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Latest Posts

How Is The Quality Of Healthcare Determined?

How do you calibrate care so that it is neither too much nor too little? In this collection of recent posts, health care professionals search for that “just right” level of care.

“I bet celebrities and other VIPs (as they’re known in hospitals) get some of the worst healthcare in America. And, when I mean worst, I mean the most,” says Jay Parkinson in a recent post. Parkinson explores what is publically known about Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs’ care and calls specific attention to “incidentalomas.” Parkinson describes these asymptomatic tumors, sometimes discovered by especially aggressive care, and suggests that they may be over-treated, leading to poor health outcomes.

Mark W. Browne asks, Is the health quality bar set high enough? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Coverage Fact Labels For Various Medical Services: Will They Be Useful

It’s official now.  The government has proposed that descriptions of health insurance policies will resemble those nutritional labels on canned and packaged foods—the ones you look at to find out how much sodium there is in Birds Eye peas versus the A&P brand.  Instead of getting the scoop on salt or sugar, shoppers will learn what they have to pay out-of-pocket for various medical services.  They’ll also get some general information, like what services are not covered, and how much they’ll have to pay for maternity and diabetes care and breast cancer treatment, all organized in a standard format designed for easy comparison shopping.  Insurers will have to translate common insurance jargon into plain English.

The health reform law requires these “Coverage Fact Label” disclosures, and tasked the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) with creating them.   The NAIC released some samples a few weeks ago.  Theoretically, consumers armed with this information will choose wisely, and as free-market advocates say, their choices will regulate prices that insurers will charge.   If consumers choose the low-cost plans, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Financial Concerns Are Not The Primary Barrier To Health Care In America

It’s not just about money – Americans Face Barriers to Health Care Beyond Cost.  A study released recently in Health Services Research found that while financial concerns prevent 18% of Americans from getting needed health care, more Americans – 21% – delay health care for nonfinancial reasons.  These barriers include getting to the doctor, getting a timely appointment and taking time out of other responsibilities.  Lead author Jeffrey Kullgren, M.D. adds what he believes is the crux of the issue: “We need to think about how to organize the existing resources we have in ways that are going to improve access to care.”

In Would You Lie to Your Own Doctor?, Connie Midey of The Arizona Republic reports on a common practice that can “compromise [doctors’] ability to diagnose and treat patients effectively.”  The reason? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Considering Your Options When The Insurance Company Stops Paying

Blue Cross just advised a twenty-six-year old woman I know that it will cut off payments for the physical therapy that was making it possible for her to sit at a keyboard for eleven hours a day.  Her thirty sessions were up.

The young woman has an overuse injury to both of her arms that causes so much pain she can’t even mix up a salad dressing.  “I am not getting any better,” she said.  “To do that I would have to stop working or scale back the number of hours required by my job.”  Those physical therapy sessions offer strengthening exercises that reduce swelling and inflammation and make it possible for her to keep working.

Shifting Medical Costs to Patients

One cannot entirely fault insurance companies for trying to clamp down on medical costs, but rather than actually lowering the underlying costs of medical services, their solution is to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Living With Severe Chronic Pain

Living Beyond Pain

Prepared Patient - When Pain Doesn't End - photo from fotolia.comFor people with severe chronic pain like Kelly Young and Teresa Shaffer—both of whom have become patient advocates—coping with agony is a fact of life.  Young suffers from rheumatoid arthritis while Shaffer’s pain is linked primarily to another degenerative bone disease.

Chronic pain is one of the most difficult—and common—medical conditions.  Estimated to affect 76 million Americans—more than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined—it accompanies illnesses and injuries ranging from cancer to various forms of arthritis, multiple sclerosis and physical trauma.

Pain is defined as chronic when it persists after an injury or illness has otherwise healed, or when it lasts three months or longer. The experience of pain can vary dramatically, depending in part on whether it is affecting bones, muscles, nerves, joints or skin. Untreated pain can itself become a disease when the brain wrongly signals agony when there is no new injury or discernable other cause. Fibromyalgia—a disease in which pain in joints, muscles and other soft tissues is the primary symptom—is believed to be linked to incorrect signaling in the brain’s pain regions.

Finding a Doctor

The first step to deal with chronic pain is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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