U.S. health care has long featured a struggle between regulation and markets as vehicles of reform, and the community hospital is at the center of this struggle. The key to its financial viability is cross-subsidization, whereby revenues from insured patients subsidize the care of the uninsured and underinsured, and profits from well-compensated services support those operating at a loss. Cross-subsidization has been challenged by efforts to move highly compensated services and well-insured patients to ambulatory surgical centers and specialty hospitals. We review the ongoing battle between through a legal lens and offer conjectures about the outcome. Refined certificate-of-need regulation may be the preferable policy choice.
PURPOSE: Patients with unstable angina or non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (MI) may be managed with either an "invasive" or "conservative" strategy. It is unclear which of these strategies is superior. METHODS: We identified studies with MEDLINE and EMBASE searches (1966-September 2003) and by reviewing reference lists. Studies were included if they were randomized controlled trials comparing management strategies for patients in the early post-unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation MI period and had follow-up data for at least 3 months. RESULTS: Seven trials that randomized a total of 9212 patients were included. The pooled odds ratio (OR) for all-cause mortality was 0.96 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.72 to 1.27). The occurrence of fatal or nonfatal re-infarction was reduced with an invasive strategy (OR 0.73; 95% CI: 0.61 to 0.88) as was readmission to hospital (OR 0.67; 95% CI: 0.48 to 0.94). The endpoints of nonfatal MI and the composite of death or nonfatal MI showed nonsignificant trends favoring an invasive strategy. Trials that included a higher proportion of patients with ST-segment depression on admission and trials in which a larger proportion of patients underwent revascularization showed a greater magnitude of benefit for an invasive strategy. CONCLUSION: For patients with unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation MI, an invasive strategy reduces rates of fatal or nonfatal re-infarction and hospital readmission, but not all-cause mortality, when compared with a noninvasive strategy. These results suggest that an invasive management strategy should be considered for all patients with unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation MI and perhaps in particular those with ST-segment depression.
In late 2004, the British government decided to allow a lipid-lowering agent to be sold as an over-the-counter medication. In contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently decided not to do so. The United States and other countries will soon face similar decisions for other statins. Although statins have infrequent side effects and have been shown to be effective in moderate-risk primary prevention populations, many questions remain unanswered about their effectiveness at lower doses in over-the-counter use, the ability of patients to self-select themselves for appropriate therapy, and the social and economic implications associated with this method of distribution for preventive medications. A rational policy decision concerning over-the-counter statin use will require an effectiveness trial to provide data on how such drugs would be used in this context, as well as on the clinical outcomes that could be expected from this novel "route of administration."
BACKGROUND: Physicians with more experience are generally believed to have accumulated knowledge and skills during years in practice and therefore to deliver high-quality care. However, evidence suggests that there is an inverse relationship between the number of years that a physician has been in practice and the quality of care that the physician provides. PURPOSE: To systematically review studies relating medical knowledge and health care quality to years in practice and physician age. DATA SOURCES: English-language articles in MEDLINE from 1966 to June 2004 and reference lists of retrieved articles. STUDY SELECTION: Studies that provided empirical results about knowledge or a quality-of-care outcome and included years since graduation or physician age as explanatory variables. DATA EXTRACTION: We categorized studies on the basis of the nature of the association between years in practice or age and performance. DATA SYNTHESIS: Overall, 32 of the 62 (52%) evaluations reported decreasing performance with increasing years in practice for all outcomes assessed; 13 (21%) reported decreasing performance with increasing experience for some outcomes but no association for others; 2 (3%) reported that performance initially increased with increasing experience, peaked, and then decreased (concave relationship); 13 (21%) reported no association; 1 (2%) reported increasing performance with increasing years in practice for some outcomes but no association for others; and 1 (2%) reported increasing performance with increasing years in practice for all outcomes. Results did not change substantially when the analysis was restricted to studies that used the most objective outcome measures. LIMITATIONS: Because of the lack of reliable search terms for physician experience, reports that provided relevant data may have been missed. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians who have been in practice longer may be at risk for providing lower-quality care. Therefore, this subgroup of physicians may need quality improvement interventions.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether phlebotomy contributes to changes in hemoglobin and hematocrit levels in hospitalized general internal medicine patients. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING: General internal medicine inpatient service at a tertiary care hospital. PARTICIPANTS: All adult patients discharged from the Toronto General Hospital's internal medicine service between January 1 and June 30, 2001. A total of 989 hospitalizations were reviewed and 404 hospitalizations were included in our analysis. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Mean (SD) hemoglobin and hematocrit changes during hospitalization were 7.9 (12.6) g/L (P<.0001) and 2.1% (3.8%) (P<.0001), respectively. The mean (SD) volume of phlebotomy during hospital stay was 74.6 (52.1) mL. On univariate analysis, changes in hemoglobin and hematocrit were predicted by the volume of phlebotomy, length of hospital stay, admission hemoglobin/hematocrit value, age, Charlson comorbidity index, and admission intravascular volume status. The volume of phlebotomy remained a strong predictor of drop in hemoglobin and hematocrit after adjusting for other predictors using multivariate analysis (P<.0001). On average, every 100 mL of phlebotomy was associated with a decrease in hemoglobin and hematocrit of 7.0 g/L and 1.9%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Phlebotomy is highly associated with changes in hemoglobin and hematocrit levels for patients admitted to an internal medicine service and can contribute to anemia. This anemia, in turn, may have significant consequences, especially for patients with cardiorespiratory diseases. Knowing the expected changes in hemoglobin and hematocrit due to diagnostic phlebotomy will help guide when to investigate anemia in hospitalized patients.