Vaccine opposers lack any evidence

This is important: Dorit Reiss on vaccine misinformation in the Point Reyes Light.  The anti-vaccine crowd is vicious, rabid and unfortunately very poorly informed. Yet they have been able to get the attention of enough media to cast doubt on the effectiveness and safety of the most important medical intervention ever devised.

When the only argument against requiring vaccines for school relies on mistaken beliefs about vaccine safety, it cannot stand. Vaccines are safe, effective and save lives. Immunization mandates make our schools safe. By shoring up California’s mandate, S.B.277 is helping to safely protect our kids and our communities.

Renewed Posting

I found a bunch of unpublished posts some months ago. It seems I don’t know how to work wordpress, or maybe one of the updates threw me for a loop. Well, I kept on  writing, sometimes offline, and finally found the time to fix the problem.

This morning at Rotary, I made the observation that a year ago I had a lot of projects going but didn’t know if I would get traction with any of them. Now I have the opposite problem; everything is firing on all cylinders at the same time. Patient Direct Care came out of nowhere, PanZoe has transitioned to an effort on 360Care, a local integrated charitable clinic. EverMed is pitching for 20,000 lives in the next few months.

This morning Clark County Public Health disseminated the information on 360Care’s community meeting.

Paul Levy feels his direct reports should be practiced at writing at least 1000 words a day, in order to communicate with their stakeholders. It is time to jump back on that bandwagon.

So if you see posts dated some time ago that weren’t there before, please accept my apologies. I’m still catching up.

House Bill Aims to Curb Employers Ability to Force Doctors to Leave State

I prepared this potential op-ed prior to the death of HB 2931 in the Washington legislature. Non-compete clauses (also known as restrictive covenants) in physician contracts have had a devastating effect on the primary care workforce in Vancouver, Washington and other border regions of the state.

I understand the need to protect employers from the costs of recruiting a physician who then turns around and threatens to compete from across the street (really… who does that?) On the other hand, large groups in the state have thrown their weight around and hospital systems have thrown temper tantrums. I would prefer to eliminate restrictive covenants for family physicians, but there is good evidence from numerous sectors fo the economy that putting sharp limits on the enforceability of restrictive covenants is good for the economy. The best example is Silicon Valley,  where companies treat their employees very well, manage them extraordinarily well and continue to work with the intellectual capital they attract long after it leaves to spin off new entities and foster even more innovation.

Other physicians need the support, but so do baristas, hairdressers, nail spa workers and tattoo artists, who are unfairly unlimited by the legacy companies. I have to believe it makes these companies lazy and less considerate than they would be otherwise.

There were several bills, but I addressed the one widely regarded as the most likely to cross to the senate. In the Senate there was SB 6625 sponsored by Senators Conway, Hasegawa, Keiser, Chase, which restricted non-competes to 6 months for hourly wage workers. HB 2406 was sponsored by Representatives Manweller, Sells, Stanford, Magendanz, Tarleton, Moscoso, Ormsby and S. Hunt and stipulated that non-compete clauses were null and void in the case of a listed number of low hourly wage work such as fast food and dry wall applicators. HB 2931, sponsored by Representatives Stanford and Ormsby was the most sophisticated of the three and tried to outline certain parameters for which it is inappropriate to impose a non-compete. In short, if you are not an executive, non-competes would not be enforceable beyond one year.

None of the bills proposed geographic limits as “reasonable” in a non-compete.

All I can say is “we’ll be back,” even though I am poised to become an employer of physcians and stand to benefit from the applicability of these absurd covenants. There is still this thing called “doing the right thing.” Here is my unpublished opinion piece.

 

House Bill 2931 limits how employers can impose non-compete agreements on prospective employees and will be good for all industries in the state, although it will have an unexpected beneficial effect on health of Washingtonians. The bill received a vote on the House Floor Tuesday and will now go to the Senate for consideration.

 

Non-compete agreements in health care protect hospitals and larger medical groups, ostensibly from the high cost of physician recruitment. However, once a doctor agrees to be employed by a medical group, these agreements become a not-so-subtle means of controlling the doctors. An unhappy doctor could be required to leave the city, county or state because the agreement states that he or she is not allowed to practice their profession under any circumstances within the exclusion area. Since doctors have families and children, the non-compete agreement becomes a leash which can only be broken at substantial personal cost, which many families simply are not willing to accept. In one draconian example, one employer in Southwest Washington defines the geographic exclusion area as three counties. The doctor is often left with a Hobson’s choice of staying at an unhappy job with incompetent and potentially dangerous management or leaving town. No one is left to advocate for you, the patient.

 

Non-compete agreements are outrageous and unethical in healthcare. They disrupt the doctor patient relationship and hurt our workforce. When physicians leave the state, even for a short period of time, they rarely come back. Most medical groups spend a huge amount of money recruiting, but nobody tracks losses when doctors leave. In the end, it is the patients who suffer when they lose a trusted provider. I have never seen an administrator look an elderly woman in the eye and explain how his contract forced her doctor out of town.

 

It should come as no surprise that the Washington Hospital Association is profoundly opposes HB 2931. The Washington State Medical Association debated the issue heatedly, and emerged officially neutral. At least one large group made veiled threats to leave the association if even a watered down proposal were considered. The Washington Academy of Family Physicians is the only group that supports the bill, reflecting the public health orientation of primary care sector. Oddly enough, Republicans tend to like bills like HB 2931, because they foster free markets. Democrats like them because they protect employees. This is a bipartisan issue that aims to clip “Big Corporate,” not “Big Government.”

 

In many industries, non-compete agreements are merely an over-reaching effort to own their workforce. As one misdirected lobbyist asserted at the House Labor Committee, “our people ARE our intellectual property.” One wonders how Silicon Valley has thrived, since California is a place where these covenants are nearly completely unenforceable. Perhaps economic development is constrained when tech companies are allowed to impose draconian non-compete clauses?

 

There are numerous options which would make covenants more fair to communities, patients and doctors, but none of the corporations that run the state’s health care apparatus will even discuss the matter. It is time to reclaim the natural rights of individuals to work where they please without undue interference from anonymous corporations. Now it is up to the Senate to make HB 2931 law.

 

Why Overpay for Healthcare?

I firmly believe that family medicine is rooted in communities. It is the only way the physician can develop an understanding of the local culture, industry, and lifestyle to “get it” from the patient’s perspective.

Live, work and serve in the community was a principle articulated by Ian McWhinney in his Introduction to Family Medicine in 1981. Cost shifting, that is using your revenue from paying patients to care for those who could not afford care, was a time-tested method of paying for healthcare for decades. This was a tacit understanding between paying patient and physician which exists no longer. Although it is not a direct part of the physician-patient relationship, it has always been part of the landscape and responsibility that a physician embedded in a community would be expected to live up to. It is also part of the responsibility of a community in taking care of their own.

Coaching, Counseling – What is the difference?

There remains a remarkable stigma over mental health. Counseling is profoundly personal and incredibly effective when the chemistry is right between patient and counsellor.

One of the neat things about health coaches is that they can offer mental health counselling but also practical advice on motivation, behavior change, diet and exercise in relation to chronic disease.

It;s a great combination that expands the usefulness of a behaviorist working hand in glove with the family physician.

 

What about people who don’t need “therapy?”

Well the longer you’ve been around, the more you realize everyone needs therapy. But for those where the posture is too much, realize that life coaches approach therapy from a really practical perspective, rather than the stereotype of a navel gazing, pipe smoking “shrink.” Also for those whose counselling needs are not very acute, we can always stand to improve ourselves, be more effective in relationships, health habits and goal achievement.

 

The impact on the uninsured and uninsured

Low income individuals are often uninsured or under-insured, on medicaid or bouncing on-and-off. Generational poverty, substance abuse, environmental deprivation are all contributors to a profound psychosocial malfunctioning.

These bad decisions we see and urge people to take responsibility for are often beyond the capacity of the more unfortunate. Teaching adaptive behaviors goes a long way to enabling personal responsibility. Combining medical care, prevention, care coordination, behavioral counselling and connecting to the rest of the community as a hub connects to the spokes of community services is a fantastic way to lift people out of generational dysfunction… one person at a time.