Healthcare’s perverse financial incentives

A hospital puts profits over patient safety

First do no harm.

That’s part of every medical school graduate’s oath. It should be the motto of anyone working in healthcare.

But I just read a disheartening piece of investigative journalism in my local newspaper, the Seattle Times, about a hospital where I trained, worked, and received care. The story highlights how the perverse financial incentives in healthcare (do more, get paid more) undermine patient care and safety.

…the aggressive pursuit of more patients, more surgeries and more dollars has undermined Providence’s values — rooted in the nonprofit’s founding as a

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The health effects of pot – What do we know?

The good news and the bad news

A few years ago my state, Washington, legalized marijuana. I voted in favor.

Since then I’ve wondered if that was a good idea. Tax windfall aside, what do we really know about the health effects of pot, good or bad?

Recently, one of my favorite health news sites, Healthcare Triage, posted this video: What we know about pot in 2017

Dr. Carroll presents a good summary of available research on the health effects of pot. Unfortunately, as he points out, there just isn’t enough quality research being … Continue reading

We’re doing too many screening and diagnostic tests

More tests = more money

Anyone who has read my blog over the years knows this is a subject I come back to again and again: the overuse of screening and diagnostic tests.

It’s a problem in our healthcare system for a couple of reasons.

First, the majority of healthcare providers are paid based on volume. In other words, the more patients they see, the more tests they run, the more surgeries they perform, then the more they get paid. It doesn’t matter if the outcome is poor, because they still get paid. In fact, they make even more money … Continue reading

Learn CPR and first aid

♥It’s Valentine’s Day!♥ In honor of that I thought I would re-post about learning CPR. It’s a great skill to have! FN

Here’s a feel-good story about a young man who saved a life because he knew how to perform CPR—and wasn’t afraid to use it!

CPR delivered: “I left a pizza boy and came back a pizza man”

CPR is a great skill to know. It’s not going to be useful in every scenario, but just having the knowledge of how to do it can be very empowering in an emergency situation. And many CPR classes also teach you … Continue reading

Hygge – The Danish art of happiness

Hygge, pronounced “hue-gah”

A friend sent me a link to an article about the Danish philosophy of hygge. Her stepmother is Danish, so perhaps that’s why it caught her eye.

I hadn’t heard of hygge before, although I do remember reading somewhere that the Danes are considered the happiest people on the planet (ignoring Hamlet, of course).

Apparently that’s because of hygge, from which we get the English word “hug”.

Like a hug, hygge is about being cozy, comfy and cuddled. It encompasses home decor, clothing, social interactions and self-care.

After a January filled with below-freezing temperatures, flu and a … Continue reading

Choosing an antifungal cream

antifungal creamOne cream to treat them all

Over the weekend, I discovered I had a minor case of athlete’s foot. I’m no athlete, but note to self: wear flip-flops when taking a shower at the gym!

I couldn’t find a tube of antifungal cream in my medicine cabinet—it’s been years since anyone in my family has needed it—so I went out to buy one.

A large number of options confronted me. As always, I thought to myself, “How do ordinary consumers decide which of these fifty tubes of antifungal creams they need?”

Most manufacturers market the creams (or ointments, powders or … Continue reading

Baby boomers and HCV screening

harvoni and hcv screeningDon’t get health advice from commercials!

While nursing my cold last weekend, I was watching TV and one prescription drug commercial caught my eye. (One of oh so many. FTC—please make these go away!)

Actually, the ad didn’t mention any drug by name, but it was sponsored by Gilead Sciences, the makers of the new hepatitis C drug, Harvoni.

The commercial was aimed at baby boomers, who were advised to get tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

One in 30 baby boomers could have HCV and not know it, the voice over said, “…because Hep C can hide Continue reading

Using a neti pot safely

No sooner was I on the road to recovery from the flu, then I came down with a cold, courtesy of a family member who stopped by for a visit and spread his germs around my house.

Please everyone! If you’re sick or think you’re getting sick, STAY HOME!

Anyway, as I said in my previous post about home treatments for the flu, there’s not a lot to do for a cold or flu virus other than treat the symptoms and wait it out.

I like to use my neti pot to help ease nasal congestion, and the Food Continue reading

Use over-the-counter sleep aids with caution

over-the-counter sleep aidsNot safe for everyone

I’ve had problems sleeping most of my adult life. And I admit over the years I’ve tried using Benadryl (diphenhydramine) as a sleep aid now and then.

So I was interested when Consumer Reports recently published a warning that too many people are too frequently turning to over-the-counter sleeps aids.

A 2015 Consumer Reports national survey of 4,023 adults found a troubling trend: Of the 20 percent who took an OTC medication within the past year to improve sleep, almost 1 in 5 respondents, or 18 percent, said they took it on a daily basis. Most

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Even nurses get the flu

Flu is epidemic in Washington

Flu has claimed almost 80 lives in my state, and thousands of people have been sick with the flu or other upper respiratory illnesses.

Last week I succumbed, as well.

And boy, was it a loooong week. And I mentally kicked myself many times, because I probably could have avoided my ordeal if I had just WASHED MY HANDS more frequently.

I don’t know if I had an official influenza virus. I didn’t see a doctor and wasn’t tested. I did get my flu vaccination in October, but those are never 100% effective. A … Continue reading

Whitening toothpaste abrasiveness

whitening toothpaste abrasivenessThe allure of whiter teeth

I’ve never whitened my teeth, and usually I’m happy with that. But sometimes I get the niggling idea that I would look younger and more sparkling if only my teeth were whiter. My life would be so much better!

Not true, of course, but we all have those unhelpful thoughts now and then, don’t we?

Having your teeth whitened professionally, by a dentist, is the safest way to go and offers the best result. However, it can be expensive.

There are many over-the-counter teeth bleaching sets available for a fraction of the cost—although still pricey, … Continue reading

Don’t presume your provider’s office knows best

This guest post is from a good friend of mine. She’s not in the healthcare industry, but she is one of the most savvy healthcare consumers I know. When she was telling me about some of her recent dealings with providers and insurance, I immediately asked her to write up her experiences to share with my readers! 

I don’t willingly part with my money, especially when I see a healthcare provider.

I question unnecessary tests, and I don’t want the office staff to be cavalier about spending my money. I expect the office to be familiar with my insurance plan, … Continue reading

Home remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome

carpal tunnelWear a wrist brace at night

I’m one of millions of women over the age of 45 who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.

The symptoms of carpal tunnel—numbness, tingling, pain and eventually weakness—occur when the median nerve is pinched as it passes through the “tunnel” of your wrist.

Because I definitely want to avoid surgery, I’ve done a lot of research into the best home treatments.

Studies show that a three-week stint of wearing wrist braces at night helps alleviate mild to moderate carpal tunnel symptoms. Wrist braces are a low-cost, low-risk home treatment, and a good place to start.… Continue reading

SmartQuit – An app to help you quit smoking

smartquit appA smart way to quit smoking

Is quitting smoking on your New Year’s resolution list? Or that of a friend or family member?

If so, consider the SmartQuit app.

But first I’ll tell you what I do and don’t like about it.

I like that it seems to be pretty effective. The SmartQuit program and app were developed by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington (my alma mater!), with funding from the National Cancer Institute.

It uses a particular type of behavior modification—acceptance and commitment therapy—that has proven more effective than other smoking Continue reading

Annual exams vs. annual wellness visits

Happy New (Calendar) Year!

It’s the start of a new year or, in health insurance lingo, the start of a new calendar year deductible. I’m reposting this from last January, because this month is the best time to start trying to schedule that annual exam or annual wellness visit (it could take weeks, after all, to get an appointment!)

I usually advise people to get any screening tests or annual exams done early in the year, just in case an abnormality is found and more testing/treatment is necessary.

Especially with the current trend towards enormous deductibles (up to $14,300 for Continue reading