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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“Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep”

dreamlandThe big business of sleep

As someone who has always had trouble sleeping, I find solace in the fact that I am far from alone. The last statistic I saw was that about 60 million Americans complain of some form of sleep trouble. And I suspect that number is under reported.

Sleep experts recommend we get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and popular media are quick to point out all the ill health effects due to lack of sleep that will kill you.

It’s scary enough to give you nightmares—if you could get to sleep.

Insomnia and fatigue are … Continue reading

Slow medicine: “God’s Hotel”

slow medicine gold's hotelA remembrance of things past

I picked up a book the other day that filled me with nostalgia, a yearning for a return to the way medicine used to be practiced 30 or more years ago.

Yes, I’m probably guilty of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses, but reading God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet, MD, reminded me of the era before “bureaucratic medicine” when doctors and nurses had more time and more autonomy to deliver the slow medicine or patient-centered care she describes.

Related post: “Knocking on Continue reading

“The Treatment Trap”

the treatment trapWhat is too much medicine and why is it bad?

I’ve talked about it before: Health care costs are crazy high; the cost of insurance is increasing to meet those costs; and more patients than ever are being harmed by the treatment that is supposed to help them.

The overuse of medical care is directly responsible, and increased patient (consumer) awareness is needed to help turn this trend around.

Reading The Treatment Trap: How the Overuse of Medical Care is Wrecking Your Health and What You Can Do to Prevent It by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh would be … Continue reading

Great health care books

Be informed, stay healthy, save money

I’ve read dozens of books about health care, but I know not everyone is as obsessed about the state of our health care system as I am.

However, listed below are the few books I think are the most useful and informative for you to at least read, if not have on your home health bookshelf.

Is there a health care book you’d like to recommend? Please let me know—I’m always looking for new reading material!

Self-care and first aid

health care booksTake Care of Yourself, 9th Edition: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Medical Self-Care by … Continue reading

Save money: “The Self-Pay Patient”

save money the self pay patientA terrific resource

Recently, I was delighted to receive a copy of “The Self-Pay Patient” by Sean Parnell.

He has a blog of the same name, and he asked me to read his recently-published book and give him some feedback. (Full disclosure—the book was gratis.) I was happy to oblige; what he didn’t know was that I had been following his blog for several months and was eager to read the book!

Sean has a background in economics, writing and health care policy. He realizes, as I do, that today’s health care (and health insurance) is increasingly unaffordable … Continue reading

End of life: “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”

end of lifeThe anatomy of a prolonged death

In 2001, author Katy Butler’s father suffered a stroke. Thus began her and her family’s long journey through our health care system detailed in Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death.

After his death, I would not rest until I understood better why the most advanced medical care on earth, which saved my father’s life at least once when he was a young man, succeeded at the end mainly in prolonging his suffering.

During vigorous rehabilitation to regain strength following the stroke, Ms. Butler’s father developed a hernia—a … Continue reading

“When Doctors Don’t Listen”

when doctors don't listenContext matters

Last week I discussed my worry that doctors would no longer have relationships with patients, but rather would plug us into pre-determined screening, diagnostic and treatment “pathways” without much regard for our personal stories.

Then I read the book When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests by two ER physicians, Leana Wen, MD, and Joshua Kosowsky, MD.

And they agree “cookbook” medicine is a problem. They see it all the time in the emergency rooms.

Medicine has morphed from thoughtful engagement between doctors and patients to cookie-cutter recipes that regard all individuals alike…this cookbook

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Quality of life: “Rethinking Aging”

rethinking agingHealthy aging

I don’t consider myself old, but we are all aging, aren’t we?

One of my personal irritations with our for-profit health care system—and the main reason I started this blog—is its predilection to market and sell screening tests and prescription medications of questionable value to the aging population.

In his book Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society, Dr. Nortin Hadler scrutinizes some of the most over treated aspects of aging, and rigorously reviews the scientific literature that does—or doesn’t—support those treatments.

Like many doctors that are thankfully pushing back against the current Continue reading

Holiday stress? Think like the Churkendoose!

the churckendooseThe what?

No, it’s not a new main dish like the turducken or tofurkey.

A churkendoose is the imaginary barnyard creature created for a children’s story by Ben Ross Berenberg in 1946.  A definite oddball, it’s part chicken, turkey, duck and goose.

Sadly out of print, The Churkendoose was a popular Golden Book and 45-rpm record that delighted several generations of children and their parents. Beautifully orchestrated, the 9-minute recording (1947) features Ray Bolger (the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz) singing the title role:

I have a head like a chicken and legs like a duck; instead

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Outbreaks and vaccinations

childhood vaccinationsThe canary in the coal mine

Late last week I read the troubling story about a recent polio outbreak in Syria. Although polio, thanks to the vaccine, has been almost eradicated in most parts of the world, it is still present in several middle eastern countries.

Because of political unrest and the huge numbers of refugees fleeing to Europe, world public health officials worry about more widespread outbreaks of this crippling, and deadly, disease.

Outbreaks of highly contagious, but preventable, diseases have become more common because of the anti-vaccination movement. And as these like-minded individuals tend to settle … Continue reading

Self triage and save money

Know some resources and use them

Triage is a commonly used word in medicine, especially in overcrowded emergency departments as staff do their best to determine which patients are sickest (will soon die unless treated) and which can wait. This process of prioritizing patients for treatment is known as triage.

But triage has a broader definition: The principle or practice of allocating limited resources.

And for most of us, money is definitely a limited resource!

In 2014 more health insurance policies will come with huge deductibles, and I think this trend will continue. Health care costs are not going to … Continue reading

Nutrition is key: “Food, Inc.”

nutrition is keySupermarkets can be scary

Today is Halloween, and I just watched the most terrifying movie!  😯

No, it wasn’t Carrie or Paranormal Activity 4. It was Food, Inc., an exposé of America’s food industry—the multinational, fast-food and junk-food-supporting, animal-abusing, politically-subsidized conglomerations that produce the majority of our food products.

The film maker, Robert Kenner, points out that the average supermarket contains 47,000 items, but most are made by just a handful of giant corporations, such as Coca Cola, Tyson or Proctor & Gamble.

These megacompanies keep hidden some pretty nauseating industry practices. Perhaps they think we are too ignorant … Continue reading

Don’t insist on antibiotics!

antibioticsThe problem of too many antibiotics

For at least three decades, doctors have been aware that they over prescribe antibiotics, a practice that raises the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Like the well-known MRSA (mersa), methycillin-resistant staphylococcus  aureus.

But they still do it.

A recent report from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows that between 2000 and 2010, doctors wrote antibiotic prescriptions for 60% of sore throats, even though they were only appropriate—for strep throat— about 10% of the time.

Antibiotics were also prescribed for bronchitis (cough) in 73% of cases; antibiotics never help bronchitis, a condition caused … Continue reading

Patient safety – “Unaccountable”

Medicine’s code of silence

unaccountable02I remember I was a very new and young nurse when I realized most patients haven’t a clue what goes on behind the privacy curtain of medical care in a hospital.

Working in the operating room, I quickly learned who were the best—and the worst—surgeons.  The best had skill and good judgement, and I would enthusiastically refer my family and friends, if needed.

And the worst? “Why do these docs still get patient referrals?” I used to wonder. “Why doesn’t the hospital do something? How are patients supposed to know?”

I still ask myself these questions.… Continue reading