A doctor I used to think had it together shows himself to be yet another ED basher, and a rather arrogant one to boot.
In a blog post today Dr. Centor unloads egregious tripe on me and my colleagues:
The second major concern is over use of technology in the emergency department. Ask any practicing physician about testing in the ED. Patients have too many imaging studies. I think we all understand why those studies are done, but a significant percentage are clearly unnecessary.
Now clearly, ER physicians have a high exposure to malpractice claims. When in doubt, they image. The emergency department is often overwhelmed with patients, so technology trumps the history and physical examination. We need a multispecialty panel to develop reasonable standards for technology use in the ED.
In case you missed it I’ll rephrase: there are too many imaging tests in the ED because EP’s are too lazy or stupid to do a history and a physical exam, so we just CT everybody. Additionally, EM isn’t an actual specialty, so other specialties need to meet and tell them what to do.
The contempt he (and apparently his friends) hold the ED in is inexplicable though sadly common. I’d like to have him explain the patronizing ‘I think we all know why these studies are done’ that’s not doublespeak for ‘they aren’t as smart as we internists are’.
First the monetary rebuttal to this load: as of 2006, ED care was 3.5% of the total healthcare budget. Squeeze out all the negative imaging studies and it’d be less, but getting a margin out of 3.5% to make a dent in total healthcare expenditures would be difficult to say the least.
EP’s image patients after a history, a physical examination, and in order to rule out life threats while still focusing on the most likely diagnosis. The statement “when in doubt, they image” is both dismissively arrogant and ill informed. Are there a large number of scans done in EDs? Yes. I’ve called Dr. Centor on this bias hobby horse of his before, but he doesn’t want to hear it.
As for needing ‘multispecialty panels to develop reasonable standards for imaging in the ED’, he’s ignoring two very important things. First, EM is an actual specialty with its own standards and unique fund of knowledge, since 1979. From ACEP:
In 1979 emergency medicine was recognized as the 23rd medical specialty, a major milestone for ACEP and its members. The American Board of Emergency Medicine, the independent certifying body for the specialty, was also established and the first certification exam was given in 1980.
Second, EP’s do the studies they do because they have a higher diagnostic yield in the shortest amount of time. A urologist would prefer an IVP for that hematuria and flank pain, but the CT will pick up the renal artery dissection a lot better than the IVP ever will. EM is past needing specialists telling us their worms’-eye-view imaging recommendations, thanks just the same.
Dr. Centor’s proposals about the ED are unwarranted from an economic perspective and unfounded from the medical. Let’s hope nobody offers him that Health Czar post, and that if there is such a person they focus on actual problems and not peeves.