KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Doctors Still Make Good Money

An annual survey shows that doctors, on average, still make at least three times the annual median household income. Media outlets also describe other trends, including the return of house calls, often as part of hospital palliative care programs, the use of scribes to help with digital records, rushed doctors' visits and a study finding that free drug samples influence doctors' prescribing practices.

The Washington Post: Doctors Still Make Good Money
In the United States, doctors on average still make at least three times the annual median household income. The lowest average income on the list of doctors for 2013 was $174,000 and in 2012, the median household income was about $51,000. Orthopedics had the highest average earnings at $413,000, and cardiologists and urologists were not far behind. Of the 25 medical specialties listed, three-quarters of them had an increase from 2012, according to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report, an annual survey of doctors around the country (Tobey, 4/18). 

The New York Times: House Calls Are Making A Comeback
A relic from the medical past — the house call — is returning to favor as part of some hospitals’ palliative care programs, which are sending teams of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other workers to patients’ homes after they are discharged. The goal is twofold: to provide better treatment and to cut costs. ... Confusion continues to exist over what palliative care is and whom it is for. Broadly, it is meant to ease symptoms and pain, and focus on quality of life for severely ill patients, who can choose between continuing or halting traditional medical treatment (Freudenheim, 4/19).

Kaiser Health News: 15-Minute Visits Take A Toll On The Doctor-Patient Relationship
Patients -- and physicians -- say they feel the time crunch as never before as doctors rush through appointments as if on roller skates to see more patients and perform more procedures to make up for flat or declining reimbursements. It's not unusual for primary care doctors' appointments to be scheduled at 15-minute intervals. Some physicians who work for hospitals say they've been asked to see patients every 11 minutes. And the problem may worsen as millions of consumers who gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act begin to seek care -- some of whom may have seen doctors rarely, if at all, and have a slew of untreated problems (Rabin, 4/21).

NPR: Scribes Are Back, Helping Doctors Tackle Electronic Medical Records
Like many other doctors across the country, Dr. Devesh Ramnath, a Dallas orthopedic surgeon, recently made the switch from paper to electronic medical records. This meant he no longer had to just take notes when he was examining a patient — he also had to put those notes into the computer as a permanent record. ... In fact, he found he was spending an extra two to three hours every clinic just on electronic records. So he hired medical scribe Connie Gaylan. Acting a bit like a court reporter, Gaylan shadows Ramnath at every appointment. As the doctor examines a patient, Gaylan sits quietly in the corner, typing notes and speaking into a hand held microphone. Once she's finished with the records, she gives them to Ramnath to check and approve, saving him hours of administrative work and allowing him to concentrate on his patients (Silverman, 4/21).

PBS NewsHour: Do Free Samples Influence The Way Doctors Prescribe Drugs?
A new study from Stanford University's School of Medicine found that doctors who are allowed to hand out free samples of expensive drugs prescribe those drugs more often than doctors who don’t have access to free samples. Dr. Alfred Lane, senior author of the report, talks with Hari Sreenivasan about the implications of the findings (Sreenivasan, 4/20).

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