Category: Personal Health

Alcohol-Related Health

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 5.41.54 PM Is that an oxymoron? Not according to a Princeton grad entrepreneur, who has used this focus to build a multi-million dollar company by the ripe old age of 24. As described in this Huffington Post article, the company’s product line consists of a capsule to take after drinking, and a rehydrating agent to wash it down. Result? A significant reduction in hangover! I won’t tell you how I know, but I will tell you unequivocally that this stuff works!!! Bottom Line. The article contains an interesting discussion about the wisdom of removing the short-term punishment of a hangover when the negative long-term effects of alcohol on patient health remain. I will leave that judgment up to you. BUT. If you are going to party hardy anyway, you might like to have these products in your medicine cabinet!

Male Care Givers

Care givers This is sort of embarrassing. In the several years (AAAHHH!!!) that I have been pounding out these blogs, I don’t think I have ever even used the term “care giver.” Worse, during the decades (AAAHHH!!!) that I did healthcare research, I don’t think I ever had a client that asked me to do a study of care givers. How can that be? Care givers, by definition, are actively involved in meeting the medical needs of patients. We use terms like “patient engagement,” “patient centered,” “patient journey,” etc., but never give much thought to those who are in many ways actually in charge. Wow! Let me try to correct these shortfalls today by referring you to this important AARP offering. The title of the piece is “Breaking Stereotypes,” which is very appropriate terminology considering that if we think of care givers at all, we typically picture the long-suffering wife or daughter. Read the piece. It is worth your time. You will come to realize that care givers provide basic household support. Finances, transportation, food shopping. You will also learn that they are typically the ones in charge of the medical care of their care recipient. You will discover that in many cases, the care giver must balance those activities with other activities, including a career! AND. You will learn that they are stressed! Bottom Line. After you read this article, spend a few minutes pondering the ways in which care givers should be included in the work that we do related to understanding and serving patients.  And join me in my promise never to forget these people again as I ponder a health care issue!

Chronic Pain Sufferers Suffer From Addicts

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 11.19.23 AM Huh? Translated, this headline refers to this article. In it, you will see lots of important information points dealing with the chronic use of pain killers. Like. 100 Million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain. That means that there are about 10 times as many bona fide chronic pain patients as there are people addicted to prescription drugs, estimated at 11 Million in the U.S. The problem is, the addicts create a stigma that taints the legitimate pain patients, often making it more difficult for them to obtain their prescriptions. Interesting to note here that the chronic pain patient population and the addict population have different demographic profiles, suggesting that the idea that addicts are made when legitimate patients use pain medications too long is just flat incorrect. Bottom Line. The writing of this article centers around the notion that pain patients who use pain medications chronically need to advocate for their situation, rather than falling prey to the stigma that can be attached to such drug use.  Here is a situation where getting the general population to understand some of the information contained in this article is truly important. A patient on medication for chronic diabetic pain should not also have to suffer from the “junky” stigma. Period!!!

Putting The “Me” In Endometriosis

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 10.40.07 AM Check this piece out and see what you think. My initial reaction was to gag at the “cute” verbiage shown in the headline above. Seems that AbbVie has partnered with Dancing With The Stars’ Julianne Hough, herself a sufferer from this condition that effects 1 in 10 women, to raise consciousness about endometriosis. Here’s my problem. I am not a big believer in raising awareness of medical conditions in general. People who still need to have their awareness raised about such conditions as breast cancer cause me some pause. BUT. Callaway has produced a whole series of pink golf club head covers for this purpose, and I saw many sets of these covers adorning the golf clubs of the pro’s playing in the Heritage golf tournament this week. Ernie Els is doing the same thing with his blue head covers for Autism Awareness. Etc. Whatever! But, further consideration caused me to realize that endometriosis is different. Probably. I am guessing that most women don’t know that it affects 1 in 10 of them, can’t recognize the symptoms, etc. Bottom Line. Like most things, consciousness raising is one of those activities that should be applied judiciously and thoughtfully. Translated, that means that we should stop yapping about things that people are already well aware of, and start to make some carefully targeted, action-oriented noise about things that are both common and under recognized

Don’t Worry! You Have An 80% Chance Of Being Diagnosed Correctly!!!

Mayo Clinic Sort of. When patients show up at the Mayo Clinic (pictured above) for a second opinion, fully 20% had been misdiagnosed by their Primary Care Physician. Moreover, in only 12% of cases do the experts totally agree with the original diagnosis, with the balance seeing partial agreement between the specialists and the PCP’s. Check it out in this Washington Post article. As is pointed out in the article, diagnosis is difficult. There are 10,000 diseases and only 200-300 symptoms. Little wonder that diagnostic error contributes to 10% of patient deaths. Bottom Line. Interesting. Second opinions by experts are clearly valuable. BUT. When should a patient seek a second opinion? Should patients be instructed on how to make this all-important determination? Should professionals in our vertical be involved in this educational process? I am thinking yes! And yes!! And yes!!!

States With The Highest And Lowest Paid Doctors???

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 8.28.38 AM Go here to see a ranking of the 50 States in terms of average physician salary. Bottom Line. Why would you care? I am guessing that you are not a physician looking for a State in which to practice. BUT. There are broader questions underlying these dollar amounts. Things like why the discrepancy? And no, it’s not cost of living. And what do these different compensation levels mean for the kinds (?) of physicians that wind up being attracted to practice in these states, etc. Interesting stuff!

If Legalizing Same Sex Marriages Reduces Suicide Rates Among Homosexual Adolescents, Then …

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 2.56.03 PM What? A recent study found that legalization of same sex marriages has significantly reduced the rate of adolescent suicide attempts among kids who are members of  sexual minorities. As discussed in the linked video, the working assumption here is that this drop is due to the reduction in stigma experienced by kids in these groups. While this specific outcome is no doubt a positive one, one ponders its greater meaning. At the extreme, does it mean that the legalization of other stigmatized behaviors would result in the avoidance of even more adolescent suicides? And if so, what are the legalization steps that would be instrumental in this outcome? And the unintended consequences of these steps? We can ponder, for example, the oft discussed (and now jeopardized!) legalization of transgendered individuals using the rest room of the sex with which they “identify.” Did thus reduce stigmatization in public schools? Suicide among adolescents? I frankly don’t know! Bottom Line. Today, spend a couple of minutes and ponder the connection between “legal” and “popularly accepted.” I’m thinking this link is going to become increasingly important in years to come.

“When You Have Cancer, Time Changes”

Cleveland Clinic Having been provided with a guestimate as to when you are going to die, more politely discussed as your life expectancy, changes the way the clock moves. And every tick of the clock is accompanied by shear, unadulterated fear. True for the newly diagnosed, true for the experienced cancer warrior. Kudos to the Cleveland Clinic, that as described here, has specifically designed its new cancer center to help patients deal with time and fear. Bottom Line. You know what I am going to say here. In 2017, the concept of elegance in design, design that is meant to perform rather than to just decorate, is still grossly underrated in health care. This, despite an adequate, if not overwhelmingly large, army of designers that can make this right.  Why?

$$$YUP$$$

Gartner You could sort of see this one coming. A recent Gartner study, that tapped into 10,000 survey respondents, found that wearables are seen by many as being too expensive for the limited functionality that they provide. Thus, it is not surprising that sales of wearables, from Apple Watches to fitness trackers, were disappointing to their manufacturers in 2016. A brief reminder of how new product category introductions work. Especially with bright shiny new technologies like wearables, initial product uptake is driven by early adopters. Here’s the kicker. These shoppers are driven by a desire to try out something new, and are not constrained by practicalities like usefulness or cost. For most shoppers, on the other hand, products, and especially high priced products, must demonstrate bang for the buck in order to get purchased in large numbers. Clearly, that is not what is happening here. Of more specific interest to us, the health and wellness functionality that was supposed to be so compelling for the wearables has largely turned out to be a non-starter. While lunatics like me still wear our FitBits or Garmin equivalents, most people are less than fascinated by tracking their heart rates, breathing rhythms, sleep patterns, etc. on an ongoing basis. Bottom Line. The learnings of all this? Once again, the lure of the latest bright, shiny things has failed to convert into anything sustainable on a wide scale. Will this change?  The results of the Gartner study, supported by common sense, indicate that either functionality will need to go way up, or cost way down, for wearables to deliver on their healthcare promise.  Stay tuned!

Women Are Better Doctors Than Men!

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-11-57-03-am According  to recent reports, that rather inflammatory and sexist headline actually seems to be correct. Drill down and you find that men and women practice medicine differently. For example, women are more likely to follow medical standards of care than are their male counterparts, and to spend more time on patient education. Two rather important upshots of this. First, the statistical observation that if we could get men to practice like women, we could save 30,000 lives a year. Ponder that for a moment. Then, move on to the fact that although women are actually superior practitioners, they make an average of $20,000 LESS than do their male counterparts. Bottom Line. Any of this actionable? Not sure at the societal level, but at a personal level it was interesting for me to note that ALL of the physicians that care for my wife and I are females. PCP, surgeons, the whole lot. AND. We never sought out female physicians, we just sought out the best. So there you have it!