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Archive for April, 2014

Brad Weselman Receives Paul V. Miles Fellowship

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Each year the American Board of Pediatrics (APB) chooses two pediatricians from across the nation for the 2014 Paul V. Miles Fellowship in Quality Improvement. Brad Weselman, MD, a practicing pediatrician at Snapfinger Woods Pediatrics in Atlanta was one of those selected for his tireless pursuit for increased communication, improved patient safety and improved pediatric quality of care.

In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Weselman has served as Chairman of the Kids Health First Quality/Utilization Management Committee for the last eleven years. Kids Health First Pediatric Alliance is a clinically integrated and Independent Practice Association (IPA) comprised of 210 primary care pediatricians and 60 physician extenders in 38 Atlanta-based primary care pediatric practices.

A practicing pediatrician for more than 15 years, Dr. Weselman was nominated by Robert Wiskind, MD, president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Thomas Finnerty, CEO of Kids Health First.

Also recognized by the American Board of Pediatrics was Marlene R. Miller, M.D., MSc, professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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TruBeam Technology Offers Advanced Features for Radiotherapy

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Northside Hospital has expanded its radiation therapy services to better accommodate a growing number of patients requiring cancer treatment at the hospital’s Atlanta Cancer Center.

Nearly two-thirds of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy at some point during their treatment.  In recent years, Northside has expanded its services, with new facilities in Alpharetta, Canton and Cumming, to give patients increased access to care closer to home.  Now, Northside has completed a renovation its Cancer Center in Atlanta including the relocation of an existing linear accelerator from another facility and the addition of a fourth and brand new linear accelerator – Varian Medical Systems’ TrueBeam.  The new facility and technology enables Northside to see more patients, while reducing wait times they might experience.

TrueBeam is the latest radiotherapy system from Varian.  It offers many advanced features including image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and RapidArc® radiotherapy.  IGRT uses advanced imaging to allow doctors and clinicians to see tumors in real time, so that they can correct the patient’s position and treat the cancer precisely.  Northside’s TrueBeam incorporates Vision RT motion management imaging technology to address the challenges of patient motion during treatment and increase the accuracy and safety of each treatment.  The technology tracks the patient in 3D real time, calculating any movement the patient makes (including breathing) in all six degrees of freedom.

IMRT enables staff to customize a patient’s radiation dose by varying (or modulating) the amount of radiation that is sent to different parts of the tumor.  RapidArc® technology, also available on Northside’s TrueBeam, takes IMRT a step further, generating higher doses of radiation and treating the entire tumor in a single arc around the patient, while sparing normal, healthy tissue and dramatically reducing the amount of time the patient spends on the couch.

TrueBeam can treat cancers anywhere in the body, where radiation treatment is indicated, and opens the door to new possibilities for the treatment of challenging cases such as cancers in the lung, breast, abdomen, and head and neck as well as other cancers that are treatable with radiotherapy.

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Niraj Sharma Discusses Impact of Subcutaneous Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Gwinnett Medical Center physicians recently became the first in North Metro Atlanta to conduct a subcutaneous implantable cardiac defibrillator (SICD) procedure. Recently approved by the FDA, SICD has advantages over the conventional implanted defibrillators in that it does not require a wire into the heart.

In the United States more than 300,000 people die yearly of sudden cardiac arrest, which stems from an irregular heartbeat. While some irregular heartbeat conditions are merely uncomfortable, ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation can cause the heart to stop. Recently the effort to put defibrillators (AED or automated external defibrillator) into public spaces has brought attention to sudden cardiac arrest. AED devices have helped restore electrical signals for some people whose hearts stop, but this is a last-ditch effort.

“Prevention is better,”said Niraj Sharma, M.D., a GMC cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist. “We can use an implanted defibrillator to maintain a normal rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac arrest.”

Conventional implanted defibrillators include wires that extend into the patient’s heart. As with any mechanical device, the wire can get infected, break or dislodge. Putting in the wire into the heart initially has additional risks, as does removing a damaged or dislodged wire.

While conventional implanted defibrillators have been in use for years, and are still necessary in some cases.

“This alternative is particularly useful for patients with compromised vascular access or younger patients who may require multiple defibrillators during their lifetime,” said Sharma.

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Andee’s Army Establishes Endowed Adolescent Patient Assistance Fund

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

In its mission to extend outreach to children and adolescents with brain injuries, Andee’s Army, Inc., an Atlanta-based 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, has established an endowed adolescent patient assistance fund at Shepherd Center brain and spinal cord injury rehabilitation hospital. The fund will help support adolescents and their families with medical treatment, rehabilitation and home care needs not typically covered by insurance or other compensation sources.

“Support to these families will include assistive technology, medical equipment, home modifications and other emergency needs such as transportation, medication or attendant care to help sustain families in practical ways as they adjust and adapt to their teenager’s brain injuries,” Lisa Kennedy, board chair for Andee’s Army said.

The Executive Board of Andee’s Army helped lead the initiative to build upon the success of similar Andee’s Army partnerships and grant programs, and recently presented their first endowment check of $100,000 to Shepherd Center officials. This newest adolescent patient assistance program, administered by Shepherd Center, expands both the type of neurological injuries addressed with family grants and the reach of the program to a larger number of families.

“This special allegiance with Shepherd Center helps fulfill Andee’s Army mission to extend our financial assistance to families of children and youth receiving medical treatment and care for brain injuries and other neurological injuries and conditions, including spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis,” Kennedy said.  “While we will continue our emergency outreach to families in the midst of crisis, the creation of a significantly endowed fund with Shepherd Center helps us ensure the long-term success of our mission in supporting families in crisis and beyond for many generations to come.”

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Embracing Transparency for the Benefit of Patients with Online Doctor Ratings

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

RatingsConsumers might find online ratings helpful when deciding which products to buy and services to use, but could these ratings also be used find a reputable doctor?

It is estimated that 59 percent of patients consider online doctor ratings somewhat or very important, according to a recent study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). And that is why Piedmont Healthcare has chosen to publish unbiased and uncensored patient-written reviews of its physicians online.

“Piedmont is one of two health systems in the country to publish reviews at this scope,” said Matt Gove, chief marketing officer at Piedmont. “Publishing these reviews is about becoming more transparent about our customer experience and also empowering the public to make informed decisions about their health.”

The reviews are gathered by Press Ganey, an independent patient research company that asks questions about specific aspects of care. Each review is posted on Piedmont’s website, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.

“This is just another way we hold ourselves accountable to the people we care for every day,” said Gove. “Our patients have a choice when deciding where they turn to for care and they deserve the most accurate and reliable information possible to aid them in the decision-making process.”

Unlike ratings posted on independent healthcare review websites – including Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals and Yelp – the reviews posted on Piedmont Healthcare’s website are written by verified Piedmont patients. While no patient name or information is revealed due to privacy laws, consumers can be confident the information provided in the reviews came from actual patients like them.

Currently, approximately 210 Piedmont physician profiles showcase patient reviews on the website. Soon, the remaining 800+ physicians also will have their reviews displayed publicly once they earn 30 or more reviews

A secure, HIPAA-compliant software platform has automated the process of transforming Piedmont’s HCAHPS survey data into doctor-specific ratings and comments.

 

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A Video Backup Makes it Easier to Discuss End-of-Life Wishes With Loved Ones

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

By Dirk E. Huttenbach

Mrs Huttenbach Pic 250My mother, Berte Huttenbach, died on June 6, 1992, at home, in her own bed. She had a massive stroke. She was 82 years of age. I was her healthcare agent, appointed by her, many years before.

She died in Springfield, Penn, outside Philadelphia. I live in Sandy Springs, Ga. My sister lives in Germany. My mother had been in failing health following a minor stroke nine months earlier, in September 1991. She had a live-in caretaker, a good Christian lady, for those nine months, who looked after her very well.

Time and time again, my mother had reminded me that in the event of her having a major cardiac event or a major stroke, she absolutely did not want to go to a hospital or a nursing home. She reminded me. She badgered me. Constantly. She badgered her personal physician, too.

On June 6, 1992, around 10:00 a.m., after reading her morning newspaper, she had a major stroke. She was unconscious and could not speak. Her right side was paralyzed.

Her caregiver informed me by telephone. With a clear conscience, I could instruct her caretaker to move my mother from her living room chair to her bed in her bedroom. I told her caretaker to keep my mother comfortable. I would fly to Philadelphia as soon as possible and make further decisions.

My mother died before I made it to her house. She died in her own bed, in her own home, able to look at pictures of her loved ones placed all around her.

I was very grateful that she was able to die in peace, in comfortable, familiar surroundings, with a compassionate and competent caretaker looking after her.

My mother and I had already said goodbye a number of times before. My sister and I had discussed this possible scenario many times already. My sister and I were in full agreement in regards to this choice. I have heard, seen and experienced many other situations, however, where the end of life did not play out so well.

During my junior medical school clerkship at the Syracuse, N.Y. Veterans Administration Hospital 50 years ago, I was assigned to look after an aging U.S. World War I veteran. I was only 25 years old at the time. I was to follow my patient’s progress over six weeks. He was chronically ill, but mentally alert. He strongly told me two or three times: ‘Don’t have me become a vegetable like so many of these other fellows on our unit!” I agreed. What else could I say? What did I know?

Two weeks later, while making ward rounds with the attending resident, I noticed that my patient had stopped breathing. I rushed over. I checked his heartbeat. No heartbeat!

I panicked. I started pounding his chest. Lo and behold, he came back to life, except, he now was “a vegetable.” He remained in that state for the remainder of my clerkship rotation. I felt terrible. I felt I had violated his wishes. I did violate his wishes. I had to look at him daily, for four more long weeks. I am not proud of what I did.

A dear aunt of mine died in a nursing home, years later after a severe stroke. She was in her 80s. She remained in a vegetative state for the year or two following the stroke. A once vibrant, engaging, cultured woman, she became a shriveled up breathing corpse, staring into space, equipped with IV’s, a nasogastric tube, a catheter and a diaper. She no longer was able to communicate with anyone. She was unable to complain of any pain or suffering.

To my knowledge, there was no Advance Directive or Living Will. There was disagreement among immediate family members. My mother knew her well. She thought all this was terrible. My mother absolutely did not want this to happen to her. I am pleased and proud that this did not happen to her.

A time comes for all of us when we need to allow God (or Mother Nature, for non-believers) to take over. At that time, I believe medicine should shift from aggressive, futile medical care to comfort care, i.e., palliative care and/or hospice care, which is now much more available. Modern medicine can postpone death, but it cannot prevent death. Too much aggressive medicine can cause pain and suffering. Comfort care, in contrast, provides comfort.

Having an Advance Directive to express your wishes regarding end-of-life medical care is so important. The more people who know what you want, the more likely you will get the care that you want. It is very, very important not to leave your loved ones guessing and/or in conflict with each other over what you might or might not have wanted. A clear message from you, via a written legal Advance Directive, can make life so much better and easier for you, your loved ones, your physician(s) and your nurses.

An important part of your Advance Directive is to appoint a health care agent, who can and will speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself. Your health care agent should be very informed regarding your wishes. He or she needs to carry out your wishes, even if family members or medical personnel raise questions or disagree. It is therefore also very important for you to keep your immediate family, your medical doctors and your nurses well informed. You do not want significant others to disagree with your Advance Directive wishes or with your health care agent.

There are people who want their physician(s) to prolong the lives of their dying relatives as long as possible. They want the physician “to do everything.” They want to do this out of love, out of religious beliefs, but sometimes out of denial or guilt. Their hopes and wishes need to be respected, but they should also have the opportunity to hear from physicians and nurses. They need to hear that “everything in medicine” is not necessarily “the best of medicine.”

I believe that the best that medicine can offer at the end of life is comfort care, i.e., palliative and/or hospice care, as directed via one’s Advance Directive. Increasingly, I hope and believe, this is becoming the accepted standard of care. It makes for much less pain, suffering and conflict at a time that is difficult already.

Because of my own experiences, and because of hearing and reading stories from and about so many other people, patients and parents of patients, I felt a need to become more involved, even though my regular job is being a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

I served on the Kennestone Hospital Ethics Committee for a number of years under Richard Cohen, M.D. I joined the citizen organization Compassion and Choices (C&C), which promotes comfort care at the end of life. I have served on the Board of Directors of the C&C Georgia Chapter for about eight years. Our Georgia C&C chapter’s main mission is to educate the Georgia public on the need to prepare their Advance Directive sooner, not later.

I have advocated for Patient Proposed Physician Orders (PPPO) to facilitate that initial discussion between patients and their physician(s). This idea was approved and supported by the Cobb County Medical Society and is available via the Cobb County Medical Society website at  www.cobbdoctors.org. I have also advocated for Advance Directives at Medical Association of Georgia House of Delegates meetings.

I now offer the opportunity for people to back up their legal written Advance Directive with a personal video recording, described more fully later in this article.

I signed my own first Advance Directive in April 2005, about a week after the death of Terry Schiavo. I had prepared it earlier but had not signed it until then. I, like many others, procrastinated, even though I strongly believed in the cause of Advance Directives.

I recently revised my Advance Directive to have it conform to the State of Georgia recommended Advance Directive format, created by the Georgia Legislature in 2007 as part of HB-24. This was beautiful, much-needed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Representatives Steve “Thunder” Tumlin (38th District), Mike Keown (173rd District), Allen Freeman (140th District), Mary Margaret Oliver (82nd District), and Katie Dempsey (13th District), and signed by Governor Sonny Purdue. Anyone can download this model Advance Directive, fill it out, and use it for their own Advance Directive.

I gave my updated (paper) Advance Directive to my son and health care agent, Eric, 40, over Thanksgiving 2013. He prepared electronic copies, which he then emailed to me, my wife, his brother and his two sisters. He pointed out that having my Advance Directive in electronic form makes it available on his smartphone. This way, he told me, he can access my Advance Directive anytime he wants to or needs to. I thought that was very smart. It makes my Advance Directive much more available to those who need to know.

How do you keep your loved ones well informed?

1. Talk to them. Talk to them repeatedly about your wishes. Have that     conversation. My mother did so. I have done so with my wife, my children and my personal physician.

2. Prepare your own legal written Advance Directive, which includes appointing your health care agent. It is wise to appoint a back-up health care agent. Give a copy of your Advance Directive to your health care agent. Give copies to your immediate family, other loved ones, as well as your personal physician. Do it or have it done electronically also. Give it to anyone who should be informed about you. Hospitals are now starting to keep that kind of information in their records regarding you, which is very good.  Review your Advance Directive, preferably every five years. Your circumstances and/or preferences may change over time.

3. To express your views even more strongly and clearly, you can have a digital video recording made of you discussing your Advance Directive with a knowledgeable professional, such as myself. The idea of making this available grew in my mind over the years, subsequent to my mother’s death. The idea also grew as I grew older myself. I felt it was important to have one’s expressed wishes to be as clear, as available and as people-friendly as possible.

Having an Advance Directive video backup can make it easier to have a constructive discussion with those you want to inform. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It is also helpful to have these video comments available, in addition to your legal written Advance Directive, if you are no longer able to speak on your own. This can be very supportive to your health care agent, especially if he/she has to face people who question or disagree with your wishes.

It is good for your loved ones to hear and see your words come out of your mouth while you are still mentally competent. You will support and back up your legal written Advance Directive with your own words on your personal video. Even though your written legal Advance Directive conveys your wishes already, your wishes expressed by you on a personal video will feel more personal and may better convince those who need to know and respect your wishes.

Admittedly, a personal video makes for added expense. Obtaining the Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare format can be done for free, via a download from www.aging.dhr.georgia.gov. A personal video is more personal, however. You can direct comments to loved ones. Video clients have done so already.

Information about the Advance Directive Personal Video is available at www.advancedirectivesvideo.com, which includes three demonstration videos. The individuals featured have graciously and joyously given consent to allow their interviews to be used to inform the public.

In conclusion, most importantly:

1. Start that conversation with your loved ones and your physician.

2. Prepare your written legal Advance Directive. Do it sooner rather than later. Do not wait until it is too late.

3. Be nice to yourself, your loved ones, your physician and your nurses. Do not leave them guessing at a time when they need to know what you want. Make yourself as clear as possible.

Dirk E. Huttenbach, M.D., DLFAPA, lives in Sandy Springs and has been in private psychiatric practice in Cobb County since 1972. He is Board Certified in general and child psychiatry. He belongs to the Cobb County Medical Society, MAG, AMA, APA and the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians’ Association (GPPA). He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.  He was GPPA Georgia Psychiatrist of the Year in 2003.  

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Atlanta Medical History Society: “The Daring Young Men who Pioneered Heart Surgery”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

April 29, 2014, Atlanta. For more information, visit Atlanta Medical History Society

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MAA Dinner Meeting

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

April 22, 2014, Maggiano’s, Buckhead. For more information, visit Medical Association of Atlanta

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AMGMA April Meeting

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

April 17, 2014, Atlanta. For more information, visit Atlanta Medical Group Management Association

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