Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Misleading Medical Tweets Could Cause Harm

This is not a lesson about the limitations of 140-character messages on Twitter.

Rather, it is a warning about careless Tweets that mischaracterize the real meat of the message in longer stories linked to in the Twitter message. As I wrote on Twitter in response to these two episodes, “Better not to Tweet on complex health care topics than to mischaracterize your own story with a misleading 140 characters.”

First, my friend Andrew Holtz caught the fact earlier this week that Men’s Health Magazine tweeted:

If you’re a smoker, you NEED to get a CT scan. Here’s why:

That “here’s why” link took you to a Men’s Health Magazine story, that despite being headlined “The Medical Test Every Smoker Needs,” went on to explain:

Don’t run out and ask for a CT scan, though. More than 96 percent of the positive screens in the study were false positives, which could subject you to unnecessary surgery, cancer treatments, and the complications that come with them. They’re also expensive: A chest CT scan can cost up to several thousands of dollars.

So look at how silly Men’s Health looked on this confusing back-and-forth message:

1. You NEED to get a CT scan.
2. It’s a test “every smoker needs”
3. But don’t run out and ask for one.

Then this morning I caught AARP doing the same thing. They tweeted:

Are you a smoker? CT scan those lungs – they’re proven to cut risk of lung cancer death for 55-plus:

That links takes you to a story that includes caveats such as the following: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

The Republican Healthcare Plan: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

I am all for any proposal that will improve heath care in America. Improvement means controlling costs, covering all Americans so no one has to worry about going bankrupt to pay for health care. Improvement means access to quality care without having to worry about losing your job, which means losing your coverage. Improvement means a system where all incentives are aligned to prevent disease, rather than using expensive technologies and hospitals to treat disease after the fact. Any proposal that gets us there has my vote.

In the GOP “Path to Prosperity” budget for 2012, they propose a few things that are good and a few big things that are bad…really really bad. First the good. Capping the medical malpractice lawsuits for “pain and suffering” would be a huge step forward. Patients should be compensated for medical errors but the “hit the lottery” windfalls for pain and suffering are costly drivers that make no sense. There is no place in the world, besides the USA, that has such onerous medical malpractice lawsuits. And they drive up cost for everyone. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

The Forecast For Heart Disease: Gloomy With A Chance Of “Boomers”

As a youngster, I loved being part of the baby boom — it meant there were dozens of kids on my block who were ready to play hide-and-seek or join mysterious clubs. Now that I’m of an AARP age, there’s one club I don’t want to join: The one whose members have bypass scars, pacemakers, or other trappings of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) gloomy new forecast on cardiovascular disease tells me it won’t be easy to avoid.

The AHA foresees sizeable increases in all forms of cardiovascular disease (see table) between now and 2030, the year all of the boomers are age 65 and older. Those increases will translate into an additional 27 million people with high blood pressure, eight million with coronary heart disease, four million with stroke, and three million with heart failure. That will push the number of adult Americans with some form of heart disease to 110 million.

AHA cardiovascular disease forecast

(Percentages refer to the percentage of Americans aged 18 years and older.)

If the AHA’s projections are accurate, the cost of treating cardiovascular disease would balloon from $272 billion today to $818 billion in 2030. Add in the cost of lost productivity, and it jumps to more than $1 trillion. Yikes!

Although obesity and inactivity are part of the problem, much of the increase comes from the graying of the baby boom. We can’t stop boomers from aging, but we can fight cardiovascular disease, a condition the AHA calls “largely preventable.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Public Service: Does Having An Opinion Disqualify You?

Many conservatives are up-in-arms about President Obama’s decision to appoint Don Berwick, a pediatrician and renowned expert in quality improvement and patient safety, to lead the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). They object to Dr. Berwick’s views on a range of issues, and to Obama’s decision to use his office’s authority to appoint Dr. Berwick while the Senate was out on a short Independence Day holiday recess. As a “recess appointment,” Dr. Berwick was able to take office without Senate hearings and confirmation, but he can only serve through the end of the 111th Congress — that is, until the end of 2011 — unless ratified by the Senate.

Berwick, though, also has many supporters. Maggie Mahar articulates the “pro” viewpoint on Dr. Berwick’s appointment in a recent Health Beat post. She observes that two former CMS administrators who served in Republican administrations have commented positively about Dr. Berwick’s qualifications. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Dr. Insurance Broker

Call it sweet, delicious vindication. It was clinic day yesterday. No longer had I completed my rant in this blog about UnitedHealthcare’s program to require all cardiac elecrophysiologists to obtain a “notification number” before performing any pacemaker or defibrillator procedure, I discovered my letter from them dated June 3, 2010, on my desk stating that this requirement will begin September 1, 2010, for all Illinois electrophysiologists for “all electrophysiology procedures.”

Not longer than an hour later I was seeing a 67-year-old patient in the clinic who asked me: “I just got my Medicare (Part A) card and must decide about which insurer I should use for Part B, C, D, E, and F,” he said jokingly. “Since I have the medical problem and might need some care in the future, is there a company you would recommend?” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »