Articles Posted in Primary Care

jcgoldseal-300x300The nation’s leading watchdog of hospital safety and quality  is quick to hand out its “Gold Seal of Approval” and rarely penalizes care-giving institutions, even when state and federal officials find serious problems.

The Wall Street Journal deserves credit for its investigation of the Joint Commission, the nonprofit and industry-supported organization that is supposed to inspect and accredit hospitals nationwide. It does so for 80 percent of them, as well as for institutions serving military veterans, federal prisoners, and Native American patients in the Indian Health System.

Hospitals can either join the commission and undergo its accreditation process—including regular inspections that typically are announced in advance, conducted with flourish, and which can cost institutions tens of thousands of dollars depending on their size and membership levels—or they can be inspected by state and federal officials. Most choose the Joint Commission.

vision1-300x200With youngsters now back to school, it’s worth noting how attention to seemingly small matters can make big differences in children’s health, well-being and academic achievement.

Kudos to Politico, the much-followed national political news web site, for following up on an excellent Baltimore initiative to test and improve school kids’ vision, including providing them with glasses if they need them. The idea here is simple and worth support: How can kids read, study, and excel if they don’t see well? Don’t they need help with glasses, which aren’t cheap and as accessible as they could be, especially for poorer youngsters?

That’s what led to the establishment of Vision for Baltimore—a public-private coalition that includes the city health department and public schools, Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Education, eyeglass retailer Warby Parker, and a national nonprofit called Vision To Learn. As Politico has reported, the group has set up a program with:

harvey-300x200Houston’s medical system was staggered, but it stood up to the pounding inflicted by Hurricane Harvey’s winds and rains. But for the millions of residents of the nation’s fourth largest city huge challenges will persist for some time to their health and well-being.  Texans’ tragedies may offer us painful reminders we should heed about planning and disaster preparedness.

The Gulf Coast, of course, knows hurricanes well, and experiences with Katrina, Rita, and other storms had gotten doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other care=giving facilities well-launched into emergency planning.

Still, Ben Taub—one of the metropolis’s major emergency and public care facilities—found itself inundated and struggling with sudden patient evacuations, while other hospitals, including many in the city’s sprawling medical center complex, stayed drier and open. The big Texas Medical Center had installed huge submarine protective doors, which it shut to successfully protect vital equipment critical to running hospital infrastructure. Even so, rising, rushing waters cut the center and many other hospitals off, making them islands away from stranded staff and patients in potential need.

eclipsepm-300x270e2-150x150e1-150x150Did you find the full solar eclipse to be thrilling and energizing? Hope so. And even if not,  you can start planning to see the next one in 2019 in South America and parts of Asia, or in 2024 in eastern Canada, the central U.S., and part of Mexico.

If you got your hands on good, protective optical gear for the Great American Eclipse, such as the special glasses that complied with the ISO 12312-2 safety standards, store it well, and it should be good to go, even a few years from now.

Or you might want to donate them—the global nonprofit Astronomers Without Borders group is putting on a big online push to collect the give-away glasses for youngsters in the developing world for so they safely can watch the next total eclipse in their areas. Smithsonian Magazine says the group in 2013 rounded up, then donated thousands of such specs so youngsters in west and central Africa could watch a celestial event that year.

caregiver-300x200Pick up that phone. Dash off a text or an email. Issue a dinner invitation or make a date for a casual lunch. Or just drop by to see that friend or loved one who struggles with the burdens of caring for someone in poor physical or mental health.

Why now? Why not? Paula Spann deserves credit for her latest New York Times column highlighting the “unbearable” loneliness and isolation that caregivers confront as, other experts estimate,  43.5 million Americans provide $470 billion in tough, unstinting, and unpaid work for loved ones.

Even as they do so, however, they often must abandon their own careers and chunks of their own lives, watching with sadness as their social contacts and intellectual interests narrow, especially as their worlds become consumed with washing, feeding, entertaining, and keeping safe a spouse, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or other loved one. Their woes can be especially great if they’re caring for loved ones with the increasingly common and hugely demanding conditions of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

records-300x200Although patients can protect their own health by getting copies of their medical records, few consumers get them, and fewer still take advantage of the federal government’s push to make records easily  available electronically, one of Uncle Sam’s big public protection agencies reports.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office also warns that tumult in the nation’s health care system, notably in Congress’ roller-coaster deliberations to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may disrupt patients’ relationships with caregivers. That makes it even more vital for consumers to have their health records.

The Association of Health Care Journalists deserves a tip of the cap for pointing to the GAO blog, where experts note that the ACA had supported a national push to get doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records with the aim of providing patients and caregivers more access and transparency about these crucial materials.

PE-Color-240x300The Republicans haven’t waved a white flag—yet. They may never formally surrender. But the GOP’s seven-year, take-no-prisoners campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has foundered. For good?

Political prediction is a knucklehead’s sport. It’s never safe to predict what’s going to happen, especially when unpredictable tragedies rear up like  Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis.

No matter. We now know painful truths about the politicians who have sway over our health care—and will continue to do so in vast ways, Trumpcare or no.

Donald_Trump-1-225x300Republicans in the U.S. Senate will spend a long Fourth of July break trying to figure if they can repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, with their Better Care Reconciliation Act, aka Trumpcare. Their bill, drafted in large part by just 13 GOP senators, some of the most conservative in the Senate, failed to win sufficient support so Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even could get it up for a vote before the holiday recess.

Lots of negotiations are under way.

In case you missed it, the Congressional Budget Office provided its independent analyses, scoring the cost and effects of the bill. The CBO estimated it would save the nation $321 billion in health-related expenditures in the next decade but would strip 22 million Americans of coverage, slightly fewer than would lose health insurance under the House-approved Trumpcare.

obesity-300x161Although weight issues plague Americans as gravely as anywhere on the planet, obesity also has become a global woe, increasing sharply over the last three decades in 195 countries and afflicting an estimated 604 million adults and 108 million children—roughly 10 percent of the world’s population.

No nation on earth, even with the terrible toll that obesity takes in economic and health terms, has found a way to get its people skinnier and healthier: Weight woes are blowing up in disparate places like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau, international researchers have reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Obesity is now a major concern, too, for the people of China, Turkey, Venezuela, and Bhutan.

Public health experts worry about the skyrocketing numbers of overweight people around the planet because evidence shows obesity to be a major factor in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other debilitating conditions.  These afflictions, combined with weight issues—including among those considered to be too heavy but not necessarily obese—contributed to four million deaths in 2015 alone, said the experts, participating as part of the Global Burden of Disease initiative.

Kellyanne_Conway-214x300Don’t  tune out because conventional wisdom suggests it’s “just” a program for the poor. The partisans’ planned push for changes to Medicaid could have significant consequences for millions of Americans, many of them middle-class, older, disabled, and sick.

The Medicaid changes, as various officials like counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, have described them without detail for now, also could stagger state and local governments’ finances, including the already strapped District of Columbia, which might see a half-billion- to billion-dollar hole blown in its budgets.

Although significant and merited public attention has focused on the GOP’s crusade to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and especially how it affects health insurance, many Americans may not be as riveted by what happens to Medicaid. Republicans have reviled for years now a part of the ACA’s reforms that expanded the government program, but only, as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, if states agreed. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia did so, 19 did not. This meant that 11 million Americans, most of them the working poor, received health care coverage via Medicaid.

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