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

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

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

Parents – Don’t use FluMist this flu season

Kids need flu shots!

Pediatricians recommend all children over the age of 6 months get a yearly flu shot.

In previous years, a nasal spray version of the flu vaccine, FluMist, has been available to parents who wanted to avoid subjecting their children to another needle jab.

But for the last 3 years FluMist has not been nearly as effective as the standard flu shot. So for the 2016-2017 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) are recommending against FluMist for flu prevention.

For the 2016-2017 flu season, the Advisory Committee on

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FDA finally bans triclosan, but only in soaps

triclosanTriclosan isn’t effective

Finally!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began drafting guidelines for the use of the popular antibacterial, triclosan, about 40 years ago.

Two years ago they announced they were ready to implement some much-needed oversight of this chemical. They asked the manufacturers of soaps and body washes to provide more evidence of both its effectiveness and safety.

Well, those companies came up short. Last week the FDA made its final decision to ban triclosan and some other chemicals used in “antibacterial” soaps.

Manufacturers haven’t shown that these ingredients are any more effective than plain

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Vaccines and immunization schedules

immunization schedulesKids and vaccines

It’s that time of year when the days shorten, 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 hope they do.

I am a fervent believer in vaccinations, even though I live in the state (Washington) with–sadly–the highest “opt out” rate  in the country.

In 1998 a medical journal published a paper by (now debunked and disgraced) scientist Andrew Wakefield. He implied a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. Since then, many parents have feared vaccinating their … Continue reading

Home remedies for heartburn

heartburnImmediate relief

The other day a family member asked for my advice on treating heartburn. It’s a common problem and fortunately there are many lifestyle changes and simple products to try before spending money on doctors’ appointments and prescription medications.

For the occasional case of heartburn following a large meal, or eating too late at night, or being more stressed than usual, try a herbal product or one of the inexpensive over-the-counter antacids.

  • Chamomile has a mild healing and protective effect on the digestive tract. Choose a good-quality tea bag and enjoy a cup after a meal.
  • Peppermint also has
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John Oliver on scientific studies

I love John Oliver and his show Last Week Tonight. Maybe because he frequently comments on or makes fun of our behemoth and costly healthcare system.

Related post: John Oliver mocks Big Pharma tactics

If you missed it, here’s the video of his show lampooning “scientific studies.” You know, the research mass media loves to package into scary sound bites (everything causes cancer) and healthcare corporations use to sell us something we probably don’t need.

TODD Talks

Especially funny is this skit that shows how those TV infomercials can beguile us into thinking their … Continue reading

A homeopathic parody

A friend sent me a YouTube link to a hilarious comic sketch that parodies homeopathy: Homeopathic A&E.

It’s by a pair of British comics, David Mitchell and Robert Webb. A&E stands for Accident and Emergency, the British equivalent of ER.

To understand why it’s so funny, you need to know that homeopathy’s alternative-reality medicine is based on a belief that “like cures like,” with remedies prepared into extremely diluted solutions.

I love the pub scene at the end!

There are plenty of scientists and physicians who have spoken out against homeopathy and provided scientific evidence … Continue reading

Rats, cell phones and cancer

rats, cell phones and cancerScary headlines sell news

Last week the media blitzed us with headlines that linked cell phones with an increased risk of brain and heart cancers.

Don’t believe everything you read in a headline!

That news story was based on a study out of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that looked at the effect of cell phone radiation on rats.

Most journalists, if you bothered to read the entire article, did point out that the study was not perfect and it did use rats, after all, and not humans.

However, if you just read the headlines or skimmed … Continue reading

How to prevent osteoporosis

prevent osteoporosisMay is National Osteoporosis Month

I can’t let May and the NOF’s awareness campaign pass without giving a shout out to the best way to prevent bone loss or osteoporosis.

It’s not taking enormous calcium supplement tablets every day or occasionally choking down a couple of chalky TUMS.

It’s a combination of eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and exercising every day.

Actually, no one can prevent bone loss altogether. That’s like saying you can prevent wrinkles. As we age our bones lose strength and flexibility. But we can slow the process down and prevent it from turning into significant Continue reading

“Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?”

gwyneth paltrowDon’t take health advice from celebrities

I just finished reading a thoughtful, informative and thoroughly entertaining book that examines how our celebrity-crazy culture affects our healthcare and lifestyle choices.

In “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?”, author Timothy Caulfield makes it his quest to “analyze and debunk the messages and promises” behind celebrities’ overhyped and oversold health, diet and beauty products.

Indeed, celebrity culture has emerged as one of the most significant and influential sources of pseudoscientific blather….The popularity of juicing, cleanses, detox diets, weird exercise routines, and a boatload of beauty and antiaging products and practices can be

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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

“End of the Line” for medical guidelines

Knowledge is king

That’s the take home message from Professor (of pharmacy) James McCormack’s latest parody video, End of the Line, which takes a whack at healthcare’s increasingly pervasive and rigid medical guidelines.

 

If followed to the letter, these guidelines (often based on research funded by drug companies) would have everyone diagnosed with a disease and taking one or more medications. Medical guidelines may be great for the drug business, but not so much for individualized, patient-centric care and shared decision-making.

Chronic disease state guidelines (blood pressure/lipids/glucose/bone density) do not provide clinicians with

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