Premium increases for 2018. Ouch.

My peek into the future

Health insurance companies in my state finally submitted their requests for 2018 rate hikes.

Usually I can look up this info online by mid-May, but all the partisan and intra-party bickering over the future of healthcare in this country has left insurance companies scratching their figurative heads over how to price next year’s policies.

I remember a time when I never gave my health insurance much thought. Like my car or home insurance, it didn’t change much year to year, and was simply there when I needed it.

But for the last ten years or … Continue reading

Sleepio and SHUTi: Online sleep therapy

sleepioWe’re not sleeping enough

Sleeplessness is epidemic in this country.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) consider insomnia a public health issue and report that at least 35% of adults don’t get a good night’s sleep.

Judging from my circle of friends, I think the percentage is much higher than that!

Insomnia and daytime fatigue make life miserable and contribute to chronic illness. Drowsy drivers cause accidents. Drowsy employees cause on-the-job injuries.

Sleeping pills (hypnotics) are the go-to treatment in the US. Drugs like zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and suvorexant (Belsomra).

Related post: Belsomra—Use with caution

But they have side … Continue reading

Stop the Bleeding – First aid tips to control bleeding

stop the bleedingSurgeons want the public to learn this skill

I taught first aid classes for the American Red Cross for many years. To control excessive bleeding, we showed students how to apply pressure directly on a wound, or at pressure points in the groin and upper arm.

We did not teach how to use a tourniquet. The Red Cross deemed this technique to be potentially dangerous and beyond the skill set of most lay responders.

I told this to a surgeon friend once, and he was amazed. He said “The Red Cross needs to get its head into the 21st century.”Continue reading

Choosing Wisely: 5 Questions to ask your doctor

choosing wisely 5 questionsCutting the waste

I’ve posted several times about the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Developed by Consumer Reports and the American Board of Internal Medicine, Choosing Wisely hopes to educate both physicians and patients, and cut back or eliminate unnecessary medical tests, procedures and treatments.

Over-testing and over-treatment are estimated to cost about $200 billion every year. I think that’s a conservative figure, as the financial—not to mention emotional—consequences of too much medicine can be difficult to quantify.

Bringing about change in our behemoth, for-profit healthcare system is a daunting task, and I’m always happy to see signs that it’s catching Continue reading

3 tips to prevent surprise medical bills

surprise medical billsMy guest post today is from Matthew Bahr, a healthcare finance specialist.

I’ve posted about surprise medical bills before. Sadly, they are becoming more common as healthcare costs continue to rise and provider networks shrink.

Consumer Reports estimates about one third of patients with health insurance receive these unexpectedly high medical bills.

Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your tips and expertise with my readers! FN

Although we know healthcare costs a lot of money, it still stings when we see that bill.

You might think because you’re insured, your insurance will cover most or many of the costs. But … Continue reading

Choose sunglasses that block UV rays

sunglasses that block uv raysUV rays damage eyes

As part of May’s Skin Cancer Prevention Month, I wanted to share some tips to protect your eyes.

Just as the sun can injure your skin, it can hurt the delicate tissue of your eyes, too.

Did you know you can also get melanoma of the eye? Unprotected UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds increases the risk of this type of cancer.

Related post: Tanning beds and skin cancer

Long-term exposure to UVA and UVB rays contributes to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Cataracts—cloudy areas on your eye’s lens—can be corrected with … Continue reading

ZDoggMD and Healthcare 3.0

“Trying to make medicine great again”

I’ve been a fan of Zubin Damania, MD—aka ZDoggMD—for several years. A hospitalist physician based in Las Vegas, he began by making entertaining parody videos on a variety of healthcare topics: end-of-life, the opioid epidemic, electronic health records (EHR), sepsis, sleep apnea, and more.

Now he has expanded his social media footprint in an attempt to rally healthcare professionals behind Healthcare 3.0.

As he explains in the video, Healthcare 1.0 was the old doctor-patient relationship—”Doctor knows best” and all that (I still know doctors and nurses who … Continue reading

Melanoma – Prevention and detection

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!

I think one of the best discussions about the prevention and detection of melanoma is from Doctor Mike Evans in this YouTube video:

It’s only 8 minutes long, but packed full of information.

Melanoma is deadly

And the numbers are increasing. Did you know:

  • From 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800 percent among young women?
  • One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes?
  • About 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun?
  • Tanning beds are considered
Continue reading

Beware “miracle” cancer cures

miracle cancer curesFDA warns consumers

Nothing makes me angrier than unscrupulous companies (owned by unscrupulous individuals) marketing products advertised as “miracles” to cure illness.

These modern-day snake oil salespeople prey on fear and suffering by selling false hope. Worse, the products they sell can sometimes harm rather than heal.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently put out a new warning on their Consumer Updates page: Products claiming to “cure” cancer are a cruel deception

Frequently advertised as “natural” treatments and often falsely labeled as dietary supplements, such products may appear harmless, but may cause harm by delaying or interfering with proven,

Continue reading

Rudeness and patient safety

How rudeness affects your healthcare

I just read an article in the New York Times by Perri Klass, MD: Rude Doctors, Rude Nurses, Rude Patients.

Rudeness all around!

Dr. Klass, a pediatrician, refers to a recent study published in a pediatric medical journal. The study looked at how rude or disparaging comments (by an actor playing the part of an infant’s mother) affect the performance of doctors and nurses.

The study’s conclusion?

Rudeness has robust, deleterious effects on the performance of medical teams. Moreover, exposure to rudeness debilitated the very collaborative mechanisms recognized as essential for patient care and

Continue reading

Tips to save money at the hospital

save money at the hospital“An American Sickness”

I love Elisabeth Rosenthal’s work.

She’s a medical journalist (an MD, but no longer practicing) who wrote a brilliant series of articles on the high cost of healthcare for the New York Times a few years ago.

Now she has a book on the same topic. Because, of course, our healthcare system with its punishing costs for services, drugs and insurance has not improved. If anything, it’s worse.

As a physician, Dr. Rosenthal has experienced first hand the perverse incentives—illness being more profitable than health, after all—and lack of price transparency in our healthcare system. Her book … Continue reading

Save money on seasonal allergy medications

seasonal allergy medicationsAnother post related to seasonal allergies, because 2017 is apparently going to be a nasty spring for allergy sufferers! Like me.  😥

As I said in my last post, I prefer to use a neti pot over taking medication (and it works great for me!), but I know a neti pot won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Over-the-counter allergy medications can be expensive, though, even the generics. Know what you need before you buy. Then shop for the best price. I always recommend buying the store brand.

Here is some information about the various types of drugs marketed to … Continue reading

Is home genetic testing a good idea?

home genetic testingHow will you use the information?

Home genetic testing kits have been available for several years now.

With a drop of spit and a couple hundred bucks, you can learn a lot about your genetic ancestry and your risk for developing certain diseases.

Sort of.

Although I’d accept without question a report that told me which continent my ancestors hailed from, I’d be much less willing to make decisions about my health based on one of these home genetic testing kits.

Why? Isn’t all information good?

Only if you know what to do with it after you have it.

Dr. … Continue reading

HPV vaccine and 20-somethings

Younger is better, but…

The HPV vaccine protects against the most common types of viruses that not only cause cervical cancer, but mouth and throat cancers, as well.

It’s most effective when given before a child becomes sexually active.

But what about all the 20-somethings out there who didn’t have access to this vaccine? After all, it’s only been available since 2006, and before 2011 it was only offered to girls.

Is there any benefit, especially for young men, to getting vaccinated in your twenties?

I found an interesting article written by a journalist who asked the same question—because … Continue reading

Active surveillance for thyroid cancer

Papillary thyroid cancers are overtreated

In 2010 my husband almost died while being treated for a small papillary thyroid cancer.

Papillary tumors are by far the most common type of thyroid cancer, and are typically very slow growing. Most doctors I know say that if you have to get cancer, papillary thyroid cancer is the one to pick!

My husband didn’t choose to get thyroid cancer, of course, but once his primary care physician found the lump during a routine physical, he was put on a fast track to being overtreated.

Back then, we just didn’t know any better.

I … Continue reading