Don’t be a victim of too much medical care

Too much testing = too much medicine

I just ran across an old doctor joke: What is a well person? Someone who hasn’t yet been thoroughly examined.

It’s not funny, of course, if you’re the patient and have suffered the harms—and the expense—of too much medical care.

In 2010, my husband was the victim of too much medical care. Because of complications and a string of medical errors he almost died. His care cost our insurance company over $100,000 and we were out of pocket for our $10,000 deductible.

Now he has no thyroid and has to take medication every … 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

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

We’re doing too many screening and diagnostic tests

More tests = more money

Anyone who has read my blog over the years knows this is a subject I come back to again and again: the overuse of screening and diagnostic tests.

It’s a problem in our healthcare system for a couple of reasons.

First, the majority of healthcare providers are paid based on volume. In other words, the more patients they see, the more tests they run, the more surgeries they perform, then the more they get paid. It doesn’t matter if the outcome is poor, because they still get paid. In fact, they make even more money … Continue reading

Baby boomers and HCV screening

harvoni and hcv screeningDon’t get health advice from commercials!

While nursing my cold last weekend, I was watching TV and one prescription drug commercial caught my eye. (One of oh so many. FTC—please make these go away!)

Actually, the ad didn’t mention any drug by name, but it was sponsored by Gilead Sciences, the makers of the new hepatitis C drug, Harvoni.

The commercial was aimed at baby boomers, who were advised to get tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

One in 30 baby boomers could have HCV and not know it, the voice over said, “…because Hep C can hide Continue reading

Choosing Wisely – Use less healthcare

My goal for 2017? Use as little healthcare as possible

How will healthcare change under a new president and political party?

That’s a question I can’t answer. As I wrote in my last post, both candidates had multiple-point plans to tweak/improve/repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA or Obamacare.

But I don’t know what will change or when.

What I know for sure is that for 2017 my premiums will be 20% more expensive, my co-insurance and co-pays will be higher, and my current primary care doctor will no longer be in-network.

I can and will shop around … Continue reading

“Bridge Over Diagnosis”

I’m going with an overdiagnosis theme this week.

Here’s the latest healthcare parody video from pharmacy professor James McCormack, as he continues his much-appreciated effort to raise awareness of overscreening, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment in this country.

As usual, this video is full of supporting statistics and excerpts from leading healthcare journals, so take time to pause the video and really understand the information being shared.

As I said in a previous post, overdiagnosis and the resulting unnecessary treatments cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

Equally bad, if not worse, I think, is … Continue reading

Risk Benefit Theater – Screening mammograms

I’m all about high-value, evidence-based healthcare.

I’ve written a lot of posts about the problems, including high costs, of overscreening and overtreating. (We spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on unnecessary healthcare!)

So I love this video by Andrew Lazris, MD, and Erik Rifkin, PhD. They use the visual of 1000 women sitting in a theater to illustrate why screening mammograms are not the life savers many women think they are.

A picture (or video) is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?

I understand Lazris and Rifkin want to create more videos to … Continue reading

Don’t reach for Life Line screenings

I first posted about Life Line screenings two years ago. I’m re-posting today as this post still gets a lot of traffic and I wanted to reopen the comments. 

life line screeningsOvertreating, 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, … Continue reading

How to read your pathology report

Last week  I posted that you should always ask for a copy of your medical reports.

One of the downsides, of course, is that those reports are often written in medical language that can be confusing or alarming.

But in response to a more savvy patient population, the College of American Pathologists has made a video to explain how the system works and to encourage patients to be involved in obtaining and understanding their pathology reports.

You can watch the video here on the medical website KevinMD.

They also created a two-page educational brochure to guide a patient through … Continue reading

Always ask for your medical test results

An error of omission

A few weeks ago there was a lot of news about how medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease and cancer.

A medical error is defined as “an unintended act (either of omission or commission) or one that does not achieve its intended outcome.”

And now a Philadelphia paper is highlighting one very common mistake: when you and/or your doctor are not informed about a serious finding on a medical test.

The article explains that a well-known local musician (which is why this story is popular on … Continue reading

Healthcare journalist Peggy Girshman writes her own eulogy

I’ve been a fan of Peggy Girshman’s science and healthcare writing for a long time, so it was with great sadness that I read about her death in March at the young age of 61.

But in tribute to her award-winning journalism career, which included long stints at both NPR and Kaiser Health News, she actually wrote her own eulogy!

She wanted to share a few simple lessons she had learned from her years on the job of reporting healthcare-related stories. Because they resonate with my own view that we need more health and less medicine, I wanted … Continue reading

Screening kids for lead poisoning

The high lead levels in Flint, Michigan’s water supply have been news for several months. There’s been a lot of finger pointing and congressional hearings and such, but the bottom line is that because an agency didn’t do its job properly, the health of many kids was put at risk.

Lead poisoning is especially serious in infants and young children, as it interferes with brain development.

Sadly, the situation in Flint is not unique. Washington, DC, had a similar crisis a few years ago, and just last week my home state, Washington, reported that 34 water systems had lead … Continue reading

The S-RAY – Dental imaging without radiation

One of the great things about living in Seattle is that because we are home to so many biotech companies, I often hear about innovative devices before they’re on the market.

I like to see (sometimes) where health technology is taking us.

I just saw a news report on a new dental imaging x-ray that actually isn’t an x-ray because it doesn’t use radiation. Instead it uses ultrasound, and it’s called the S-RAY.

I’ve posted before about the dangers of too much radiation from imaging studies, including dental x-rays. Dentists frequently order x-rays every year, even though the American … Continue reading

Be informed – PSA screening tests

PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen. It’s a blood test used to screen for prostate cancer.

Doctors used to recommend an annual PSA test for men over 40. But now we know that the PSA is not a good screening tool. It results in a high number of false positives, and not all forms of prostate cancer need to be treated.

Too many men have received unpleasant, expensive treatment they didn’t need.

In an excellent YouTube video, Dr. Mike Evans explains more:

In 2012 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against Continue reading