Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

5 Tips On How To Be A Healthcare Survivalist

There are plenty of “survivalists” out there who stock their basements with canned goods, getting ready for some unexpected (and unlikely) apocalypse. Meanwhile there are things that are much more likely to happen to you — like getting sick — which many of us don’t prepare for at all. So to help you get started, here are five important tips on how you can become a healthcare survivalist:

1.  Take care of your chronic conditions. Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, asthma or any other kind of ailment, do what it takes to manage your own care. Take your medications and follow your doctors’ instructions. Why? Because if you don’t, your condition can get worse and lead to even more serious problems. As much of a pain as it may (literally) be, there’s a reason the old saying “an ounce of prevention” still resonates today — because it’s true.

2.  Live a healthy lifestyle. Everyone gives you this advice, but with studies showing that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2050, it doesn’t seem to be getting through. Denial can wonderfully appealing;  but when it comes to your health, it can also kill you. Stop smoking, exercise, and eat right. You may find that your employer has programs in place that will help you do all of those things, and many of them work. Why not give one of them a try? You can’t improve your life all at once, but you can start. Your life will be happier if you keep yourself healthy. So rather than whistling past the graveyard, jog past it. Read more »

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

5 Tips For Diagnosing Yourself Online

“What’s the highest peak in North America, Mt. McKinley or Denali?” This is a great question the Web can answer for you. “What’s that lump on my neck?”  This is another great question — but not one you should rely on the Web to solve.

Best Doctors recently conducted a Twitter-based poll to find out what channels of information people use to get healthcare advice.  It turns out, 54 percent of respondents use the Web as their primary source of information. Is this kind of do-it-yourself medicine a good idea?

I’m a firm believer that you should do everything you can to make sure you’re getting the right care when you’re sick. But before you start your do-it-yourself journey, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. To get the right answer, you need to ask  the right questions. If you decide that that lump on your neck is a sign of lymphoma, you’re going to get very worried and start researching everything you can on lymphoma. You may see your doctor and when he tells you it’s actually a benign cyst, you’re going to have a hard time believing him. Now, your skepticism is a good thing, but before you start driving yourself crazy with serious conclusions, make sure you have your facts straight. Read more »

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

The Future Of American Healthcare

You want to see a doctor? You’re going to have to wait. And I don’t mean like an hour in the office. I mean like 53 days.

It’s not some doomsday story from the future. It’s happening today here in Massachusetts. Massachusetts — the state whose 2006 law was the model for the federal healthcare reform law. Massachusetts — home to some of the world’s best medical centers and doctors. And, as the Boston Globe’s “White Coat Notes” blog reports, Massachusetts — home to doctor shortages and long waits to see a doctor:

When primary care patients do secure an appointment for a non-urgent matter, they have to wait to get in the door, the survey found. The average delay is 29 days to see a family medicine doctor, down from 44 days last year, and 53 days to see an internist, up from 44 days last year.

The report said shortages also exist in dermatology, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurology, orthopedics, psychiatry, urology, and vascular surgery.

But what about costs? If you make sure everyone’s covered, you’ve got the foundation for real cost control, right? Unfortunately, no. Healthcare costs have been booming in Massachusetts:

Costs are rising relentlessly for both families and for the state government. The median annual premium for family plans jumped 10% from 2007 to 2009 to $14,300 — again, that’s a substantial rise on top of an already enormous number. For small businesses, the increase was 12%. In 2006, the state spent around $1 billion on Medicaid, subsidies for medium-to-lower earners, and other health-care programs. Today, the figure is $1.75 billion. The federal government absorbed half of the increase.

So what are the lessons for the future of American healthcare? Read more »

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

Why Comparing The Performance Of Doctors Is Trouble

Who do you think is likely to be a better doctor: A board certified graduate of one of the top medical schools in America, or a non-certified doctor trained in a foreign country?

If your answer is “I have absolutely no idea,” then you’re probably spending a lot of time looking at the “report cards” that pass for measures of health care quality. And you’re probably confused.

Researchers in Pittsburgh studied 124 process-based quality measures in 30 clinical areas. These process measures are the state-of-the-art ways in which government and private insurers are checking up on the quality of medical care. They include things like making sure patients with heart problems are prescribed aspirin, and that women get Pap smears. The researchers compared these measures against other, simpler measures, like medical education, board certification, malpractice claim payments, and disciplinary actions.

The result? You couldn’t tell the differences among doctors. Read more »

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

Real Reform In Healthcare

“We want our employees to spend their time on real issues,” said Charlie Salter, VP of Benefits at ConAgra. He means it. Charlie and ConAgra have built their healthcare benefits around some simple concepts that are yielding impressive results. How impressive? Close to flat healthcare cost trend since 2007.

Charlie’s work is part of a growing trend among America’s most innovative companies: Designing healthcare benefits in ways that have a real impact on quality and cost. It’s why I [recently] asked Charlie to share the podium with me in Boca Raton. ConAgra is showing it’s possible to control healthcare costs by helping people do the right thing.

The vision behind ConAgra’s programs is simple: Employees have to be responsible for managing their own care. But, says Charlie, this is easy to say, harder to do. “So we do as much as we can to make it as easy for people to do the right thing.” ConAgra gives its employees a significant financial stake in their well-being, through a health plan that has a $1,500 deductible. ConAgra supplements the plan with a health savings account (HSA) that lets workers use pre-tax dollars to pay for the deductible. Like other HSAs, any money the employee doesn’t spend is theirs to keep. It means employees are more engaged in healthcare decisions. Read more »

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

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »