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

Deprescribing prescription drugs

What is deprescribing?

As an advocate for less medicine and better health, I love the latest healthcare trend of “deprescribing,” or cutting down the number of prescription drugs a patient is taking.

Dr. Aaron Carroll of Healthcare Triage explains the importance of deprescribing in this video:

Polypharmacy—taking multiple prescription drugs—has become much more common over the last couple of decades. There are more drugs than ever on the market, and the drug companies are spending billions of dollars to make sure we know all about them.

Related post: Bohemian Polypharmacy

The elderly are especially … Continue reading

Make safety a priority this Fourth of July!

fireworks injuriesAny nurse who has worked in an emergency department, especially in a children’s hospital, dreads the Fourth of July.

We’ve seen what fireworks can do to a hand. Or a face. It’s not pretty. (Look on YouTube if you don’t believe me.)

Every state has its own laws on what fireworks are legal. Many cities and communities ban fireworks because of fire danger.

But even legal fireworks are risky and bans don’t necessarily stop people from doing stupid things.

The American Academy of Pediatrics makes this statement on their website:

​The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to urge families

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10 exercises you should never do

Be careful at the gym!

I’ve been working with a personal trainer to improve my muscle strength and cardiac endurance.

At one point my trainer had me doing overhead shoulder presses. After the first few lifts, I knew this was a bad idea. I struggled to lift the bar over my head, even with minimal weight (wimpy arms!).

Since then I’ve been having shooting pains in my right arm and shoulder. Then I watched this video from one of my favorite YouTubers, The Two Most Famous Physical Therapists, who confirmed what I thought: overhead shoulder presses are bad.

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,

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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

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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

The Seven Year Rule

Newer drugs are not necessarily better drugs

A few days ago at the gym, I was leafing through an issue of Health magazine.

What caught my eye was not the article about preventing stress injuries, or the recipe for a zingy, low-fat curry, but rather the pages devoted to ads for prescription drugs. Drugs to treat psoriasis, hepatitis C, dry eyes, depression, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, and overactive bladder, to name but a few.

Each ad took three pages. After doing a little mental math, I discovered the ads for these new prescription drugs made up more than 30% of the … Continue reading

Don’t use homeopathic remedies on children

homeopathic remediesHomeopathic remedies don’t cure, and they can harm

I’ve posted before about homeopathy and homeopathic remedies. In short, they don’t work. There is absolutely no sound scientific evidence that supports homeopathy.

Related post: A homeopathic parody

At best they’re a waste of money; at worse, homeopathic remedies may be harmful, especially to infants and small children.

In recent months, certain homeopathic remedies for teething babies have been targeted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

These products, Hyland’s Teething Tablets and Hyland’s Teething Gel, contain very small amounts of a well-known poison—belladonna or “deadly nightshade.”

How can poison be a … Continue reading

Healthcare’s perverse financial incentives

A hospital puts profits over patient safety

First do no harm.

That’s part of every medical school graduate’s oath. It should be the motto of anyone working in healthcare.

But I just read a disheartening piece of investigative journalism in my local newspaper, the Seattle Times, about a hospital where I trained, worked, and received care. The story highlights how the perverse financial incentives in healthcare (do more, get paid more) undermine patient care and safety.

…the aggressive pursuit of more patients, more surgeries and more dollars has undermined Providence’s values — rooted in the nonprofit’s founding as a

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LASIK – Know the risks

lasikLASIK isn’t a cure all

LASIK has tempted me.

I’ve been nearsighted almost my entire life, and began wearing glasses when I was 5.

I would love to wake up in the morning and not have to fumble for my glasses, or worry about my lenses getting wet in the rain or fogging up when I come in from the cold.

I would love to say goodbye to irritating contact lenses, and the yearly expense of buying contact solution, new lenses and some years new eyeglasses. They’re expensive and I don’t have vision insurance.

But the truth is LASIK isn’t … Continue reading

Halloween safety tips

halloween safety tipsWatch for cars!

What is the biggest risk to kids on Halloween night? It’s not an overdose of sugar, or the possibility of tainted treats. It’s the traffic.

The Mother’s Complete Guide to Halloween Safety says child pedestrian accidents increase 400% on Halloween, compared to an average day. The greatest number of accidents occur between the hours of 5 pm and 9 pm.

The guide gives the following tips for kids and parents:

  • Use crosswalks.
  • Stay alert to your surroundings—that means put the phone away and keep your eyes up!
  • Plan your route ahead of time.
  • Make eye contact with
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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

“Brain on Fire” – A diagnostic odyssey

brain-on-fireI just finished reading a really gripping and emotional story—Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by journalist Susannah Cahalan. (Soon to be a movie!)

As a twenty-something cub reporter in New York, Ms. Cahalan began experiencing strange, seemingly unconnected symptoms, such as forgetfulness, paranoia and the sensation that bugs were crawling on one side of her body.

The details of her weeks’ long medical journey—which she had to piece together from medical records, her parents’ journals, and the recollections of friends, doctors and nurses because she couldn’t remember most of it—are a pretty frightening look at today’s fragmented … Continue reading

Kids’ health – Avoid medication errors

The right medication at the right dose

The journal Pediatrics recently published a study that showed about 85% of parents make mistakes when measuring out doses of liquid over-the-counter medications.

That reminded me of this short video from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio talking about medication errors made by parents or other caregivers.

Using over 10 years of data from the National Poison Center, researchers found that children under the age of 6 are exposed to a medication error every 8 minutes: too much, too little, or the wrong drug altogether.

Most often, they found … Continue reading