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Welcome to DOCTOR PUNDIT. Awesome!

Originating from Saint Paul, MN, DOCTOR PUNDIT is about the intersection between healthcare policy, science, politics, and all surrounding points and issues.

Although the entire scope of healthcare delivery and policy is much too encompassing for just one blogger to cover, I’ll try my best. Enjoy! From time to time, you’ll also see other items of interest that probably have nothing to do with health policy in the least. Try and keep an open mind. :)

Proprietor & Editor — Michael Douglas, MD, MBA




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The Morning News



  • July 27, 2014 7:38 pm

    Tentative agreement reached on improving VA healthcare delivery

    From the AP:

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to improve veterans’ health care.

    Florida Rep. Jeff Miller and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders scheduled a news conference Monday to talk about negotiations on a compromise bill to reform the Veterans Affairs Department.

    A spokesman for Sanders confirmed the agreement Sunday.

    The pair said in a joint statement Sunday that they had “made significant progress” toward agreement on legislation “to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.”

    Sanders proposed a bill last week that would cost about $25 billion over three years. Miller’s proposal would approve $10 billion in emergency spending.

  • July 27, 2014 1:53 pm

    Unethical physician engaged in very questionable treatment for dementia sues not based on defamation, but “false advertising”

    Interesting post about a physician engaging in questionable treatments for Alzheimer dementia. What appears to be more distressing in the article is the action the less-than-ethical physician is taking against the whistleblower in this situation, who is also a physician (who is the proprietor of a blog focusing on science-based medical treatment). A snippet:

    Dr. Edward Tobinick was the subject of an LA Times article in 2013 — I’d link to it, but it appears to have disappeared, though I don’t know why — which highlighted his (apparently now discontinued) practice of prescribing a particular drug, Enbrel, for Alzheimer’s patients. Enbrel is approved for the treatment of arthritis. Steven Novella, a physician at Yale and who maintains the ScienceBasedMedicine blog which (you guessed it) focuses on playing up science-based medicine while criticizing more quackery-based medicine, wrote a critical blog post about Tobinick’s practice. Novella carefully lays out his arguments as to why Tobinick appears to be engaged in what he believes is quackery. It’s actually fairly even-handed, laying out various possibilities, and noting that there is some gray area for off-label uses of the drug. 

    Tobinick was apparently upset about this and asked Novella to take down the blog post. Novella, quite reasonably, refused. Thirteen months later, Tobinick sued Novella and Yale University. Over what, you might ask? Well, there’s clearly no defamation claim here, so Tobinick claims that Novella’s blog post is an advertisement and represents “false advertising.” He also claims that it’s trademark infringement, and then demanded the blog post be taken down via an injunction. Novella is fighting back in court and on his blog

    Quite worth the read. | LINK

  • July 27, 2014 1:39 pm

What spinal disease may be the cause of this patient’s dysphagia?

View high resolution


    What spinal disease may be the cause of this patient’s dysphagia?


  • July 19, 2014 11:16 am

    "What kind of value do these types of rankings and reports add to patient care, or do these lists obscure and add noise to an already-difficult-to-navigate physician-patient relationship?"

    — Sanjay Gupta, MD, asked this question in an online forum, concerning hospital rankings. My take? It does lower the signal to noise ratio, but not much. Hospitals and integrated healthcare systems are continuing to message more effectively in an increasingly crowded marketplace. I think that more systems realize the increasing savviness of healthcare consumers. These rankings are a reflection of the effort to engage them. —MD

  • July 19, 2014 9:54 am

    Erratum, fixed

    To all who have emailed or asked, I fixed the sidebar links that corresponded to the CONTACT and Tumblr FOLLOW buttons. It’s all a go! Thanks! —MD

  • July 19, 2014 9:33 am

    Prominent HIV researcher, many other activists among those killed on downed airliner

    Much has been said concerning the political ramifications in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Perhaps as equally disturbing as the current political circumstances are the inevitable stories coming out from those who are affected most significantly — the families and friends of those passengers killed in the downed Malaysian airliner, an act we now know was caused by a direct surface-to-air missile strike.

    Perhaps the most poignant tributes have come from those who knew the HIV/AIDS researchers killed on the flight. In all, some 100 researchers and activists were among the dead. They were headed to Australia for a conference. News of this particular faction of victims has hit many very strongly.

    "What if the cure for AIDS was on that plane? Really? We don’t know,"HIV researcher Trevor Stratton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

    As the AIDS community begins to mourn some of its leading luminaries who died on Flight MH17, it remains resolute in its mission to honor on their work. The 20th International AIDS Conference, the event to which the esteemed activists were headed via a connecting flight, is continuing its scheduled programming, according to the organization website.

    Experts are also confident that the AIDS community, though deeply affected, will move forward in a stronger way than before.

    Perhaps the highest profile death — that of pioneer Joep Lange, who played a critical role in antiretroviral therapy trials and in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, has been among the most devastating stories. Lange began researching the epidemic more than 30 years ago and had worked at the WHO, heading clinical research and drug development in the mid-1990s. Dr. Lange was also a major advocate of affordable drugs for AIDS patients in poor countries. | LINK

  • July 18, 2014 9:06 am

    Mayo researchers link protein and its pathology to degenerative dementia

    Just days after the news broke that Mayo was deemed America’s top hospital comes news that researchers there have linked an abnormal brain protein as a possible Alzheimer disease precursor.

    The protein, known as TDP-43, is normally found in the brain. But what Mayo researchers found is that when it becomes abnormal — chemically different and bunched up — a patient is more likely to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s, explained Dr. Keith Josephs, who headed the research team’s four-year study.

    Of course, we’re years away from a cure. But, one discovery of this nature, well, practically any discovery along this vein, only adds to the armamentarium researchers have in battling this debilitating disease. in 2104, we are light years ahead of where we were just 20 years ago in our understanding of this disease process. Discovery of this protein, naturally, does not mean this is a cause, but it does provide context from which more targeted research can occur. Excellent news.

  • July 15, 2014 6:26 am

    "The physician a patient sees can influence their treatment fate. Physicians play an important role in whether or not men with low-risk prostate cancer are managed with observation or treatment."

    Dr. Karen Hoffman on how a patient’s fate is literally in the hands of a physician who can either elect to treat aggressively or simply watch and wait. The principle of informed consent could not be more applicable in the typical physician-patient dyad. 


  • July 14, 2014 11:39 pm

    Who is at fault for current deadlock in fixing VA healthcare delivery disaster?

    GOP lip service on fixing the VA wrongs? A House-Senate committee has the task of writing the bill that will detail the delivery of primary healthcare from private providers in the wake of countless patient appointment delays in the VA ambulatory care delivery model. Both parties have come out in favor for such an intervention to the crisis, but this conference committee has been slow on the uptake (in spite of lowered cost estimates).

    CQ Roll Call’ s Ellyn Ferguson reports that CBO has reduced its estimate by 15 percent to $38 billion per year, down from $50 billion, but Republicans are still keen on spending offsets while Democrats are urging a non-offset emergency designation for the bill.

    Offsetting new spending with cuts in other programs is a continuous congressional battle on all major health care legislation.

    What is it about “the more things change, the more they….”? Well, in this case, offsets would probably have to come from some other Veterans’ social program the GOP wants to delay making public as long as possible. Democrats should be asking what the real delay is in getting this bill off the ground and out of committee — you can read it here [PDF].

  • July 14, 2014 1:21 pm

    CMS to begin implementing payment penalties tied to patient outcomes

    A North Carolina academic hospital will be docked a percentage of Medicare reimbursements because of complications related to untoward patient outcomes. With respect to preventable (poor) outcomes, iatrogenic infections remain the area in which most preventive and systemic modalities can be put into place to increase performance metrics. Sounds easy for an acute hospital to plan for such avoidable issues, right? Think again.

    A quarter of the nation’s hospitals — those with the worst rates — will lose 1 percent of every Medicare payment for a year starting in October. In April, federal officials released a preliminary analysis of which hospitals would be assessed, identifying 761.


    Even infections that are waning are not decreasing fast enough to meet targets set by the government. Meanwhile new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are making infections much harder to cure.

    Currently, approximately 13 percent of hospital admissions — according to the feds — ultimately contract an iatrogenic infection. Although this is still a relatively “common” figure that easily identifiable, the problem many teaching hospitals have with making inroads into this number has more to do with the population that is served — large publicly owned tertiary care institutions serving many impoverished patients with low health literacy — than with simply identifying the source of these infections. The bigger issue here is — what does this say about the institutions: are teaching hospitals now suddenly harming patients more than other institutions (with seemingly fewer resources on the surface), simply because the federal government says they are? Or, are these hospitals facing certain penalties year after year because they simply cannot avoid certain patient demographics?