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

Latest Posts

Study Provides Reassuring Evidence Regarding ADHD Drugs

If your child is being treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may have one less thing to worry about today. A study involving 1.2 million children and young adults provided reassuring evidence that the drugs used to treat ADHD do not increase the risk of death from heart disease.

Researchers, who published their results yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed medical records from a nationwide private insurance plan along with health plans based in Tennessee, California, and Washington State. They compared children taking stimulant drugs (like Ritalin and Adderall) that are commonly used to treat ADHD to children not taking these drugs.

Among all of the children, heart attack, stroke, or sudden death were rare, affecting a little more than 3 in every 100,000 children per year. Cardiac problems were no more common among children using a stimulant as among those not taking one.

The study Read more »

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

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute: Just Another AHRQ?

If you want to grow the expense of health care delivery in America very quickly, then create two government agencies to do the same job.

From the 28 September 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, we read about a small paragraph in our new health care law that created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). From that same article, here’s the PCORI’s mission:

PCORI responds to a widespread concern (eds note: emphasis mine. Really? What about the internet?) that, in many cases, patients and their health care providers, families, and caregivers do not have the information they need to make choices aligned with their desired health outcomes.

PCORI funding is set at a total of $210 million for the first 3 years and increases to approximately $350 million in 2013 and $500 million annually from 2014 through 2019. With more than $3 billion to spend between now and the end of the decade, PCORI will support many studies encompassing a broad range of study designs and outcomes that are relevant to patients, aiming to assist people in making choices that are consistent with their values, preferences, and goals.

We should recall that Read more »

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

Yet Another Potential Benefit Of Electronic Medical Records

In the 12 years since our government acknowledged we had a problem with racial disparities in health care, we’ve made significant progress in reducing them.  Steep declines in the prevalence of cigarette smoking among African Americans have narrowed the gap in lung cancer death rates between them and whites, for example. Inner city kids have better food choices at school. The 3-decade rise in obesity rates, steepest among minorities, has leveled off.

Still, racial disparities persist across the widest possible range of health services and disease states in our country. The racial gap in colorectal cancer mortality has widened since the 1980s. Overall cancer death rates are 24% higher among African Americans. Sixteen percent of African American adults and 17% of Hispanic adults report their health to be fair or poor, whereas only 10% of white American adults say that. The number of African Americans and Hispanics who report having access to a primary care physician is 30-50% lower than white folks who have one.

How can EMRs Help? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

AHRQ: Healthcare Access And Racial Disparities Not Improving

According to American Medical News, the U.S. health system is demonstrating better performance on most measures of health care quality, but it’s failing to improve access to care or cut racial and ethnic health disparities, according to two reports released in February by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  “Quality of care continues to improve, but at a slow rate,” said Ernest Moy, MD, leader of the team at AHRQ that produced the reports.  ”In contrast to that, focusing on issues of access to care, not much has changed.  Focusing on disparities in care, not much changed…Those are bigger problem areas than overall quality of care.”  Measures related to hospital quality are showing the most improvement.  For example, in 2005, just 42% of patients with heart attacks received angioplasties within the recommended 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital.  That figure improved to 81% by 2008.

While the quality improvement indicators are encouraging, the disappointing access and disparities numbers are not very surprising.

The US health care system is still largely focused on acute hospital based care.  It says we are doing better at what we are doing. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at CFAH PPF Blog*

Top 5 Most Expensive Classes Of Prescription Drugs

The top five therapeutic classes ranked by total expense are metabolic, central nervous system, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and psychotherapeutic, altogether totaling $155.7 billion, or two-thirds of prescription drug expenses by U.S. adults in 2008.

Two-thirds of American adults use a prescription drug, totaling the $232.6 billion in expenses. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality compiled a statistical brief showing that drug classes varied widely in how they made the top five list. While 46 percent of adults with a prescribed drug expense bought a central nervous system agent, they are relatively cheaper on average. Gastrointestinal agents had the highest average expense per prescription ($133), or more than three times the average expense of the cheapest class, which was cardiovascular agents ($39). But 46 percent of adults who take a prescription drug use a central nervous system agent, while 17.7 percent take a gastroenterological one.

Metabolic agents had the highest total expenses ($52.2 billion), or more than one-fifth of all prescription drug expenses. The rest of the list by total expenditures were central nervous system agents ($35.1 billion), cardiovascular agents ($28.6 billion), gastrointestinal agents ($20.2 billion), and psychotherapeutic agents ($19.6 billion).

The estimates presented are derived from the Household and Pharmacy Components of the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Expenditures include payments from all sources including out of pocket, private and public insurance sources for outpatient prescription drug purchases during 2008. Over-the-counter medicines are excluded, as are prescription medicines administered in an inpatient setting, clinic, or physician’s office.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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 »