Stories from Texas Medicine, October 2019

Commentary: Texas Has a Secret Weapon Against Cancer - 10/14/2019

Cancer is the No. 2 cause of death in Texas and across the United States. The good news is that things change, and we can be active agents in making sure that they change for the better. Reauthorization of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) would do more than keep the ball rolling; it would save lives.


Talk to Patients About: Measles Update - 10/01/2019

Measles outbreaks in the U.S. were once a rare event, but in 2019 they turned into a potential public health crisis. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 8, more than 1,200 cases of the deadly disease – which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared eradicated in America in 2000 – have been confirmed in 30 states.


The Doctor - and Lawyer - Will See You Now: Medical-Legal Partnerships - 09/27/2019

Elderly woman. Low-income. Chronic pain. Needs to see a rheumatologist. Needs physical therapy. Struggling to pay rent. Has no insurance. Has no disability coverage. As a family physician at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Austin, Sharad Kohli, MD, sees a lot of cases like this. In similar health care settings, the patient might face two bad choices: wage bureaucratic war to obtain better health care benefits or simply give up. At People’s Community Clinic, Dr. Kohli referred her to an in-house lawyer who successfully appealed her denial of disability insurance. “[The lawyer] got her a significant income, which allowed her to pay her rent and also helped her get insurance through Medicaid and Medicare,” Dr. Kohli said. “And then she was able to see the rheumatologist and the physical therapist.” This kind of success helps explain why medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) like the one at People’s Community Clinic came about in 1993 and began expanding nationally after 2001. Te...


The Promise of Artificial Intelligence - 09/27/2019

“Prepare Yourselves, Robots Will Soon Replace Doctors in Healthcare,” screamed the headline in a 2017 Forbes magazine article. Media coverage like that makes it easy to see why artificial intelligence (AI) sounds like scary science fiction to some physicians.


Q&A: El Paso Surgeon On-Call During Mass Shooting Response - 09/27/2019

Just as Alan Tyroch, MD, sat down to breakfast in Las Vegas on the morning of Aug. 3, celebrating his mother in-law’s 90th birthday, a gunman walked into a Walmart hundreds of miles away in his hometown of El Paso and opened fire, ultimately killing 22 people and injuring 24 more. Over the following minutes, as shooting victims were rushed to hospitals throughout El Paso, Dr. Tyroch – chief of surgery and trauma medical director at University Medical Center of El Paso – was coordinating and delegating duties via text to the hospital’s numerous surgeons, physicians, residents, and other health care professionals.


Vote for CPRIT - 09/26/2019

On Nov. 5, Texans will vote on Proposition 6, a constitutional amendment designed to extend CPRIT’s funding by $3 billion and keep the agency’s grants flowing for an estimated 10 additional years. (See “Vote for Proposition 6 on Nov. 5,” page 21.) TMA supports this effort to keep CPRIT’s current funding from running out in 2022.


Moving On: John Zerwas, MD, Trades Politics for Academics - 09/26/2019

John Zerwas, MD, trades politics for academics, but likely will remain a voice of influence


No Docs of All Trades: Ruling Reinforces Expert Witness Reforms - 09/26/2019

Before Texas’ landmark liability reforms passed in 2003, gray areas in the law often led to serious green for people who sued physicians.


System Failure: Houston Practices Fight WellCare for Payment - 09/26/2019

Several Houston-area practices say a botched technology conversion by insurer WellCare after it acquired a Medicare Advantage plan led to prior authorization and network confusion, undue denials, and unpaid claims by the barrelful.