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Understanding Your Hospice And Palliative Care Options

Prepared Patient - Hospice Care: What Is It, Anyway? Seeking Shelter

The word hospice originated from the Latin hospitium, which means “to host or offer a place of shelter.” In 2009, an estimated 1.56 million patients, more than 40 percent of deaths, received hospice services in the United States. But many others who might have benefited from hospice care did not seek services, perhaps due to misconceptions, fears and the lack of information of patients, caregivers and even physicians.

“Hospice is a collection of services that are designed to support the patient and family through the course of a serious or terminal illness,” said Donald Schumacher, Psy.D, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). The aim of hospice is to provide physical and emotional care and comfort in the months, weeks and days before death.

It’s often hard for patients and their loved ones to acknowledge that the time to consider hospice care has come. People come to that realization differently and there are some that might never seem to face that the end of life is near. But through the ups and downs of emotions and physical status, hospice team members Read more »

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

Chronic Pain, Chocolate, and Vicodin

Chocolate and vicodin? No, it’s not the latest Ben & Jerry’s flavor. “Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest For Relief From the Headache That Wouldn’t Go Away” is the latest book by author, blogger, web designer, and busy woman Jennette Fulda.

I became acquainted with Jennette’s blog during BlogHer 2008, where I had purchased her first book, “Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir.” When she asked if I would like a copy of “Chocolate & Vicodin” to review, I jumped at the chance.

In “Half-Assed,” Jennette chronicled her journey to a near-200 pound weight loss. Just prior to that book’s release, she began another journey — one whose goal proved elusive. On February 17, 2008, Jennette went to bed with a headache. She still has the headache.

Name a diagnosis, she’s heard of it (brain tumor, dead twin in the brain, etc.) Name a treatment, she’s tried it (meds, massage, marijuana, mint chocolate chip ice cream, etc.) In “Chocolate & Vicodin,” Jennette is on a journey to find relief from chronic headache. Writing in a comfortable style, Jennette has a subtle humor that will have you laughing out loud. Trust me, her description of using marijuana “for medicinal purposes only” will have your beverage of choice coming out your nose! (Cover the book!)

But it will also choke you up. Under the humor, under the crazy e-mails from readers that suggest the crazy remedies, this is a serious story of chronic pain disrupting life. Persistent, excruciating pain and the work of coping with it takes a toll on Jennette, and when it becomes too much you find yourself sobbing with her. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*

How To Have A Pain-Free Hospital Stay

This is a guest post from Dr. Anita Gupta.


How To Have A Pain-Free Hospital Stay

Too often patients feel like they’re in the passenger seat when entering the hospital. Even in the best of circumstances — such as planned admissions — patients often don’t feel in control of their own care.

One of the most unnecessary issues facing patients when they enter the hospital is untreated (or undertreated) pain. Often the focus of the medical team is to treat a condition, and controlling a patient’s pain comes second. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be the situation. Here are a few tips for patients to ensure that their pain does not go overlooked:

Let someone know if you are in pain. This may seem obvious, but patients often hesitate to question their doctor. Pain control during your hospital stay is not a luxury, and you need to know you have a right to pain control during your stay. If you doctor or nurse is not answering your questions regarding pain, ask to see pain specialist who will likely address your concerns as well as the concerns of the doctors and nurses taking care of you. Unfortunately when it comes to treating pain, not all doctors are trained equally.

Have a family member or good friend to act as your advocate. Have this individual get involved in your medical care and act on your behalf during your hospitalization. Read more »

Why Pain Can’t Be A Vital Sign

There’s been a movement afoot for several years now to quantify pain as the so-called “Fifth Vital Sign.” It all started as a well-intentioned effort to raise the level of awareness of inadequate pain control in many patients, but has gotten way out of hand. The problem is that the word “sign” has a specific meaning in medicine that, by definition, cannot be applied to pain.

When you hear us medicos talk about “signs and symptoms” of a disease, it turns out that they are not the same thing. “Symptoms” are things the patient experiences subjectively. “Signs” are things that can be observed objectively by another person.

Headache is a symptom; cough is a sign. Itching is a symptom; scratch marks over a blistery linear rash are a sign. Vertigo, the hallucination of movement, is a symptom; nystagmus, the eye twitching that goes with inner ear abnormalities that can cause vertigo, is a sign. If someone other than the patient can’t see, hear, palpate, percuss, or measure it, it’s a symptom. Anything that can be perceived by someone else is a sign. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

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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