Entries in Doctors (40)


Overuse of Antibiotics May Cause Long-Term Harm

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While antibiotics have certainly benefited society in myriad ways, an overuse of antibiotics may be changing our entire bacterial makeup, says Dr. Martin Blaser, chairman of the department of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center.

In his opinion piece published in the journal Nature, Blaser implores doctors to be more prudent in prescribing antibiotics because of these potential changes, and because over-prescribing can cause antibiotic resistance, which has received much attention in recent years.

"Antibiotics are miraculous," Blaser told ABC News.  "They've changed health and medicine over the last 70 years.  But when doctors prescribe antibiotics, it is based on the belief that there are no long-term effects.  We've seen evidence that suggests antibiotics may permanently change the beneficial bacteria that we're carrying."

In the editorial, Blaser hypothesized that the overuse of antibiotics may even be fueling the "dramatic increase" in many illnesses, including type 1 diabetes, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease by destroying the body's friendly flora, or protective bacteria.

"We need to cut down on excess use," said Blaser.  "Over time, the scientific community has to create a more narrow spectrum of antibiotics to kill specific organisms and not all bacteria, but we don't have those yet."

Dr. Cesar Arias, assistant professor of infectious disease at University of Texas Medical School, wholeheartedly agreed with the editorial.

"We use these without much care and without really thinking," said Arias.  "People go to the doctor for a sore throat, which is usually viral, and they're get antibiotics."

"These drugs affect what we're colonized with, particularly the digestive tract," said Arias.  "If you alter your flora, you can promote certain superbugs to colonize in your gut and get into the bloodstream."

The average American child will receive 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics by the time he is 18 years old, and one-third to one-half of pregnant women will receive them during pregnancy, according to Blaser's report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Doctors Face High Risk of Malpractice Claims

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Almost every physician in the U.S. will face a malpractice claim during his or her career, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers led by Dr. Anupam Jena, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, analyzed malpractice data over a 14-year period for all physicians covered by a large malpractice insurance provider.  They estimated more than 75 percent of doctors in specialties with a low risk of malpractice and 99 percent of doctors in high-risk practices will be sued.

"If you consider a doctor who is 30 years old and just starting a career and in a high-risk specialty, there is about a 100 percent chance that by the age of 65 he will have faced a claim," said Jena.  "We find that across all specialities, the annual risk of a claim is substantial -- 7.4 percent of all physicians had a malpractice claim every year during the study period."

The study also found that while the risk of a malpractice claim is high, about 80 percent of claims never result in any payment to plaintiffs.  Average payments ranged from $117,832 for dermatologists to $520,923 for pediatrics.

Neurosurgeons, thoracic/cardiovascular surgeons and general surgeons face the highest risk of a malpractice claim, while general practitioners, pediatricians, and psychiatrists face the lowest risk.

While the monetary costs of claims are low compared to risks, Jena said doctors pay an extremely high price in other ways.

"There are substantial costs associated with those claims," Jena said.  "There are the costs of defending the claim [and] the losses in productivity while doctors spend time with their defense.  Patients may suffer by not being able to see their doctors, and there also [are] the effects of stress and potential damage to reputations."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Patient's Bill of Rights: Be Empowered Before Next Doctor Visit

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Do you dread going to the doctor? Are you left waiting to be seen for hours? Are you afraid to question your physician's diagnosis or suggested treatment?

"Patients have rights when they are receiving care and that if those rights are violated, another doctor should be found," Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News medical editor, says.

Questions You Need to Ask Your Doctor for Good Care

Dr. Besser has shared his advice on becoming a better health advocate for your body and strengthening your relationship with your doctor. He advises that patients print out these suggestions before upcoming medical appointments.

The Right for Your Doctor to Be on Time

The first right is for your doctor to be on time. We all know that there are emergencies that can make a doctor late but that should be the exception. Lateness should be explained, and you should receive an apology. It's just common courtesy. It's unacceptable to be kept waiting for more than 15 or 20 minutes. If this happens to you on a regular basis, let the office know you'll be looking for a new doctor. They'll get the message.

The Right to See Your Doctor Wash Hands

Hand washing is so important. Dr. Besser says that when he is going in to see a patient, there are so many things on his mind. Before a doctor or nurse touches you, you have the right to see them wash their hands. It's about your health and your body. It can be hard to do, but if you didn't see them wash their hands, ask them. Say, "I'm really concerned about germs, could you wash your hands?"

The Right to a Second Opinion

When you have a serious medical problem, you have a right to a second opinion to confirm your doctor's evaluation. There are a lot of differences of opinion in medicine. As a doctor, Dr. Besser says that when someone asks him for a second opinion, he often sees it as an opportunity to gain that patient's trust. If he respond openly, it can strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. It is a signal the patient really wants to manage their own health. That's a good thing.

Here's a way to do it that won't put your doctor on edge and will empower you.

Doctor: You need back surgery.

Patient: I hear what you're saying but I'd be more comfortable with a second opinion.

Doctor: Absolutely. Is there someone you'd like to see or would you like some recommendations?

The Right to Understand What the Doctor Says and the Right to Have It Written Down

Many times doctors use language that is confusing and technical. You have the right to be spoken to in plain language that you understand. Hearing a new diagnosis can be mind-numbing. You have a right to have the information written down so that you can review it later. You have a right to ask as many questions as you need to so that you understand your diagnosis and treatment.

The Right to Say 'No'

The bottom line is that when you are at a doctor's appointment, the focus is your body. You have the right to say no to any tests or treatments that are recommended. This can be difficult because the doctor is the expert on the disease and medicine. But remember, you are the expert on your body. If you need time to think about a way forward or what has been said, make a follow-up appointment before proceeding.

Here's a tip on how to do it: "Doctor, I'd rather not go ahead with that today. I'd like some time to think about it." That can take some pressure off the situation.

The Right to Know What It Costs

How many times are you surprised by the bill you receive from a doctor's visit? You have the right to know what the visit and tests will cost before you incur the costs. Ask the receptionist for that information when you schedule your appointment. That may give you some time to check with your insurance company to see what is covered and how much you will need to pay. Then when you see your doctor you can decide together how to proceed.

The Right to Be Spoken to While Clothed

It's hard enough to talk about your most personal matters to another person. It becomes nearly impossible when one of you is wearing a flimsy gown. You have the right to sit down and talk to your doctor about your health across a desk or in an exam room with you both seated, fully clothed.

If your "rights" are being violated, first try to talk to your doctor about it. Hopefully, they will appreciate the feedback. If they don't, think about getting another doctor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fed Up Patients Bill Doctors for Wait Times

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cherie Kerr sat in the doctor's office for four hours as she waited for the nurse to call her name.  As a freelance writer in 1969, Kerr missed four hours of her hourly wage that day.  Upon receiving her hospital bill, Kerr refused to pay it.

The move set off a lifetime of standing her ground, refusing to pay, and sometimes billing her doctors, when they kept her waiting too long.

"I know if I sit there, I'm going to get really mad, and then I'm not polite," said Kerr, 67, of Santa Ana, California.

Now, in an attempt to avoid such standoffs, Kerr makes sure her appointments are slotted for first thing in the morning, or for the first time slot after lunch.

"I know doctors have emergencies, but if the doctor keeps you waiting for hours, that's wrong," Kerr said.  "Anytime I choose a new doctor, I shop around to find out how their office runs, and whether they respect my patient rights about time."

Most people have been in a situation similar to Kerr's, watching the minutes slowly tick by, waiting for their names to be called.  And some have refused to waste anymore time in waiting rooms without something to show for it, such as compensation for their time.

"I think this is a fantastic idea, especially when the doctor is clearly in the wrong," said Dr. Pamela Wible, a family physician in Eugene, Oregon, who gives her patients gifts of lotions or soaps if she's running more than 10 minutes late for an appointment.  "This is about mutual respect.  It's time to do this."

Other doctors have followed the same path as Wible by offering gift cards, presents or even cold hard cash if they leave their patients waiting too long. Other offices keep patients abreast of the doctors' schedules by calling or sending text messages when running late.

But Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Texas, and author of the Baby 411, said that billing a doctor or writing a scathing blog post may make a person feel better, but it is not solving the problem.

"The answer is to be an empowered consumer -- and find a new doctor and write a brief note to the doctor to explain why you are leaving the practice," said Brown.  "A successful medical practice relies on satisfied patients who, in turn, refer their friends and family members. When enough patients leave due to excessive waits, the physician and the practice should reassess their business model."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Program to Use Mystery Shoppers to Probe Doctors Scrapped

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has decided against using "mystery shoppers" to investigate whether primary care physicians are accepting or rejecting new patients depending on the type of insurance they have.

"After reviewing feedback received during the public comment period, we have determined that now is not the time to move forward with this research project," an HHS official said in a statement.

Instead, according to the statement, the government would focus on improving access to primary care in other ways, including an emphasis on training new practitioners and encouraging providers to practice in underserved areas. The Obama administration is also working on a plan to offer better payments to providers.

The original government proposal describing the program said staff from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation would call 4,185 primary care physicians in nine states and pose as prospective new patients, saying they had either private or public insurance. The purpose would be to determine if the doctors' willingness to accept new patients depended on the type of insurance.

ABC News asked a number of primary care physicians and health policy experts for their thoughts on the government's "mystery shopper" initiative. Many of the responses were negative and accused the government of spying and being deceptive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Admin Under Fire for Proposed 'Mystery Shoppers' to Call Docs 

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On April 28, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services posted a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on a proposal for “mystery shoppers” to contact doctors’ offices to try to figure out why so many new patients are having problems obtaining a primary care physician.

On Monday afternoon, the American Medical Association official came out against the proposed survey, with AMA Immediate Past-President Cecil B. Wilson, M.D. saying, “We know there is a physician shortage in this country that will only grow worse as more people enter Medicare and coverage is expanded to those currently uninsured. The government should be working to address this shortage so all patients can have access to the health care they need, rather than using mystery shoppers to tell us what we already know.”

Assuming the White House signs off on the proposal, the operation would have more than four thousand mystery shoppers contact 465 physician’s offices in nine selected states “in order to accurately gauge availability of Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) accepting new patients, assess the timeliness of services from PCPs and gain insight into the precise reasons that PCP availability is lacking,” the Federal Register notice said. Each physician would be called by a (fake) prospective patient with private insurance, by one with public insurance, and by someone saying he or she is conducting a study.

“It's important to point out that this is a proposal,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “There will be public hearings.  It hasn't happened yet.  We will look at this and decide after comment from all quarters about moving forward.”

Carney also pointed out that previous administrations had conducted similar “mystery shopper” operations, including a 2007-2008 secret shopper survey by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that looked for any problems that existed with insurance companies offering the Medicare prescription drug benefit. In 2004, the Government Accountability Office used secret shoppers to look at Medicare's help line, 800-MEDICARE. The GAO survey indicated that almost 30 percent of the answers given to callers were incorrect.

Plans for this new survey were first reported by Robert Pear of The New York Times, who quoted a number of physicians, who objected to the proposals including Olympia, Wash., family physician Dr. Stephen Albrecht, who said, “If federal officials are worried about access to care, they could help us. They don’t have to spy on us.”

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who is a physician in addition to chairing the House Republican Policy Committee, also objected to the proposal, saying, “Doctors should be able to spend their time focusing on providing the highest level of quality care to their patients, not wondering when Uncle Sam might be calling to spy on them. This type of outrageous action sows yet another level of distrust between government and the people it serves, and it does nothing to address the underlying issue of access to care.”

Another take -- from Fox Nation -- reads: “Liberals Want to Spy on Doctors but Not Terrorists.”

A White House official, speaking not for attribution, said that there is no intent to collect individual information about any of the physicians.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Phony Doctor Sneaks into Oregon Hospital, 'Mistreats' Patient

Burke/Triolo Productions/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Lucas Orlin Ebert looked the part. He dressed in a doctor's smock and vest with the insignia of Oregon Health and Sciences Hospital, and told a woman he was a plastic surgeon.

The 21-year-old was so convincing as a medical doctor that the woman, Sabrine Strader of Beaverton, agreed to meet him at the Portland hospital, which he had sneaked into with bogus identification.

Strader, 45, said that she had given Ebert a few thousand dollars to perform gastric bypass surgery at OHSU. She had met with Ebert several times, and he had told her to stop her pain relievers and anti-anxiety medication that she used for panic attacks, according to the Oregonian.

"He believes what he says, so he's very persuasive," Strader told ABC's affiliate KATU.

Ebert got caught when Strader turned up at the hospital's information desk to ask where to go for her surgery with "Dr. Ebert." When hospital authorities began looking for the doctor, they realized he was a phony.

Police arrested Ebert Monday night on charges of felony criminal mistreatment and theft.

Experts say it's hard to know what motivates someone to impersonate a doctor.

"God only knows," said Dr. Carol Bernstein, associate professor of psychiatry at New York University Hospital. "What motivates someone to masquerade as someone else -- a doctor, a policeman, a fireman -- we don't know. It does depend on what is going on with that particular individual."

Court documents say that hospital video showed Ebert wheeling the woman out of the hospital.

Lt. Robert King of the Portland police said they are working closely with OHSU security police on the case. "We aren't weighing in on [the motivation] at all," King told ABC News.

Police said that Ebert claimed he was a "second year resident in plastic surgery," and in searching his home, they found three sets of doctor's scrubs. OHSU officials said Ebert had a vest with the hospital logo, an item that can be purchased at the facility's bookstore.

Ebert listed OHSU as his employer on his Facebook profile and showed an interest in "surgery" and "plastic surgery." He also said he had worked for Microsoft, a computer business and a porn production house, claims that police say are false.

Impersonating a doctor is not that common, but it does happen, according to NYU's Bernstein. "You do hear of people putting up a shingle and saying, 'I am a doctor.' That's why we have regulatory agencies to check."

Bernstein said impersonators can have any number of psychiatric conditions, including psychosis and severe personality disturbance. But they can also be con artists.

"It could also be someone playing around and conscious about what they are doing," she said.

Portland authorities said they have no idea what motivated Lucas Orlin Ebert.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Florida Law Bans Doctors from Asking about Guns

Comstock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Doctors and gun control groups say they will challenge a Florida law, signed Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott, that bans physicians from asking patients about gun ownership.

"Gov. Rick Scott should realize the risks to public health and safety that he would be sanctioning by giving into the gun lobby's agenda," the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said in a joint statement with the Florida chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and American College of Physicians.

When it was first proposed in January, the gun gag bill sparked outrage among pediatricians, who said asking parents about guns in the home was not only their right but their responsibility.

"Including a discussion about gun safety during checkups at a pediatrician's office is no different than encouraging parents to use car seats or keep poisons locked up," said Dr. John Moses, an associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University. "The issue here is not the right of gun ownership, but simply child safety and the prevention of tragic injuries that can be avoided by proper gun storage."

But supporters of the bill, proposed by State Rep. Jason Brodeur and nicknamed "Docs and Glocks," said it protects patients' privacy as well as their right to bear arms.

"Parents don't know what to believe and don't know why their state wants to know if they lawfully own firearms," Brodeur said in a January statement, adding that the purpose of the bill is to protect families from being denied treatment for refusing to answer questions about guns in their home.

Gunshot wounds account for one in 25 admissions to pediatric trauma centers in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Parents are often not aware that unsafe storage of guns has caused many child injuries and deaths," said Dr. Neal Kaufman, professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles Schools of Medicine and Public Health. Pediatricians have a responsibility to identify possible threats to a child's safety and highlight ways parents can lessen those risks, Kaufman said.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used to kill a friend or family member than a burglar or other criminal. The best way to avoid firearm injuries and deaths is not to own a gun. Parents who do own firearms should keep them well out of children's reach with trigger locks activated and the ammunition stored separately.

"We are not trying to get rid of guns, or to report on them," said Dr. Mark Groshek, a pediatrician and physician chief of clinical strategic support at KP Colorado HealthConnections. "We want to be sure parents know how to keep guns at home in a way that protects their kids."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Canadian Doctor Caught Treating Dead Patients

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Canada has been heralded as a country with outstanding government-provided health care, but even the Great White North apparently has its share of medical scams.

A doctor in Calgary has been found guilty of billing the government for patients he never treated, many of whom are already deceased.

The Toronto Sun reports Dr. John van Olm was discovered to have billed the province of Alberta for treating up to 185 patients a day on 12 dates between 2006 and 2007, a figure that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta determined far exceeded what was possible.  An investigation revealed many of those reported patients had been dead for some time.

Dr. van Olm has been suspended for at least three months and ordered to pay $99,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.  The doctor has also been ordered to take a course on medical record charting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Meditation Prescribed More Often as Alternative to Medicine

Medioimages/Photodisc(BOSTON) -- More than 6 million Americans are advised meditation and other mind-body therapies by conventional health care providers, according to a report released Monday by Harvard Medical School. And for sicker patients, these alternative therapies seem to provide both emotional and physical relief for many types of medical ailments, according to the findings, which were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Nearly 40 percent of Americans use some form of complementary and alternative medicine, according to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. These practices include meditation, yoga, acupuncture and other types of mind-body-practices. And now, many are receiving the support of conventional doctors who have seen apparent benefits in some of their patients.

Meditation has more recently been tried to treat eating disorders, alcoholism, eating disorders, psoriasis, and even impotence. More than two dozen medical centers across the country, including specialized cancer centers, have attached complementary medicine centers, or provide meditation or other mind-body classes.

However, many of these uses of meditation are experimental, and the results vary by each patient. Many experts say meditation is more likely to treat medical conditions successfully when it is used in conjunction with conventional therapies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio