Articles Posted in Preventive Care

files-150x150A laptop and a cardboard box. These two items could be major tools in improving regular folks’ health throughout this year — and beyond — if they get launched on important tasks, pronto.

What needs to happen is for patients to be hyperconscious, persistent, and skeptical enough to start gathering vital records about themselves and their medical care. The documents they should have handy include all their medical records, as well as a file of any bills, insurance statements, and correspondence with providers about their treatment.

It might seem like a lot of bumpf. But consider, with patience: Doctors value the material so much that they make it their prime order of business in taking on a patient’s care to look fast and first at the individual’s health record.

cardmedicare-300x194Editor’s note: The blog will shift in ’23 to more episodic publication.

Just a reminder: 2023 will begin what could be consequential changes in aspects of older Americans, notably those age 65-plus and covered by Medicare.

As part of law of the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Democrats in the Congress and pushed by the Biden Administration, diabetics on original Medicare will see their cost for lifesaving insulin capped at $35-a-month under Part-D prescription drug plans. As the official Medicare site reports:

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In recent times, one of the issues most complained about by patients comes down to this: Why does my doctor zip through my office visit and fail to give me the attention I need and deserve?

To be sure, doctors these days struggle ever more with “efficiency” pushes in medicine by profit-obsessed business interests and private investors, combined with administrative demands — especially those tied to electronic health records.

These and other factors devour doctors’ frontline practice time. High-level policy makers, politicians, and regulators eventually may be forced to grapple with the rightful concern by regular folks that, as patients, they now confront the reality that a primary care doctor will spend on average 18 minutes with them in an office visit.

cash-150x150Editor’s note: The blog will shift in the days ahead to more episodic publishing.

Members of Congress raced at the year’s end to avoid the consequences of a brutal snowstorm battering huge swaths of the country. Before hitting the holiday exits, lawmakers approved a whopping $1.7 trillion bill to fund the federal government through the fiscal year and until next fall, spending giants sums on guns over butter.

Those who drill down on military budgets will be better positioned to determine the wisdom of the $858 billion appropriation by Congress for the Pentagon. The 4,000-plus pages that detail the measure’s allocations included $772 billion for domestic spending, including, of note for those focused on health care, items such as:

drunkstop-300x161As federal, state, and local officials seek to slash the nation’s spiking road toll of injury and death, law enforcement authorities need to crack down on the scary prevalence of motorists who get behind the wheel while intoxicated by marijuana or alcohol.

Indeed, as NPR reported:

“A large study by U.S. highway safety regulators found that more than half the people injured or killed in traffic crashes had one or more drugs, or alcohol, in their bloodstreams. Also, just over 54% of injured drivers had drugs or alcohol in their systems, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient in marijuana, the most prevalent, followed by alcohol, the study published [Dec. 13] by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found. Although the study authors say the results can’t be used to gauge drug use on the roads nationwide, they say the high number of drivers, passengers, and other road users with drugs in their systems is concerning.”

newportswiki-300x197Californians have accomplished something that federal regulators have failed to — despite long, difficult campaigning. Voters in the biggest state in the nation not only have banned Big Tobacco from peddling its flavored products that target and exploit communities of color and the young. They also have defeated the industry in its legal challenges.

Big Tobacco had launched urgent appeals of the November ballot initiative banning flavored tobacco products only to see the U.S. Supreme Court decline to consider its case, the New York Times reported:

“As is the [high] court’s practice when it rules on emergency applications, its brief order gave no reasons. There were no noted dissents. R.J. Reynolds, the maker of Newport menthol cigarettes, had asked the justices to intervene before [Dec. 21], when the law is set to go into effect. The company, joined by several smaller ones, argued that a federal law, the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, allows states to regulate tobacco products but prohibits banning them … State officials responded that the federal law was meant to preserve the longstanding power of state and local authorities to regulate tobacco products and to ban their sale. Before and after the enactment of the federal law, they wrote, state and local authorities have taken action against flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes.”

ascnesionlogo-300x102Big hospitals and hospital chains have wailed, with considerable justification, since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic about financial damages they have suffered due to costly shortages of desperately needed health staff. But the institutions fostered this staffing crisis, with profit-ravenous suits in executive suites boosting hospital bottom lines in flusher times by slashing one of the biggest expenses in the business — frontline health care workers.

To see this up close, let’s zoom in on the experiences of Ascension, one of the nation’s largest chains, to see how hospitals plunged themselves into an economic and medical care mire, the New York Times reported:

“Ascension …spent years reducing its staffing levels in an effort to improve profitability, even though the chain is a nonprofit organization with nearly $18 billion of cash reserves. Since the start of the pandemic, nurses have been leaving hospitals in droves. The exodus stems from many factors, with the hospital industry blaming Covidstaff burnout, and tight labor markets for acute shortages of staff. But a New York Times investigation has found that hospitals helped lay the groundwork for the labor crisis long before the arrival of the coronavirus. Looking to bolster their bottom lines, hospitals sought to wring more work out of fewer employees. When the pandemic swamped hospitals with critically ill patients, their lean staffing went from a financial strength to a glaring weakness.

Doctors working in hospital emergency departments face chaos, violence and high stress every day, and usually they get the diagnosis and treatment right. But, and it’s a big but, as often as one in seventeen ER visits ends with a misdiagnosis, which can have deadly consequences. Those medical misdiagnosis are newly estimated by Johns Hopkins medical school researchers as a significant peril for patients across the country.

Doctors in the too-often harried ER environs fail to correctly “identify serious medical conditions like stroke, sepsis and pneumonia,” leading to the deaths of as many as 250,000 patients each year, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center found in their work for a federal health care oversight agency. The New York Times reported this of the work:

“The study, released [Dec. 15] by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, estimates roughly 7.4 million people are inaccurately diagnosed of the 130 million annual visits to hospital emergency departments in the United States. Some 370,000 patients may suffer serious harm as a result. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, under a contract with the agency, analyzed data from two decades’ worth of studies to quantify the rate of diagnostic errors in the emergency room and identify serious conditions where doctors are most likely to make a mistake. Many of the studies were based on incidents in European countries and Canada, leading some officials of U.S. medical organizations to criticize the researchers’ conclusions.

boozexmas-150x150Cardiologists and other doctors have words to the wise for the aging, party-hearty-for-the-holidays crowd: Excessive boozing, as part of their seasonal merry making, puts those who partake of too much liquid cheer at heightened risk of heart problems.

The last thing, too, that public safety advocates would want to see in times when the nation is battling a rising road toll is any more intoxicated motorists.

Experts have become sufficiently savvy about the health damage caused heavy seasonal drinking that they developed a name for the harmful condition: holiday heart syndrome, the New York Times reported:

FDA-Logo-300x167In regular places, when alarms blare and it becomes clear that a big, important something is broken and threatens folks’ well-being, those with common sense race to make needed fixes. Washington, D.C., is different. And members of Congress, the White House, and top federal bureaucrats already may be dodging a desperately needed reckoning for the Food and Drug Administration.

This  health watchdog is taking body blows about two of its biggest responsibilities — ensuring the safety, effectiveness, and affordability of prescription drugs, and its oversight of these same qualities with the nation’s food supplies.

The agency finds itself jamming the brakes on its hotly contested efforts to hurry prescription drugs onto public markets. And an independent foundation, which is often supports the agency and its work, has ripped the operations of its multiple food regulatory programs, calling them ineffective and lacking needed leadership and direction.

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