As of today, we know a whole lot more about how much Medicare pays doctors. The government has released huge amounts of data on which doctors, got paid how much, for what procedures. The data show payments to more than 800,000 doctors and health care organizations. It includes information for thousands of procedures.
If you want to look up a specific doctor, to find out how much she was paid by Medicare in 2012. You can look it up. The Wall Street Journal has created an easy to use interactive search tool here. Researchers are at the very beginning of trying to make sense of all the numbers. But, we have been able to pull out a few interseting tid-bits.
According to a New York Times analysis:
Much of Medicare spending is concentrated among a small fraction of doctors. About 2 percent of doctors account for about $15 billion in Medicare payments, roughly a quarter of the total.
Medicare paid 344 doctors and health care providers more than $3 million in 2012. At the top of the list is an opthamologist in Florida who was paid nearly $21 million.
So who are these well paid doctors? Where are they?
Here are the top 5 states where those 344 doctors and health care providers do business:
And here's a breakdown of the $3 million-plus club by the type of medicine they practice.
Some doctors aren't happy with the data dump. According to the Wall Street Journal, it's the end of a fight that's been going on since the 1970s. As my colleague, Nancy Marshall-Genzer points out, many physicians groups worry the numbers, out of context, could be misleading:
"Sixty percent of all Medicare patients actually have three or more medical conditions. Our patients are extremely complex" Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Proponents of the database say it will allow patients to figure out which doctors do a good job of providing good quality care while limiting costs. And, it should help us all better understand what goes into the $2.8 trillion dollar U.S. health care industry.
Researchers in Florida have developed an interface that aims to translate dolphin sounds into words that humans can understand. As Dr. Denise Herzing, the founder of the Wild Dolphin Project, puts it:
"Think of it like an acoustic keyboard underwater. The system has four artificially designed whistles that we created. We made them specifically because they aren’t in the dolphin’s normal repertoire."
With their ability to mimic sounds, dolphins can learn how to make whistling noises which they have been trained to associate with designated objects in the water. Underwater computer CHAT (Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry) can hear the whistle sounds being made by the dolphins, and then translate them into words that are transmitted into a researcher's ear piece.
Dr. Herzing is encouraged by an instance in which a dolphin's whistle was translated by CHAT into the word "Sargassum," which is a kind of brown algae. Though, she warns of celebrating success too soon.
"Let’s remember that when a dolphin mimics a whistle, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dolphin understands what the whistle means."
Still, it's an exciting development in dolphin-to-human communication. And no, we're not referring to this kind of communication.
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