Data Driven Docs- Part 4

The Data Driven Docs article series has previously discussed three different issues dealing with ensuring that the actions of physicians and other healthcare providers meet standards of care. This article will address patient safety in a unique way by looking at the healthcare team.

Representatives Bucshon (R-In) and Scott (D-Ga) introduced a bill entitled “Truth in Healthcare Marketing Act of 2013” (HR 1427) on April 9, 2013. The intent of the bill is to clarify who is and who is not a medical doctor. According to the April 24, 2013 Medscape Medical News article,  “The bill would make it illegal for any healthcare professional to make false or deceptive claims in advertisements and marketing materials regarding their training, degree, license, or clinical expertise. Anyone marketing a health provider’s services also must clearly state the license the provider holds.”

Wait! Is this really necessary? According to two surveys referenced in the bill it is. Approximately 50% of patients polled in both surveys either identified chiropractors and psychologists as medical doctors or stated they didn’t know the difference.

Physicians/medical doctors in the United States will have either MD or DO listed after the last name. The degree of either medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) is earned after completing twelve years of primary education, four years of undergraduate education, and four years of medical school. All physicians must now complete residency training to be eligible for board certification. Residency training adds an additional three to seven years depending on specialty.  Fellowships tack on one to four more.

So, graduating from high school is only the halfway mark to becoming a doctor? Ouch! It is definitely a long road that few choose. As physicians, we receive additional training to ensure that we are experts in our field. As an anesthesiologist, I have had the honor of putting patients to sleep for heart transplants. It is humbling to be able to take someone that is clinically dead and bring them back to a better lifestyle than they had prior to surgery.

Can physicians practice medicine today without help? Emphatically NO! We are celebrating Nurse’s Week as I write this article. The safe practice of medicine requires a team approach, now more than ever. Nurses are an essential interface in patient care. I’ve previously written about how patient safety can be compromised without support from kind and compassionate nurses. They are often required to perform dirty jobs and never receive enough thanks. (Celebrating nurses all year would be more appropriate but would lose the impact.)

Rural medicine couldn’t function without the tireless effort from our poorly recognized mid-level providers. Our small community relies on Nurse Practioners to provide patient centered care within the community. All of Lincoln County Medical Center’s outreach clinics are staffed by Nurse Practitioners. We ask them to serve as the pediatricians, family practitioners, internists, gynecologists, and ER docs for our outlying areas. PTSD anyone? National Nurse Practitioner week is in November, folks. Mark your calendars!

Medicine is a group effort. Providing safe, quality care can only be achieved when all parts are working correctly and in harmony. Your part? As the patient YOU are responsible for ensuring that the healthcare system functions appropriately. To do this, you need to be educated about your medical conditions, your healthcare providers, and the local healthcare system. You need to hold us as healthcare providers accountable for the patient care we deliver. We need to drive our healthcare system toward increased efficiency, increased patient safety and decreased cost. The final article in this series will provide you with a clip-out data driven checklist you can take to your medical appointments. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: Dr Stephen Rath, MD, DABA is a board certified anesthesiologist, Air Force flight surgeon, paramedic, and pilot as well as the owner and medical director of Fusion Medical Spa located in Ruidoso, NM. He firmly believes that the quality of healthcare will continue to decline as long as the community fails to get involved. Comments or questions? His email address is: