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Affordable Care Act Expands Women’s Preventive Health Services

There was no large fanfare but there should have been as a result of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recent recommendations that require new health insurance plans to provide preventive services at no cost to the patient. That’s right. No cost. Oh, how women needed this victory in the midst of these trying, turbulent times of economic scarcity. You will no longer have to go to a healthcare provider’s office and turn your pockets inside out or empty your pocketbook on the table before someone will give you a PAP smear or an annual exam. We all know the old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, our healthcare policy makers actually believe this. This policy represents change; change that will make a difference in the quality of your life. And your daughter’s life. And your grandmother’s life. It will help your bank account when you no longer have to write that check for preventive services that could prolong and add to the quality of your life. What brought about this change? The Affordable Care Act. Yes, that same healthcare act that has been politically vilified and called everything except a child of God. That Act.

On August 1, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, issued a press release outlining Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Patient Inaction Can Hurt Their Families Too

Dr. Mehmet Oz recently had a piece in Time titled “What I Learned from My Cancer Scare” in which he became the the more humbled Mr. Mehmet Oz.  As noted previously here, Dr. Oz last summer had a colonoscopy at age 50 and much to everyone’s surprise had a precancerous colon polyp.  He was advised to follow-up again for a repeat test in 3 months.

As the Time magazine piece noted, he didn’t return for 9 months despite repeated reminders from his doctor.

From this experience, he essentially stumbled upon what has been challenging American medicine and primary care.  How do we enable patients to do the right thing and get the screening tests done and treatments necessary to avoid premature death and maintain a high quality of life?  As a highly trained professional, Dr. Oz knows the risks and benefits of not doing a preventive screening test.  As a doctor, he knows all of the secret protocols and codespeak we use when calling patients or asking them to see us in the office for important matters.  As a doctor, he also understood the importance of a repeat colonoscopy to ensure no more colon growths.

Yet he didn’t return for 9 months.  Why? Read more »

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

High Deductible Health Insurance Plans Incentivize Patients To Skip Screening Tests

Almost half of health plans in the US have deductibles of at least $1,000 according to a new study.  It’s called “cost shifting” and it’s a big part of the future of American health care.

There are two major reasons why employers are doing this.

First, higher deductible plans are cheaper, since there is less risk to insure.  Think of your car insurance – why would you make a claim for a ding on your door when it’s cheaper for you to just pay to have it fixed (or fix it yourself)?  The higher the deductible, the lower the premium, even if it means more out-of-pocket cost for you for the small stuff.

Along these same lines is the second reason.  If employees spend more of their own money on health care, maybe they’ll be smarter about how they spend it.

It sounds good – but does it work?

Yes.  And No. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Obesity Beats Adiposity For Cardiovascular Risk

Obesity contributes to cardiovascular risk no matter where a person carries the weight, concluded researchers after looking at outcomes for nearly a quarter-million people worldwide.

Body mass index, (BMI) waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio do not predict cardiovascular disease risk any better when physicians recorded systolic blood pressure, history of diabetes and cholesterol levels, researchers reported in The Lancet.

The research group used individual records from 58 prospective studies with at least one year of follow up. In each study, participants were not selected on the basis of having previous vascular disease. Each study provided baseline for weight, height, and waist and hip circumference. Cause-specific mortality or vascular morbidity were recorded according to well defined criteria.

Individual records included 221,934 people in 17 countries. In people with BMI of 20 kg/m2 or higher, hazard ratios for cardiovascular disease were 1.23 (95 percent CI, 1.17 to 1.29) with BMI, 1.27 (95 percent CI, 1.20 to 1.33) with waist circumference, and 1.25 (95 percent CI, 1.19 to 1.31) with waist-to-hip ratio, after adjustment for age, sex, and smoking status. After adjusting for baseline systolic blood pressure, history of diabetes, and total and HDL cholesterol, corresponding hazard rations were 1.07 (95 percent CI, 1.03 to 1.11) with BMI, 1.10 (95 percent CI, 1.05 to 1.14) with waist circumference, and 1.12 (95 percent CI, 1.08 to 1.15) with waist-to-hip ratio.

BMI, waist circumference, or waist-to-hip ratio did not importantly improve risk discrimination or predicted 10-year risk, and the findings remained the same when adiposity — the carrying of adipose tissue (fat) — measures were considered. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Colon Cancer Screening: Guideline Truths And Myths

Colon cancer screening has a particular personal interest for me — one of my colleagues in residency training had her father die of colon cancer when she was a teenager.

No one should lose a loved one to a disease that, when caught early, is often treatable. But for both men and women, colon cancer is the third most common cancer behind lung cancer and prostate cancer in men, and behind lung cancer and breast cancer in women, it’s the second most lethal.

The problem is that patients are often confused about which test is the right one. Is it simply a stool test? Flexible sigmoidoscopy? Colonoscopy? Virtual colonoscopy? Isn’t there just a blood test that can be done? (No.)

In simple terms, this is what you need to know:

All men and women age 50 and older should be screened for colon cancer. Even if you feel healthy and well and have no family history, it must be done. Note that Oprah’s doctor, Dr. Oz, arguably a very health-conscious individual learned that he had a colon polyp at age 50 after a screening test. Left undetected, it could have cut his life short. This wake-up call caused him to abort his original second season premier on weight loss and instead show the country why colon cancer screening matters. He admitted that if it wasn’t for the show and the need to demonstrate the importance of screening to America, he would have delayed having any test done.

The least invasive test is a stool test. If it is to screen for colon cancer, then the test is done at home and NOT in the doctor’s office. Either the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) are available to screen for unseen microscopic blood that could be a sign of a colon polyp or cancer. Research shows that when a stool test is done annually, the risk of dying from colon cancer can fall by 15 to 33 percent. If you don’t want any fiber optic cameras in your rectum and lower colon, this is the test for you. You must do it annually.

The next two tests are similar but often confused: The flexible sigmoidoscopy and the colonoscopy. 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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