Be informed – “The Patient’s Playbook”

the patient's playbookI’ve spent most of the holiday weekend happily engaged in reading through a pile of health care books.

And the one I absolutely have to recommend to everyone is The Patient’s Playbook: How to Save Your Life and the Lives of Those You Love by Leslie D. Michelson.

Michelson is not a physician, but has worked in the health management field for more than 30 years, helping individuals and companies navigate our crazy health care system.

Based on his experience, he has organized his book into three sections. Each chapter ends with a helpful “Quick Guide” of the most crucial … Continue reading

Know your family health history

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.

Did you know it’s also National Family History Day?

Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. Over the holiday or at other times when families gather, the Surgeon General encourages Americans to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in their family. Learning about their family’s health history may help ensure a longer, healthier future together.

As a nurse, I have taken hundreds of patient histories and I am always surprised by how little most people know about the health … Continue reading

Evidence based – “Is that a fact?”

is that a factIf, like me, you’re interested in science and putting a little more “evidence-based” into your health, check out Is That a Fact?: Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life by Dr. Joe Schwarcz.

Dr. Schwarcz, a chemist as well as a radio host and a best-selling author, brings some much-needed attention to the overabundance of health information found on the internet and in the media.

As he says in the book’s introduction:

We suffer from information overload. Just Google a subject and within a second, you can be flooded with a million references.

The University of Google is

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Antibiotics still overprescribed

antibioticsThe overuse of antibiotics continues to be a big problem in this country, and do you know who doctors blame? The patients.

That’s right. Doctors know that antibiotics don’t work against the common viruses that cause colds, flu, coughs and sore throats, but many admit they prescribe them anyway when patients ask for them.

In a five or ten minute office visit, doctors don’t feel they have time to explain the difference between a virus and a bacteria, and how overuse of antibiotics causes the very real problem of antibiotic resistance. So they do what’s easiest, fastest, and results in … Continue reading

Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month!

I am a huge supporter of hospice and palliative care, but I think it’s underutilized in our health care system.

So to help inform and increase awareness, here are some of my favorite books and DVDs on the topic.

Home remedies for chapped lips

Did you ever stop to wonder how the skin of your lips differs from the skin on the rest of your face?

The skin over your lips is very thin and highly vascular, hence their typical “vermilion” or red color. Your lips also have more nerve endings, making them very tactile and sensitive.

These anatomical differences make our lips attractive and nice for kissing, but they also make our lips vulnerable to dryness, sunburn and chemical sensitivities.

Painful and unattractive, chapped lips are especially common in the fall and winter because of the dry, cold air outside, the dry, warm … Continue reading

Heads up about Medicare changes

This post if for any of my readers who are Medicare age or about to be Medicare age.

I think it’s important to understand what changes are in the pipeline that will affect your doctors and their ability to be able to treat you.

Some doctors already refuse to see Medicare patients because of government red tape and poor reimbursement.

But starting in 2017 it’s going to get worse, and many physicians are wondering if they should follow their colleagues and drop out of the Medicare game altogether.

I recently read two posts by physicians on the health care blog … Continue reading

The high cost of dementia

November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t aware of—and scared of—dementia**. Or who hasn’t had a family member or friend stricken by it.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that damages not only the individual, but family and friends, as well, especially the primary care giver—most often the spouse.

Adding insult to injury is the incredible cost of getting help. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine confirms what many already know—Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cost families way more than almost any other disease.

Why? Cancer is one of Continue reading

Cost sharing and narrow networks

It’s that time of year—open enrollment for health insurance.

If, like me, you buy an individual health plan for yourself or your family, and you have been informed by your insurance company that your current plan will no longer be available, you are once again shopping for a plan that meets both your needs and budget.

The new plan I’ve been offered has both a higher premium and a higher deductible, but as far as I can tell our provider network will remain the same. That’s important, since my husband has a doctor he really likes. I had to change … Continue reading

Save money on eye drops

Do you suffer from dry, red, or itchy eyes?

Dry eyes are really common, especially in the late fall and winter when we spend more time in the dry indoor air.

But did you know the eye drops you use might actually be making your eyes look and feel worse?

Like so many over-the-counter (OTC) products, there are dozens of eye drops from which to choose. How do you know which is best? You can save money and get a more helpful product by understanding what you really need from an eye drop.

As always, ignore the marketing claims on … Continue reading

Adults coloring books for stress relief

adult coloring bookA few weeks ago I posted about some simple ways to deal with stress and panic attacks, and I mentioned that I had received an adult coloring book from a friend and thought it was a great way to focus and relax my mind.

Apparently other people think so, too!

I just read this article in The Atlantic: The Zen of Adult Coloring Books

Several trend pieces about adult coloring books lump them in with other “childish” activities that grown-ups are apparently engaging in to regress back to their simpler youth, like adult preschool and adult summer camp. But

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Sad but true – CYA medicine works

A few months ago I posted about CYA—Cover Your Ass—medicine being one reason why too many diagnostic tests are ordered and health care costs are high.

CYA medicine is when the doctor or doctors are pretty sure what your problem is, but they order extra scans and x-rays and blood tests anyway because “failure to diagnose” is one of the leading causes of medical malpractice suits. They aren’t going to take any chances, and who can blame them?

Related story from KevinMD: This is why doctors practice cover your ass medicine

Besides, they don’t pay your resulting medical bill, so … Continue reading

Nursing shortage infographic

I was invited to share this very interesting infographic on the looming shortage of nurses in this country.

The last of the baby boomers will reach retirement age in 2029. Although baby boomers can expect to live well into their 80s and 90s thanks to healthier lifestyles and modern medicine, they won’t be without chronic health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and early dementia.

That will put a strain on the health care system, as there is already a growing shortage of doctors and nurses. And as more highly-trained nurses take on the role of primary … Continue reading

How chronic stress affects your body

Ted-Ed Talks just posted an excellent video on YouTube explaining How stress can make you sick. Occasional stress is normal and even helpful, but chronic stress can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Because of the “brain-gut” connection, chronic stress can also affect digestion and lead to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and obesity.

Even worse, chronic stress can cause chromosomal damage and shorten our lives!

I’m sure this isn’t news to most people, but it’s a reminder that we need to regularly “check-in” on our emotional health and make … Continue reading

Preventing hospital readmissions

I’ve said it many times in this blog: Don’t go to the hospital alone! And don’t let your friends or family members go alone, either.

Having or being a patient advocate during a hospitalization can really improve communication among the patient, the patient’s family and the myriad of health care providers in modern hospitals.

Related story from KevinMD: There are too many cooks in the health care kitchen

Better communication is especially important at discharge time, when the doctor and nurses give you lots of instructions about your follow-up plan: Do you have new medications? Did you stop old medications? … Continue reading