When Quality Is Core by Pat Conrad MD


In the post-modern, pay-for-dumbing age washing over practically every aspect of life, medicine is being, like, y’know, Kardashianized by the amorphous collective of Big Academics-Big Insurance-Big Government cronyism. Pay-for-performance, core measures, and evidenced-based medicine are all faces of the monster we first met in training when schooled on how to be “good stewards of scare resources.” The monster is collective thought that is forcibly substituted for training, experience, ethics, and judgment. It makes something less than an individual of both patient and physician, trundling them along through mass transmogrification into parts and technicians.

California physician Karen Sibert, MD knows what I’m talking about. She has an excellent piece, “Today’s “Evidence-Based Medicine” May Be Tomorrow’s Malpractice”, in which she breaks off just a chunk of the rotting self-importance that is today’s medical establishment.


  • The Justice Department has encouraged CareFusion Corp. to pay the government a $40.1 million settlement after learning that the company was boosting sales of ChloraPrep by paying kickbacks…$11.6 million to Dr. Charles Denham, then the co-chair of the Safe Practices Committee at the National Quality Forum. Another, ahem, colleague pushing Chloraprep was Dr. Rabih Darouiche who wrote for the NEJM extolling the “significantly” better CareFusion product. Was Dr. Douc-, sorry, Darouiche likewise on the take?
  • Dr. Should-Be-Prosecuted Denham resigned – no word on any other legal action. And why should the damned government get any money, when they abetted this corruption by creating a legal and fiduciary environment that allows crooked vendors to intimidate subjects into buying their product?
  • The Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) has defines beta-blocker use as “a core measure” hospital quality for surgical patients, despite the absence of any study demonstrating any benefit. Hilariously, the SCIP does not track whether the patient’s blood pressure or heart rate are maintained within a normal range. Funnier still, a 2013 review and meta-analysis demonstrated pre-op beta-blockers were associated with a 27 % risk increase in 30-day mortality. Dead patients cost nothing. That’s a golden twofer, reaching quality goals and reducing expenses with one cheap med.

Dr. Sibert: “Sadly, the federal government has seized on adherence to “evidence-based guidelines” as a way of demonstrating “quality” in health care…This system will include payment bonuses or penalties based on a composite performance score. Patients as well as physicians should be frightened at the prospect that the government’s version of guidelines for care will forcibly replace physician judgment and experience in caring for patients as individuals.”

I only disagree with Dr. Sibert’s tense. Physicians, many of who believe in the rightness of institutionalized compassion and the rightness of quality claptrap, are already forced daily into decisions that are against their best clinical judgment. Several years ago, a staff colleague of mine, a board-certified pulmonologist and critical care specialist, saw a patient for pneumonia in the office, obtained sputum cultures, and began empiric antibiotic therapy. The patient was later admitted as the pneumonia worsened, but fortunately the sputum cultures confirmed that the offending bacteria was very sensitive to the chosen antibiotic, and the patient began to improve. Armed with collective-approved Medicare guidelines a nurse, unburdened with the pulmonologists extraneous training, informed the physician that the antibiotic must be changed to conform with the core measures or the hospital would not be completely paid. So the doctor was forced by the quality collective to choose between providing the best care for the patient, or the best care for the hospital. That she chose the former is no comfort at all.


Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  2 comments for “When Quality Is Core by Pat Conrad MD

  1. Stella Fitzgibbons MD
    November 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    The same people came out a few years ago insisting that everybody who was admitted with anything cardiovascular had to have a lipid profile and start statins if “indicated” by the numbers. God only knows how many 88-year-olds got rhabdo and other side effects from drugs that were totally irrelevant to their clinical situation.

  2. Steve_O'_
    November 7, 2014 at 8:26 am

    After having read my n’th Ignorant Article about Healthcare, I say we fight back. The tone of all the articles, like all propaganda pieces, is laden with contempt towards the current methods and providers. They are all of course ignorant and selfish – they need a perspective from the go-getters of the world how to do their job better! Antibiotic marketers usually target their product by means of “Now Kills Everything!” rather than only killing the bacterium that actually infects your patient. The drawback of this sales pitch is that it only works on the ignorant. Now that the ignorant are at the vanguard of the march of New Medicine, we can bravely approach the cliff without the usual anxiety and worry!
    Here’s my Idiot’s Retort.
    Computer science needs scrutiny by those with skills on other professions, to minimize waste of resources. I’ve just read in an article that the fastest modem technology is being ignored by the computer internet world! 28.8K modems are far faster than the 9600 baud standard. National players like AOL, MSN, and Mindspring have chosen to provide 28.8K access without any additional surcharges. One year after their introduction, 56K modems are now available for less than $100. Yet, who can find a new computer with a 28.8K modem installed! Surely, the computer manufacturers are refusing to provide computers with these modems – simply from greed and ignorance. We need a compulsory Best Practices standard to keep our fastest communication methods at the forefront to minimize waste. Several innovative new companies are selling add-on 28.8k boards that can be installed as purchased post-sales add-ons, and are compatible with Windows 98!
    I propose a $100 surtax on all computers that do not come with a 28.8K modem – and a user fee on all internet users who cannot demonstrate Meaningful Use of the 28.8K modem in most of their internet transactions. We need an Affordable Internet Act to keep greedy computer manufacturers from omitting these sorts of radical revolutions in destructive innovation. We need more interpretive visualizers, or else the Internet will fall into chaos. We cannot afford to live without it any more. Long live the 28.8K!

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