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 CancerInsurance.com. 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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Nexium – Brand, generic, prescription or OTC

nexiumWhich is cheapest?

As I did my grocery shopping the other day, I ran into a large cardboard brochure holder at the end of one aisle. Literally ran into it. Why do store managers place these displays where they block cart traffic? Oh, right, to get our attention.

Well, it worked. But the bright purple brochures would have attracted my eye anyway. They touted the recent release of Nexium (“The Purple Pill”®) as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication; that is, you no longer need a prescription to buy it.

The brochure tells us that Nexium is the “#1 doctor prescribed acid … Continue reading

FDA safety alert on laparoscopic power morcellators

Less invasive but riskier?

In April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety alert about the use of power morcellators in laparoscopic procedures to remove uterine fibroids (or the entire uterus).

A morcellator works by grinding or shredding tissue into small bits so that it can easily be “vacuumed” out through a very small incision. A laparoscope, a device with a tiny camera that allows the surgeon to “see” inside the abdomen, is also used.

Laparoscopic procedures are very popular for all kinds of abdominal surgeries not only because the incisions are much smaller, but because the patient … Continue reading

How “lump-sum” cancer insurance policies work

lump sum cancer insurance policiesThis is a guest post by Kristen Reineke of CancerInsurance.com. I’ve posted previously about Alternatives to Obamacare, and critical illness plans are a relatively simple supplement to standard comprehensive health insurance plans. Cancer, specifically, is an expensive diagnosis, and my new ACA-compliant health plan not only has costly premiums, but a huge deductible (over $10,000). Most of the leading cancer hospitals in Seattle (University Medical Center, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) are not in my network, which could also lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. Kristen explains how these critical illness or “lump-sum” policies Continue reading

Niacin doesn’t reduce heart attack risk

Latest niacin news

In yet another instance of “we thought this drug was useful until we actually tested it and found out it wasn’t”, researchers are warning us that niacin should no longer be used to manage cholesterol levels.

A popular supplement before statins were introduced, niacin has been prescribed by doctors for decades. And it’s still being used by patients who don’t want or can’t tolerate statins.

There are two reasons why niacin should not be used.

  1. Niacin raises the good cholesterol or HDLs, but evidence has shown that a higher HDL level due to niacin therapy is
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Sunscreen and vitamin D

sunscreen vitamin dDon’t avoid all sun exposure

Vitamin D just won’t get out of the news. I posted about it a couple of weeks ago, and here I am commenting again on something else I read.

Actually, a friend sent me a link to a health care blog that referred to a recently-published study out of Sweden. Swedish melanoma researchers followed almost 30,000 women (I’m not sure why just women) for 20 years and concluded:

We found that all-cause mortality was inversely related to sun exposure habits. The mortality rate amongst avoiders of sun exposure was approximately twofold higher compared

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