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Latest Posts

Humans And Food: Why We Love Ice Cream

Scientists know that our perceptions about taste and texture drive our food preferences. They know quite a lot about the role of taste in this regard, and the results of some recent experiments have shed new light on the role of texture as well, particularly as it relates to foods containing starch.

Starch is a major component of potatoes, rice, corn, wheat and the enormous variety of foods derived from them. It is also added to many other products from maple syrup to pudding. In fact, starch accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the calorie content in the average Western diet, and more than that in many Asian and third-world diets. 

Humans begin digesting starch in the mouth, where the salivary glands secrete an enzyme known as amylase. This enzyme breaks down starch and other complex carbohydrates into simpler sugar molecules which end up being absorbed from the small intestine into the bloodstream. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

The End Of Private Practice?

I didn’t need the Wall Street Journal to tell that the days of “private practice” are numbered. According to recent numbers, fewer and fewer medical practices are under the ownership of physicians. Even in my corner of the economically secure State of Texas, small practices are folding faster than beach chairs at high tide.

I was driven out of private practice in 2004 by rising malpractice premiums and plummeting reimbursement. In Texas at the time the trial attorneys ran the place and medmal insurance carriers simply couldn’t keep up with the greed.

Medical practices are just too expensive to run and the services that physicians provide are dangerously undervalued. You do the math. Sure it’s a complicated issue. But the end result is institutionally-employed doctors with institutional pay and the risk of institutional service. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Light Shed On The Corruption Of The RUC

Interesting [recent] front-page article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) about the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC). From the WSJ:

Three times a year, 29 doctors gather around a table in a hotel meeting room. Their job is an unusual one: divvying up billions of Medicare dollars.

The group, convened by the American Medical Association, has no official government standing. Members are mostly selected by medical-specialty trade groups. Anyone who attends its meetings must sign a confidentiality agreement. […]

The RUC, as it is known, has stoked a debate over whether doctors have too much control over the flow of taxpayer dollars in the $500 billion Medicare program. Its critics fault the committee for contributing to a system that spends too much money on sophisticated procedures, while shorting the type of nuts-and-bolts primary care that could keep patients healthier from the start — and save money.

I’m glad to see the RUC getting some much-needed scrutiny, and skeptical scrutiny at that. But they miss the point with the “fox watching the henhouse” angle, or at least they paint with too broad a brush. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

A 3-Point Solution To Long Waits At The Doctor’s Office

I have an easy solution to a vexing problem in today’s healthcare crisis. A problem so widespread that it’s worth hundreds of words in the Wall Street Journal: Long wait times at the doctor’s office.

But first, before I give my simple, pragmatic, master-of-the-obvious solution, let me say something truthful: I try. I try really hard — to run on time, that is.

I’ve been there myself — a patient in a gown, in a cold room with only big pharma-sponsored propaganda on the walls to stare at.

At the risk of a sounding like a…blogger, let it be said that practicing quality medicine in the current luxury of technology is much more complicated than it used to be. Such complexity devours our most precious treasure: Time with the patient. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Healthcare’s Facebook

[Recently] the Wall Street Journal‘s front page story exposed a significant privacy breech of online personal information via the world’s most popular social networking site, Facebook:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

How could they? Imagine the nerve of marketers using Facebook ID’s to develop profiles on people using little socializing games! Facebook has a privacy policy! I was assured that if I set my privacy settings to “maximum,” this would never happen! To which I say: “Duh!” When it comes to money, people get awfully creative.

So while Facebook grapples with its latest public relations nightmare, we should realize our electronic medical record app vendors are doing exactly the same thing. Worse, it’s perfectly legal, even though each of use has been assured our privacy settings are set to “maximum” through the reassurances of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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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