomes first will lead to suffering. Suffering of patients, families…our identity?
Recently, in Raleigh NC a large hospital system has been cited for Medicare fraud (Wake Medical). As the story unfolds the CEO stated that a single mid-level manager from Patient Services changed physician’s orders to charge Medicare for multiple episodes of care as opposed to observation days only. I find the sacrifice of lower level employees horrific. I also know this to be a common behavior in the US.

These problems are systemic and global. They specifically speak to a decline in the humanity of ‘human services’.

There is a lesson in this video from across the pond.
Pay attention to the proposed Standards and compare to what we have or do not have at home.
Consumers of services (yes us patients):

Please do not accept lip service as transparent publications on safety and quality and cost are promised under the new health-reform act. Scream out for standard reporting, standard methods of measurement and reliable statistics.

Obama Phones: We continue to justify our prejudice through cerebral intercourse – tidbit on health-care cost

YIKES!

I recently was involved in a discussion with a beloved friend. We were both upset about what we thought were inappropriate entitlements and the forthcoming ‘fiscal cliff’. The topic of choice was cell-phone entitlement programs and my friend stated that Obama had expanded a program for free cell-phones for the indigent; calling them ‘Obama-Phones’.

I said in our conversation, “people do scam these programs and it aggravates me as well but I need to look into it.” “I am aware of and FCC ‘life-line’ program that benefits many people like myself who have diabetes, asthma, heart disease and so on, so I cannot throw out the legislation without a careful review.” I further discussed antiquated FCC protection regulations for rural areas and how these original ‘anti-trust’ laws gave rise to local monopolies allowing community entrepreneurs to monopolize the telecom industry across multiple adjacent counties in NC. This is a real case that requires thorough investigation as it drives out competition from more efficient providers like Time Warner subsequently costing a former Health Center client of mine to spend $8000 per month in ISP fees. I could have purchased better technology for 50% of the fee if my client relocated 50 miles North. The legislation traces back to the Ma Bell days and like all population based protection and entitlement programs now requires review and appropriate action based on the current environment. ‘Zillions’ of influencing variables exist that drive up our cost and inefficiencies!

What troubles me is that the Web is being used to post video and text which propagates ignorance and judgment. Everyone is now an expert in tax-reform, the fiscal cliff, health-care and so on. The truth is: most Americans have no idea how these programs work; especially our elected officials who do not recognize the natural escalation of entitlement programs that are bound to public health standards yet provided by a self-defining ‘free-market’.

In my career I have seen organization CEOs sell company’s for $Millions$ that provided decision guidelines for denying insurance coverage. I have seen these guidelines be put to use to deny hospice coverage. I hope you get my point: In this case I was reviewing a denial on a dead-man.

The factors inflating healthcare and entitlement program costs over time relate to a natural human tendency to place self-interest above all else: After all didn’t Adam Smith use this as the fundamental driver for capitalism?

Of course we have a Fiscal Cliff! I suggest it is time we place the black and white (no-pun intended but interesting end-point) definitions of liberal and conservative  politics in the hopper. The extremists among us are using our ignorance and fear to further split our country in two. I welcome all to leave out names, political affiliations and institutions out of their commentary and begin speaking to the issues as human beings. Let me model a comment for you that brings an issue into the spotlight.

On free cell phones:
“I was informed recently that our free cell phone program is expanding and people are getting these that do not need them. I have also been told that these are old rules which expanded under the present administration. I do not believe America can afford this program. I fear the fiscal cliff may end our way of life. I hope someone can explain the details to me.”

You will note that I:

1) described ‘overheard’ data

2) made a judgment

3)pointed to a financial fear

4)asked for help.

Here is the best answer I could find on the Web:
Snopes Obama-Phones

Here’s to a collaborative future!

Jeffrey Harris aka ‘Halbstein’