Archive for the 'General News' Category

ABC’s Eli Stone — Gotta Love a Little Controversy

I’ve watched and heard plenty of controversy from those who are either upset, or elated, that ABC will be airing an episode of its new TV show, Eli Stone, tomorrow night.

Eli Stone is a lawyer who defends a lawsuit imposed by a family who believes that a vaccination caused their child to develop autism.

From the American Association of Pediatrics which believes (like the CDC, the IOM and other government and mainstream groups) that vaccines do NOT cause autism) to groups of parents and professionals who believe vaccines are at the root of autism…. they are riled up and making plenty of noise.

The AAP wrote a letter to ABC insisting the episode not be aired. The parent-group that shares the autism-vaccine correlation beliefs insists it be shown.

And my take on the controversy? It’s completely unrelated to autism, vaccinations or anything related to health or medicine….

Read what I had to say on About.com.

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Patient Empowerment on About.com

This is the announcement I’ve been waiting to make to you, and it’s finally time to spring it….

I’m pleased to tell you that as of Friday, About.com has launched a new site for Patient Empowerment — and yours truly is the expert behind the scenes.

aboutlogo.gif

About.com is owned by the New York Times — and has some impressive credentials:

  • About.com is one of the 15 most visited Web sites in the US
  • About.com is a top-ten content site
  • Every month, 34 million unique visitors in the U.S. (average; Nielsen//NetRatings) and 51 million worldwide (average: About metrics)
  • About.com’s content is created by a network of more than 600 Guides. These people are passionate about their topic areas, and have deep expertise and credentials in their fields. Guides make sure our visitors find answers and advice that are personally relevant, credible, and useful – all delivered in a human, accessible voice.
  • About.com is a “companion to your news” site, providing depth and breadth behind current topics

A big benefit to those with interest is the fact that we will have an ongoing forum on any topic of interest related to healthcare delivery — the good and the ugly.

Yes, this personal blog will continue. This blog and the one at About.com will cover different topics on any given day, so you’ll want to check them both. Comment on them, too!

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From the desk of (12/1/07)…

Miscellany from the week, not requiring full posts on their own….fromthedeskof.gif

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My big news is ready to be sprung! Although, through today’s blog, I’ll announce it “softly” — a bigger announcement is in the works for this week.

You may be familiar with About.com — tens or hundreds of millions of visitors each month go there to learn about 600+ topics of interest ranging from Women’s Issues to Fishing to Poker to Fashion to Football — and now — patient empowerment!

Yes — as of yesterday afternoon, the new About.com Guide to Patient Empowerment was launched — and yours truly is the expert/guide. Take a stroll on over! Let me know what you think! Join the forum so we can chat! And if you ever want to touch base, just link on my name at the top — my email address is right there.

The web address is: http://patients.about.com Why not bookmark it or add it to your favorites?

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An interesting report on the Thursday evening NBC news about differences in the way African American women are diagnosed, treated, provided with preventive medicine, etc…. It actually strikes me as the next revelation in the fact that medical research just can’t be generalized. First we learn that women require different diagnosing and treatment from men for problems like heart disease. Then we’re told that children can’t take smaller doses of adult drugs because “children are not simply small adults.” And now we learn that genetic makeup related to skin color affects the success of diagnosis and treatment as well.

What others are we missing?

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Has anyone else noticed this? Everytime I turn around — for the past several weeks — there have been more ads for health insurance on the TV, in the newspaper. From those plans that “pay you back” to supplemental plans for Medicare…. they must be spending millions if not billions.

Wouldn’t our premiums be lower if they didn’t spend so much on advertising?

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Today is World AIDS Day and it seems there’s not much mention of it in the press. My cousin Tim has AIDS. Tim is in his 50s. As a younger man he was a vibrant and talented actor, appearing in everything from plays to a soap opera in England back in the 1970s. Now, in these later years, Tim is a slave to the medications that keep him alive and by his own estimation, he doesn’t feel like his life has much quality.

My thoughts and prayers are with Tim and others who suffer through such a horrible disease.

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MRSA: Those With Power Aren’t Paying Attention

Two reminders during the past week about MRSA and the real problems facing those who are infected by it — and those who aren’t.

The first was an email from Genevieve who told me about her husband’s experience after knee replacement surgery. Two days after being removed to a rehab center, he began running a fever, and his incision starting turning red — obviously the sign of an infection.

He was transported by ambulance to the hospital where he had the surgery, and the resident on call proceeded to examine his knee — with no gloves on! Genevieve objected — loudly she says — “wait! what if it’s MRSA?”

The doctor turned to her and in a loud voice, exclaimed that MRSA wasn’t the problem everyone thinks it is, and she shouldn’t get so upset! Genevieve, however, insisted he wash his hands and put on gloves before touching her husband again. (you, go, Genevieve!) Fortunately, while there was in infection at the site of the surgery, it was not MRSA.

The second reminder came in the form of an editorial included in Health Leader’s Media by Molly Rowe called MRSA, MRSA Me. She tells about her difficulties this past summer in getting her “spider bites” diagnosed as the MRSA they were, and the ensuing disinterest on the part of her family care doctor when she was later scheduled for knee surgery and they didn’t care about double checking that her infection had, in fact, been healed. You can just imagine what might have happened had the MRSA spread to her surgical site.

Clearly, despite the media attention, despite the 100,000 deaths each year, despite the cost to hospitals of taking care of those who get sick from it — the very people who can make a difference don’t seem to be paying attention! It’s as if they take the concept of transparency (recognizing the problem so they can do something about it) to mean invisibility (if we ignore it, it will go away.)

It’s time those leaders in hospitals, and their staff, became “infected” with whatever impetus is needed to take note and take these infections seriously. Sadly, it will likely require some horrible tragedy — like the loss of a hospital’s CEO or the CEO’s loved one to MRSA — before the people in a position to make a difference will do so.

For now, we patients need to do just what Genevieve did. She proclaimed her dissatisfaction loudly to take care of the present danger. THEN, she got in touch with the hospital’s administration afterwards to complain. She is truly an empowered advocate.

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WSJ Interviews Every Patient’s Advocate

Not only was I privileged to contribute to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal (You Doctor’s Business Ties are Your Business, Too ) — but I actually learned even more than I knew before from the article!

The question asked by the author, David Armstrong, was whether patients have a right to know about any financial ties doctors have to the treatments they recommend. We discussed that topic last week while he was researching for his story. I told him absolutely I believe patients have a right to know, but it’s not so easy as just asking the question.

What I learned from his column is that there is a proposal in Congress called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2007 that will require companies to publicly disclose any payments of $25 or more to doctors. I also didn’t know that the American Academy of Orthopaedic surgeons has mandated, beginning in January, disclosure of any arrangements made between a surgeon and a company which will relate to treatment. So, for example, if you need your knee replaced, and the surgeon stands to profit from the new knee parts — s/he will need to disclose that to you.

Love it! Both are grand steps forward toward transparency and disclosure…

My contribution to the article was a response to the question whether patients should ask their doctors about financial relationships that might affect their treatment …. my answer might surprise you…. (and you’ll have to read the article to find out why!)

Then, when you’re finished, you’ll be interested in this post, too.

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Cancer, Chemo, Emotions: It’s OK Not to be SO OK

In the past few months, I’ve blogged a few times about my admiration for those strong women on TV who are in the process of, or have transitioned through, chemotherapy.

Yesterday Robin Roberts (ABC) shared her chemo hair loss story during Good Morning America. Once again, Robin rose to the occasion, showing incredible strength, and it seemed to me, almost afraid of her own emotions — as if she had put her emotions on a shelf, perhaps to be dealt with later.

That was in great contrast with Hoda Kotbe’s (NBC) sharing of several weeks ago. Hoda shared her experience, after it was all over, but was still incredibly emotional and, it seemed to me, very real.

Then later last night, a woman named Lynn posted a comment to one of my blog posts about Robin’s experience, saying she was diagnosed a week before Robin was, and has had difficulty watching Robin’s reports, because she just doesn’t feel so strong. Her challenge is not about putting on a very public positive appearance; rather, she is challenged by paying her bills. (Thanks for writing, Lynn.)

This morning, I went to the ABC website to see what kinds of comments had been added to the story Robin shared yesterday. There are well more than a thousand comments — I read only about a dozen. But they are overwhelmingly atta-girls, and written by other strong women like Robin. So where were the comments by someone like Lynn?

And then it struck me. There was no allowance for individual differences… the role model had become not just a role model; rather, now she has become the expectation.

I do think there is an incredible amount of power and confidence (and healing) to be gained by doing anything you can to control your situation when faced with adversity. Robin shared her mother’s wisdom which I loved, “Make your mess your message.”

It worked for me. Taking control of my own situation, tightening my grip — I steered my own course and as a result, avoided chemotherapy all together.

But some people choose not to do that, and I think it’s unfair of those who are more public in nature to create a new expectation level that is impossible, and not even necessary for someone’s health. Hoda’s example was probably the best. She showed us her true and difficult emotions. But her emotions did not make her weak; instead they made her very real.

So that’s my message for today. No matter who you are, no matter how public or private your health situation, no matter what disease or debilitation it is — don’t let these public figures set YOUR standard. Don’t wonder what is wrong with you if you can’t meet their levels.

Instead, find your own strength, and transition through your treatment in your own way. If dragging yourself to work is the best you can do — that’s still fantastic! If wrapping yourself in a blanket, lying on the couch, and sipping hot chocolate makes you feel better, then go for it! If putting on a smiley face and pretending you haven’t been affected actually makes you feel better — then more power to you.

But do NOT let anyone else’s managing of their disease and treatment become your own expectation for yourself. Lynn figured out what she can handle. I figured out what I could handle. Robin and Hoda figured theirs out, too. None of us let anyone else define our expectations of ourselves. We have all just met our own expectations.

It’s up to each of us — man or woman — to figure out what our own individual levels are, and then to rise to our individual levels of expectation for ourselves. That’s patientude, too.

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Behind the Counter Drugs?

When the doctor wants us to take a certain drug, he provides us with a prescription, which we take to the pharmacist to fill.

When we decide on our own to take a drug, we go to the pharmacy to purchase it. It’s considered “over the counter” (OTC) because it’s sitting on a shelf, available to anyone who wants to purchase it. You may remember about a year ago finding fairly empty shelves in the cold and flu section…. it’s because there was an ingredient in those medicines that was being abused.

So now it looks like there may be a new, more formal designation for “behind the counter” (BTC) drugs — meaning — you won’t need a prescription, but you can’t just pick them up off a shelf either. If you want to purchase one of them, you’ll have to ask the pharmacist for permission. That’s what happened to those cold medicines last year. (And I think I remember in my youth (!) that condoms and pregnancy tests were kept there, too?)

The Food and Drug Administration is taking comments on this concept — they want to know what we think about the concept of behind the counter drugs. The drugs in question could range from some of the statins (cholesterol reducers like Lipitor), those cold medicines I mentioned above, insulin, even Viagra might end up BTC.

A bit of background research tells me that locally based pharmacies think it’s a great idea — no doubt it’s the trust factor. Patients, in particular those without health insurance, think it’s a good idea. Big box pharmacies are afraid of the logistics. OTC manufacturers whose drugs would end up BTC aren’t happy at all. Doctors don’t like the idea because it takes some prescribing out of their control.

Learn more about the pros and cons and other’s opinions at Pharmalot.

What do you think? Let the FDA know: http://www.fda.gov/oc/op/btc/

This is your chance to be heard!

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