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Personal Genetic Testing: Psychological And Behavioral Effects

Genome-wide profiling is increasingly being marketed towards consumers to assess their risk of developing certain diseases. However, there has been little research into the psychological effects of these tests.

Researchers from Scripps Translational Science Institute have now looked into these effects in a large group of patients. They followed 2,037 participants who took the Navigenics Health Compass, a test that assesses the risk for about 20 common diseases, for a period of three months.

Taking the test did not increase anxiety symptoms, dietary fat intake, or exercise behavior. There was some test-related distress correlated with the average estimated lifetime risk of getting the diseases tested for, but at the same time 90.3 percent of all subjects had no test-related distress at all. The use of screening tests did not change among the group and notably health effects of the test were not studied.

In conclusion, personal genetic testing does not seem to generate a lot of distress, although the study was clearly limited by a high dropout percentage of 44 percent and the self-selection of participants who opted to do the test.

Article in New England Journal of Medicine: Effect of Direct-to-Consumer Genomewide Profiling to Assess Disease Risk

Flashback: An Interview with Navigenics…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Americans Are Cutting Back On Healthcare

The Wall Street Journal reported that overall medical use fell as patients had fewer doctor office visits, lab testing, and maintenance medications possibly due to the recession or as a result of consumer-driven healthcare in the way of higher deductibles and copays. This is very worrisome.

Certainly patients should have some financial responsibility for their care, but skimping on care will only result in Americans not becoming healthier, but sicker. Though the article cited some examples of patients saving money by not seeing their allergist for a refill of medication and simply calling for one and getting an athletic physical at a local urgent care clinic for $40 rather than $90 at the doctor’s office, these tiny behavior changes aren’t going to bend the cost curve in medical care. Read more »

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

Pay Patients To Take Their Medicine?

The New York Times reported recently on efforts by providers and payers to increase patient medication adherence through the use financial incentives paid to patients. The article cited the use of small financial payments (<$100), awarded via lotteries, to patients that take Warfarin –- an anti-blood clotting medication.

There is certainly nothing wrong with financial incentives. Incentives have been proven successful in changing selected provider (quality and safety improvement) and patient behavior (stop smoking, weight loss and taking health risk surveys). But paying patients to take their medication is different. Actually, the evidence suggests that it is a just plain stupid idea for a whole lot of reasons. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

Until Patient Behaviors Change, “I Do The Damn Test”

Congress controls the nation’s purse strings. It can tell the Executive Branch how to spend money. It can regulate all commerce, and by the way, to Congress everything is “commerce.”

Congressional legislation can incent economic behavior–pay for this, but not for that–but it can’t change personal decisions. A case in point is Dr. Robert Cantor, ACP Member, of Boca Raton, Fla., who says he authorizes the tests that his patients demand. His opinion? “I do the damn test.”

He says there’s little incentive not to order tests and little in healthcare reform to make him and others change their habits. More likely is the idea that, once new medical technology is invented, it will find a use.

Another article compiles a wide spectrum of ideas on how to reduce healthcare spending. Tort reform was one, sure, but many doctors focused on changing patient behavior first.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

A South African Surgeon Flees The Twilight Zone

We can sometimes look good in our jobs. I suppose it comes with the territory. But sometimes this is not a good thing.

Danville is an interesting place. Actually the place itself is drab but it is full of interesting people. To say it is populated by the lower echelons of the gene pool is an understatement of note. For some reason every reprobate and inbreed seems to have found their way there. Throw a few generations of fetal alcohol syndrome into the mix and you have the average Danville resident. Then add a strong predilection to grandpa (a local aspirin caffeine headache powder) to round off with. Usually when they presented to the hospital it is with a bleeding peptic ulcer or a perforated peptic ulcer. In fact they seldom present to us with anything else. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at other things amanzi*

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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