Protecting your personal health data

Almost since it went online, experts have been pointing out multiple security flaws in the federal health insurance exchange website, HealthCare.gov.

And I’ve reported about security problems in my state-run exchange, as well.

But the latest information about a security issue affecting your personal data isn’t the result of poor design—it’s intentional—and that makes it even more egregious: HealthCare.gov Sends Personal Data to Dozens of Tracking Websites

The digital watchdog group, Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) reports:

EFF researchers have independently confirmed that healthcare.gov is sending personal health information to at least 14 third party domains, even if the

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Common sense health and wellness

I like all things snarky so I enjoyed reading a recent post by a physician poking a bit of fun at health and wellness fads.

Remember the old aphorism You are what you eat? Well, forget it. In today’s busy world who has time for “eating in moderation” or “being heart healthy”? I think that if there’s one thing that the health and wellness industry has proven time and time again is that miracle cures and gimmick diets work. Every. Single. Time. Not only are they logical and effective, but also completely safe.

(Don’t forget he’s kidding here!)

The

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Overuse of baby aspirin

recent aspirin study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says that too many patients are being treated unnecessarily with baby aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

At this time, the guidelines suggest a daily baby aspirin (81mg) for anyone with a 6% or greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke within the next ten years. This risk, determined by your doctor, is based on a variety of factors such as age, weight, family history, history of other diseases, etc.

But in some physician practices, up to 71% of the patients who have … Continue reading

Number Needed to Treat

A few months ago I posted about a new website that could help you find the Number Needed to Treat, aka the NNT.

How many people need to be treated with a drug or procedure before one person is helped? That’s the NNT.

It’s a tool I wish more patients and physicians used. Medical interventions should be limited to those that are proven to work for more people than not.

That seems like a pretty simple aim, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised how many commonly used treatments are either useless or do more harm than good.

Aaron Carroll, … Continue reading

Headaches are overtreated

A study coming out of Harvard this week reveals that ordinary headaches are being overtreated, and it’s costing billions of extra dollars in health care spending.

Each year more than 12 million Americans visit their doctors complaining of headaches, which result in lost productivity and costs of upward of $31 billion annually. A new study by researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) suggests some of that cost could be offset by physicians ordering fewer tests and an increased focus on counseling about lifestyle changes.

The study looked at over 9,000 doctor visits for headaches over a 10-year … Continue reading

Screening mammograms – benefits vs. harms

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a short article on screening mammograms that included a spiffy infographic on the benefits vs. the harms.

Looking at the graphic I can easily see that if 10,000 50-year-old women are screened, 10 will be “saved”, but 940 will undergo an unnecessary biopsy and 57 will be overdiagnosed. (For copyright reasons I can’t reprint the graphic here, but you can view see it yourself by clicking on the above link.)

The author of the article explains:

Another possible harm of screening is overdiagnosis. This means finding something on a mammogram

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Controlling health care costs

The fact is, when you need health care the most, you are least able to “shop around.”

That’s why one of health care reform’s goals of pushing consumers to “have more skin in the game” won’t always work.

Sure, when our health concerns are not urgent we can take time (lots of it) to make phone calls to providers and insurance companies. But when we are sick or injured, we can’t. And sky-high deductibles and narrow provider networks make controlling costs more difficult.

A pediatrician on his blog writes the following post:

In today’s enlightened times, health care isn’t

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Tanning beds are dangerous to your health

Isn’t Florida known as the “Sunshine State”?

Then why do they have so many tanning beds?

That’s what I learned in a recent New York Times article regarding the dangers of tanning beds: Warning: That Tan Could Be Hazardous.

Here in the Sunshine State, there are more tanning salons than McDonald’s restaurants, CVS stores or Bank of America branches, according to a 2014 study by University of Miami researchers.

Interesting. I would have expected my city of Seattle (and yes, it is just as gray and wet as rumors say) to have more, but it doesn’t. And for that … Continue reading

Obamacare: “America’s Bitter Pill”?

obamacare america's bitter pillTwo days ago, author Steven Brill was interviewed on 60 Minutes about his recently published book, America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System.

Brill came to the nation’s attention two years ago when he wrote a lengthy article for Time magazine titled “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us.” He introduced us to the term “chargemaster”—the hospital pricing list that is kept hidden, perhaps because the prices are outrageous and irrational.

But his book reads like a season of House of Cards; Brill even says in the 60 MinutesContinue reading

Measles – a Disneyland souvenir

disneylandNews stories like this make me crazy: Disneyland measles outbreak grows, sparks concern; and this from my local newspaper: Measles makes it to Seattle from Disneyland.

At least 17 people have been infected in the outbreak, which occurred among people who visited Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in Orange County, Calif., between Dec. 15 and 20, California health officials said Friday. It’s likely that a person who was contagious visited the theme park during that period and spread it to others.

Measles was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, but last year the country saw more than

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