Three questions to ask your physician

demand-evidenceBe a proactive patient

In addition to talking to my doctor friends, I spend a lot of time reading various doctor blogs because I want to better understand our health care system from their unique point of view.

The majority of those I read seem to agree with me that the industry has morphed into a giant profit-making machine—profits first, patients second. Many physicians write of their loss of autonomy and the ability to treat patients in a thoughtful, patient-centered and cost-effective way.

More than ever, they say, patients need to be informed and take control of their health care. … Continue reading

Potassium for health

potassiumA banana a day?

We’ve all heard the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (thank you, Benjamin Franklin!), but a potassium-rich banana might help, too.

A recent study looking at stroke risk in post-menopausal women (ages 50-79) found that, overall, women with the highest dietary potassium intake were 12% less likely to suffer a stroke.

And women who didn’t have high blood pressure and ate a lot of potassium-rich foods had a 21% lower risk of stroke.

But don’t go running to the drugstore for potassium supplements! This study didn’t look at the effect of potassium supplements … Continue reading

The demise of annual exams and the doctor-patient relationship

Are annual exams a waste of money?

Based on the most recent evidence, I would argue yes. I posted about annual exams a few months ago, and quoted the following from the Society for General Internal Medicine (a primary care specialty group):

Routine general health checks are office visits between a health professional and a patient exclusively for preventive counseling and screening tests. In contrast to office visits for acute illness, specific evidence-based preventive strategies, or chronic care management such as treatment of high blood pressure, regularly scheduled general health checks without a specific cause including the “health maintenance” annual

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Hola! Puerto Rico opens for health tourism

puerto rico health tourismWhat is health tourism and why Puerto Rico?

I read the other day that Puerto Rico wants to jump into the medical tourism ring and compete with those countries where it is already pretty well established, such as Mexico and Costa Rica.

Medical tourism, as the name implies, is traveling to another country to receive more affordable medical care.

[Puerto Rico's] administration says that it commissioned a market study from which it deduces that medical costs on the island are between 40 percent and 60 percent lower than in the mainland U.S.

Such a move, if successful, could be a … Continue reading

Salt – Are we eating too much or not enough?

The debate continues

Aargh! Last month the media picked up on three studies in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) about the association between how much salt we eat and our health.

Unfortunately, the studies didn’t do much to clear up the confusion surrounding how much salt we should be getting in our diets. In fact, popular reporting on the subject did little other than stir up more fear over what we eat.

The world has an increasingly high taste for salty foods — a taste that new research suggests leads to to 1.65 million excess deaths annually.

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End of life – Five Wishes

end of life care five wishesStart the conversation early

There’s an ongoing joke in health care circles that “Scientific studies continue to show that 100% of Americans eventually die.”

And yet, judging by the amount of money spent on medical care in the last 6 months of life, we make every effort to deny that eventuality.

It seems that no matter how much money you use during that last year/month, if the person is sick enough, the effort makes things worse. A lot of the money being spent is not only not helping, it is making that patient endure more bad experiences on a

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Belsomra – Do we really need another sleeping pill?

The high cost of insomnia

I read with some trepidation that the pharmaceutical giant Merck recently received FDA approval for a new sleeping pill, Belsomra (suvorexant). It will be available later this year or early in 2015.

Great, I thought, what will another brain-altering drug cost us?

Financially, Belsomra is expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in its first year. That’s great for Merck, whose shares went up after the announcement. But not so great for the individuals, insurance companies and government agencies that will need to cover the cost. The price for a month’s … Continue reading

Protect your health care information

protect your health care informationOops, they did it again

This week revealed another major data hack, this time targeting a huge health care group, Tennessee-based Community Health.

A cyberattack suspected to have originated in China stole Social Security numbers and other personal data for 4.5 million patients whose records were in Community Health Services Inc.’s system, the company said Monday.

The data breach included the names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of patients who were referred for or received services from doctors affiliated with the hospital group in the last five years.

4.5 million patients! What a jackpot … Continue reading

Childhood vaccinations

childhood vaccinations back to schoolBack to school

Summer is winding down and Labor Day comes early this year. It seems like a good time to re-post about keeping children safe and healthy by keeping their vaccinations up-to-date. This post was first published on August 16, 2013, but I’ve included a handy button from the CDC that will allow you to easily access and view the recommended pediatric immunization schedule. FN

Catch-Up Immunization scheduler. Learn what vaccines your child has missed according to the CDC vaccination schedule.

It’s that time of year when the days shorten, department stores advertise trendy back-to-school clothes, and parents scramble to make appointments with their kids’ pediatricians for sport physicals and immunizations.

At least, I … Continue reading

Baby aspirin is not for everyone

Because it doesn’t help everyone

There is nothing I like more than cleaning clutter out of drawers, closets, shelves and…my medicine cabinet.

Over the last year, as I’ve been researching for my blog, I’ve eliminated multivitamins, calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements and niacin. Now it’s time to give that unopened bottle of baby aspirin the heave-ho.

My husband bought it a few of years ago on the advice of his physician. At that time, many doctors were recommending a daily baby or low-dose aspirin to patients that had some risk of heart attack or stroke, usually those … Continue reading

Don’t reach for Life Line screenings

life line screeningOvertreating, overspending

I just received an invitation in the mail!

Not to a party or a wedding or anything fun, but to a Life Line Screening event being held at a local church. The letter says they’re holding a spot for me on this particular date, but I must call NOW to confirm and register, because spaces are LIMITED!

“These aren’t just routine medical procedures—they can help save your life”

Oh, boy. There is so much wrong with Life Line Screenings, I don’t know where to start.

The five “life-saving” procedures they boast are relatively simple and non-invasive screenings tests … Continue reading

Why Ebola doesn’t scare me

It’s not that contagious

For the last couple of weeks, the terrible outbreaks of the Ebola virus have been all over the news. Especially since two victims, American health care workers in Africa, were brought back to the US for treatment.

Headlines such as “CDC issues highest level alert amid Ebola outbreak” and “Ebola called ‘clear and present danger’” stir fear in Americans. But if you read the entire articles (and not everyone takes time to do that), you discover the danger is limited to certain countries in Western Africa.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from tweeting his Continue reading

Six resources to help cope with the high cost of cancer care

cancer care resourcesThis is another guest post from Kristen Reineke of I’ve written before about the ruinously high cost of cancer care, and although Obamacare limits out-of-pocket spending, deductibles and cost-sharing can still be in the thousands of dollars. Also, many associated expenses are not covered by insurance at all, such as transportation. Kristen has provided a great resource list for you or any one you know facing cancer treatment. FN

Cancer Care Resources

As if hearing the words “you have cancer” wasn’t bad enough, you soon come to find out just how costly cancer treatment can be.

Many … Continue reading

First aid for heat exhaustion

first aid for heat exhaustionHere comes the sun!

Summer is in full swing and the days are long and hot! It seemed like a good time to republish a post from last year about how to prevent and treat heat-related illnesses. Take care! FN

Living in the Pacific Northwest,  we rarely have to worry about heat exhaustion—that lousy feeling you get when your body starts to overheat.

But over the next few days the temperatures here are expected to hover around 90°F, which is pretty hot for us. Most of our homes don’t have air condtioning. Why bother when it’s truly hot only one … Continue reading

Hospitals can be dangerous to your health

Controlled chaos

I have many friends who are doctors and nurses, and we all moan among ourselves about the state of health care and how we hope we are never the patient. We know hospitals are chaotic, the staff is stressed, and electronic health records are only making patient care harder.

I read a blog post by another doctor, Val Jones, MD, who agreed. She blames the problem on “frequent turnover,” or the large number of mostly uncoordinated care providers weakly connected by glitchy computer systems.

If you (or a loved one) have been admitted to a hospital recently,

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