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Latest Posts

Patients Are Rejecting Valuable Treatment Based On False Information

Newsweek has a very provocative and yet incredibly too simplistic piece for the public and patients on its cover story – One Word Can Save Your Life: No! – New research shows how some common tests and procedures aren’t just expensive, but can do more harm than good.

The piece is actually well written and highlights facts that have been apparent for some time.  More intervention and treatment isn’t necessarily better.  Having a cardiac catheterization or open heart surgery for patients with stable heart disease and mild chest pain isn’t better than diet, exercise, and the prescription medication treatment.  PSA, the blood test previously suggested by many professional organizations, isn’t helpful to screen for prostate cancer, even though the value of the test was questioned years ago.  Antibiotics for sinus infection?  Usually not helpful.

Certainly doctors do bear part of the blame.  If patients are Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

CDC Campaign Hasn’t Slowed Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

issue brief 2011 02 coverHigh rates of inappropriate antibiotic use continued despite a 15-year campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aimed at Michigan physicians and consumers on the dangers of antibiotic overuse.

The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) released an issue brief detailing overall antibiotic prescribing for adult Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) members. (The project is a non-profit partnership between the University of Michigan and BCBSM.)

While antibiotic prescribing in adults decreased 9.3 percent from 2007 to 2009, it increased 4.5 percent for children during the same time period. The studies found significant differences in prescribing patterns between rural southeast Michigan and the rest of the state, particularly for children. Children in rural southeastern Michigan were prescribed an average of .93 antibiotics per year, while elsewhere children were prescribed an average of 1.0 per year.

“The continuing high rate of antibiotic use for viral infections in children and adults — particularly outside of southeast Michigan — is of great concern, as is the increase in the use of broad spectrum antibiotics in children,” said Marianne Udow-Phillips, CHRT’s director. “Using antibiotics when they are unnecessary — or treating simple infections with drugs that should be reserved for the most serious infections — are practices that contribute to antibiotic resistance, making future infections harder to treat.”

Nearly half (49.1 percent) of antibiotic prescriptions in the study population were for broad spectrum antibiotics in 2009, compared to the national rate of 47 percent. Between 2007 and 2009, prescriptions for what the National Committee for Quality Assurance calls “antibiotics of concern” declined slightly in adults, decreasing 0.4 percent during that time period. In the same time period, antibiotics of concern prescribed to children increased 3.4 percent, from 44.9 percent to 46.4 percent.

One possible explanation for the rising rate in children is a rise in resistant pathogens in ear infections, according to the study brief. Other possible reasons are that kids get different infections than adults, and that some drugs that are used in adults are not used for pediatric patients. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

How To Pick Good Health Insurance

Unless your doctor is a policy expert, in healthcare administration, a researcher, an author or blogger, I seriously doubt he will be reviewing an important report card that helps you pick the best health insurance plan that keeps you healthy. Published annually by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), this year’s report card ranks 227 health plans across the country on their ability to keep you healthy and well, treat you quickly, and how patients feel about their insurance coverage.

Because unlike banking or airlines where there is not much difference in ATM machines or planes, there is a big difference in whether a health insurance plan helps in keeping its enrollees healthy. Do children get their vaccinations? Do healthy mothers get screened for breast cancer or cervical cancer with mammograms and pap smears respectively? Do kids only get antibiotics appropriately for strep throat and not overtreated and unnecessarily when they have a viral illness or cold? Are adults over 50 screened for colon cancer (something Dr. Oz can relate to). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

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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