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Latest Posts

Surgeon Shames People Into Having Bariatric Surgery

Say you’re a bariatric surgeon. You’d think Americans would be beating a path to your door. After all, this is the land of Instant Gratification! Who wants to just eat less for the better part of a year to lose 50 lbs when one can be cut open and have one’s gastrointestinal anatomy rearranged — resulting in the necessity of eating less, but why quibble — to lose that same 50 lbs (or more)? Changing lifestyles is boring; surgery is exciting!

Funny how it turns out that in order for the surgery to succeed long-term, patients have to commit to lifestyle changes anyway. In fact, before any reputable bariatric surgeon will operate, patients have to demonstrate their dietary commitment by actually losing some weight on their own, prior to surgery. What I don’t understand is why people then go ahead with the damn surgery anyway? Logically, it’s almost like you have to prove you don’t need it before you can have it. Hey, I’ve never said I understand people.

Perhaps overcoming this paradox is the explanation for the behavior of a certain bariatric surgeon, brought to my attention by a mutual patient. Read more »

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

Creative Semantics Used By Health Insurance Companies To Avoid Payments

Insurance companies are supposed to pay for health care, although they do everything they can think of to avoid doing so. One company in particular (a small player here though a much bigger gorilla in other markets) does so by playing with words, even when another behemoth lost a lawsuit over the same issue.

The topic involves paying for preventive services while a patient is in the office for care of an acute illness or management of a chronic condition. The way we communicate with insurance companies about what we do in the office is by way of codes; CPT codes, to be precise. There are separate codes to differentiate between preventive services and the so-called Evaluation and Management (E/M) services. The latter are your basic office visit codes covering all the “cognitive” services I offer — as opposed to procedural codes, where I actually do something to you other than talk with and examine you. Read more »

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

What Some Patients Will Do For Drugs: A Strange Phone Call Late At Night

9:00 pm:

Hello. It’s Mrs. Mumbledimumbler; I need the doctor to call me right away. My hip is driving me crazy. Please call me.

I listen to the message three times so I can sort of make out the name. The problem is that even though I think I can understand it, I don’t recognize it at all. But I call her because she said she needed me to call her right away.

Hello. I need you to call me in some tramadol right away.

“What was your name again?”

She repeats it clearly enough for me to confirm that I really don’t recognize it.

“Have I ever seen you in the office?”

No.

Let me get this straight: it’s 9:00 at night and your hip is hurting, so you call a doctor who’s a complete stranger and insist that they call you in a powerful painkiller without ever having seen you, taken your medical history, or examined you? I don’t think so.

“Um, I’m sorry ma’am, but I really can’t do that unless you’re an established patient in my office.”

Oh, okay; never mind.

I suppose I should count my lucky stars that she didn’t want vicodin.

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

Homeopathy: Why is Fraud Legal?

Imagine hearing a commercial on the radio:

Send us money, and we won’t send you anything in return.

No one would do that, right? How about this:

Send us your money and we’ll send you an empty box.

Better? Not much. Now how is that different from:

Send us money and we’ll send you stuff we’ll call medicine that we claim will help you, but there’s no actual active ingredients in it at all.

I don’t think there’s one bit of difference. Wouldn’t you agree that that commercial is fraud, pure and simple? The problem is that the general public doesn’t understand that the word “homeopathic” means “diluted beyond the point where it contains any active ingredients.”

I’ve recently heard commercials for homeopathic vertigo treatments, eye drops for allergies, irritable bowel, and spider veins on legs. I’m tempted to contact the radio station and complain, but stopped short realizing that their first question is going to be, “But is it legal?”

That’s the problem: it is. So what I want to know is, why? Read more »

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

When Patients Have To Remind Doctors About Their Appointments

Like many offices, we have a policy of calling patients to remind them of upcoming appointments, usually one to two days ahead of time. With the advent of our new EMR, we have the option of having the system send them email reminders. The vast majority of folks who’ve received these just love them. But there are still several patients a day who get phone calls.

The other recent change in the office, cutting the staff by 50%, means that my one remaining staffer is the one who makes the calls. She has other stuff to do, though — lots of other stuff, actually — so that she may not get around to these calls until later in the day.

Thank goodness our patients are right on the ball: 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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