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The Not-So-New Problem Of Drug Shortages

Crucial drugs are running in short supply and patients are dying as a result.

Much of the problem stem from manufacturing problems that interrupt production. There may be only one or two companies making a drug, and when something happens such as contamination, it creates huge gaps. As a result, there’s been 213 drug shortages so far this year, or two more than all of the previous year.

The shortages have forced hospitals to resort to gray market purchases. These involved third parties that may corner the market on some drugs, and resell them at exorbitant mark-ups. The practice then fuels further shortages.

And this “new” crisis has been occurring for a decade. ACP Internist ran an article 10 years ago that could run in its pages today. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Medical Tourism: A Lot Of Sellers But Not Many Buyers?

I must confess that I have a weakness for medical tourism. Patients have always been ready to go on a pilgrimage to find the world’s leading expert (we call it ‘key opinon leader’ now) hoping to find a cure. As long as traditional leaders in the field of Medicine have been the Germans, the French and the English -with some occasional Austrian and Spanish name in the mix- traffic of wealthy patients across Europe is nothing new.

Since we entered the antibiotics era, these leaders started to be located mainly in the United States, the cradle of modern, technology-driven Medicine. Thus hi-tech centers got ready to welcome foreign patients, building strong International Customer Support departments. A random example -by no means the only one- would be the Mayo Clinic. On their website you can see that their wealthy patients speak Arabic or come from Latin America. These healthcare services have a long tradition of client-oriented work because they work for private clients that pay for their treatment (sometimes the client is not the patient himself but his family). The important thing was never the price, but the patient. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

Surgeons Criticize Medical Tourism: You Can’t Sue If Things Go Awry

In an earlier post, DrRich offered several potential strategies for doctors and patients to consider should healthcare reformers ultimately succeed in their efforts to make it illegal for Americans to seek medical care outside the auspices of Obamacare. To those readers who persist in thinking that DrRich is particularly paranoid in worrying about such a thing, he refers you to his prior work carefully documenting the efforts the Central Authority has already made in limiting the prerogatives of individual Americans within the healthcare system, and reminds you that in any society where social justice is the overriding concern, individual prerogatives such as these must be criminalized. Indeed, whether individuals will retain the right to spend their own money on their own healthcare is ultimately the real battle. The outcome of this battle will determine much more than merely what kind of healthcare system we will end up with.

DrRich, despite his paranoia on the matter, is a long-term optimist, and believes that the American spirit will ultimately prevail. So, to advance this happy result DrRich (in the previously mentioned post) graciously offered several creative options that could be employed to establish a useful Black Market in healthcare, which will allow individuals to exercise their healthcare-autonomy against the day when such autonomy again becomes legal. His suggestions included offshore, state-of-the-art medical centers on old aircraft carriers; combination Casino/Hospitals on the sovereign soil of Native American reservations; and cutting-edge medical centers just south of the border (which would have the the added benefit of encouraging our government to finally close the borders to illegal crossings once and for all).

As entertaining as it might be to imagine such solutions, a readily available, though much more mundane, option exists today, which is to say, medical tourism. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*

A New Superbug?

newNYCfashion 300x199 New Superbug AlertScientists have discovered a new, highly-transmissible gene that could, quite easily in fact, open a frightening new front in the ongoing global war against superbugs.

The antibiotic-resistant gene, NDM-1, was first identified in 2008 a Swedish patient that had received hospital care in New Delhi. NDM-1 produces an enzyme that allows bacteria to destroy most antibiotics. It exists on plasmids, which are pieces of genetic material that are easily shared between bacteria including E coli and other species that can cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and blood stream infections.

NDM-1 probably evolved in parts of India where poor sanitation and overutilization of antibiotics provide a perfect environment for the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The gene has been identified in three U.S. patients. All had received medical treatment in India, and all recovered from their infections. It has been found sporadically in Britain, Australia and nearly a dozen other countries as well. Most affected patients were “medical tourists” — that is, people seeking less expensive medical care in India.

“We need to be vigilant about this,” said Arjun Srinivasan, an epidemiologist at the CDC told the Washington Post. “This should not be a call to panic, but it should be a call to action. There are effective strategies we can take that will prevent the spread of these organisms.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Patients Are Avoiding Healthcare Because Of Costs

One in five Americans didn’t seek medical care for a recent illness or injury, often because of the cost, according to a survey of adults polled by a healthcare consulting firm, and the number of people who saw a doctor fell as well.

Four out of 10 adults said the cost was the main reason not to seek care, a trend that be driven by unemployment and health insurance costs, said a survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. They surveyed more than 4,000 adults. Also, 79 percent of respondents sought medical attention from a doctor or other health care professional in 2010, down from 85 percent in 2009. Read more »

*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…

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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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