April 10, 2019

Health care's panacea: Electronic Health Records

A local provider, Iowa Clinic, has just been handed a $12.25 million verdict due to an Electronic Health Records (EHR) screwup. The pathologist used a bar code scanner with too many records lying on her desk and the report showing prostate cancer was attributed to the wrong patient (resulting in a mistaken prostate removal for one patient and we don't know what for the other patient.) 4/5/2019 Des Moines Register story on malpractice verdict

On the same day, we learn that two Battle Creek, Michigan doctors have closed their practice because hackers wiped out their entire records system (patient charts, billings, test results, etc.) when they refused to pay the ransom. 4/5/2019 story on medical clinic hacking

That's a lot to take in. 

March 31, 2019

Once and for all: What is palliative care?

We'd like to think that all health care takes the patient's comfort into consideration, but in case it doesn't, there is a medical specialty that does: palliative care. 

Watch Jo's VERY SHORT VIDEO on palliative care to learn when palliative care may be appropriate for you or a loved one. 

March 20, 2019

Is the Apple Watch a "game changer" or "the worst heart device ever"?

In a recent Stanford University study funded by Apple, 420,000 people agreed to have their Apple watches send intermittent information about heart regularity to researchers. The findings? Let's just say that Dr. Milton Packer is not impressed. Dr. Milton Packer on The Apple Heart Study

Of the 219,000+ participants aged 40 and under, 341 were notified of an irregularity. In reality, only nine actually had atrial fibrillation. For seniors, 775 were alerted, but only 63 had a confirmed heart issue. The study did not collect how many episodes of atrial fibrillation were not detected. According to Dr. Packer, "we learned almost nothing of importance."

This is me talking: Just as Electronic Health Records are not a substitute for face-to-face provider-patient and provider-provider communication, neither is a little device on your wrist equivalent to prudent preventive care. 

March 14, 2019

2019 Patient Safety Awareness Week

"Patient safety" issues might bring thoughts of leaving a sponge behind during a surgery or allowing a patient to fall while in the hospital, but it's so much more than that. A "medical error" occurs anytime there is an unintended action that results in additional treatment, disability or death.

For instance, when the doctor misdiagnoses your condition because he or she doesn't have enough information about you, that's a medical error. If you make the wrong treatment choice because you don't have enough information about your options for care, that's a medical error. Failing to have a process in place for effective patient-provider communication and shared decision making is a failure in patient safety. 

It's interesting to note that the five most frequent medical errors could all be prevented by practicing the fundamentals of health literacy. See my TARGET: MEDICAL ERRORS for a quick reference guide on how you and those you care for can be safer.

March 10, 2019

I could not make this up

You may be familiar with the term "tele-medicine," but I bet you're not picturing this. At Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fremont, California, a "tablet on wheels" was brought into this patient's room so the doctor could tell him that his disease is no longer treatable and that he will probably not live to go home for hospice care.


Seriously? I got nuthin'. 

February 15, 2019

Don't shoot the messenger

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found in a PET scan study of 205 individuals aged 20 to 82 that 1) the women had brains that were an average 3.8 years younger than their actual age and 2) the men had brains that were an average 2.4 years older than actual age. Researcher Dr. Manu Goyal said that younger brains may account for the lower prevalence of cognitive decline in women, but more studies are needed. Washington University School of Medicine study

I'm just the reporter. 

December 12, 2018

This cannot be good

The CDC has just released data showing that average life expectancy in America has gone down--not up--for the second time in three years. This, in spite of all our medical advances. And wait until you see the reason. So sad. Jo's VERY SHORT video on life expectancy in America.

Not everyone's holiday season is merry. Let's watch out for each other out there. Peace.

October 31, 2018

Will your advance directives be honored?

There was a time (the 1970s) when we were most concerned that the medical profession would keep us alive artificially--using feeding tubes and ventilators--against our wishes. Now we have advance directives to spell out instructions for the use of life-extending measures. But do health care professionals always understand what we want?

In a series of "TRIAD" studies, Dr. Fred Mirarchi of the University of Pittsburgh has shown that a great majority of Emergency Department personnel are confused about what it means when a patient has a "Living Will" and when it is appropriate to forego CPR for comfort care only.

Watch Jo's VERY SHORT video on advance directives in the ER to understand how important it is to have an effective advocate with you in every health care situation, in case you are unable to think or speak for yourself. Words matter.

October 8, 2018

What the heck is "White Coat Hypertension"?

Have you ever noticed that your blood pressure seems to be elevated when you're at the doctor's office? Watch this video for a possible explanation:  Jo's VERY SHORT video on White Coat Hypertension

It's a push for me, but I work hard to go to my Zen place while I'm in the waiting room and then stop gabbing while my blood pressure is being taken.

Guess what? It works. Who knew? 

September 25, 2018

Be honest: Have you ever asked Siri or Alexa a medical question?

You know I am all about using the World Wide Interweb for health care research, as long as you know who you're dealing with as a resource. Northeastern University did a study on the reliability of Siri and Alexa for health care advice. JO'S VERY SHORT VIDEO on SIRI and ALEXA.

Busted, gals. The key to accessing reliable health care information as a building block of health literacy is the reliable part. 

August 29, 2018

Osteopenia is not just a chick thing

Think osteoporosis is a chick thing? Think again. Jo's VERY SHORT video on osteoporosis.

The risks for osteopenia and osteoporosis are not exclusive to women. Check out this Mayo Clinic guide to see if you should be keeping an eye on your bone density levels:  
Mayo Clinic Guide to Bone Density tests.

For an overview of bone density issues (whether or not you have a known risk), this comprehensive guide is available from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): GUIDE TO BONE DENSITY ISSUES.

Praemonitus, praemunitus: To be forewarned is to be forearmed. 

August 27, 2018

Sorry, but no ancestor shaming allowed on this one

Sometimes ancestors can be the convenient scapegoat for bumps in the road. It's tempting to look at family members and think, "Well, it's easy to see where I got my [fill in the blank]." But having a chronic medical condition is not one of those times.

Watch my short video to see what I mean: Jo's VERY SHORT video on genetics vs. lifestyle choices.

August 6, 2018

Is COPD really the third leading cause of death?

Chronic respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in America if you don't include the 251,000 people who die from medical errors every year--and the National Centers for Disease Control don't.

It's frustrating that almost all medical errors could be prevented using the tools of health literacy, such as sharing accurate information, being medication aware and practicing effective advocacy--for yourself or someone else.


Take a moment to watch and share this short video: Jo's VERY SHORT video on preventing medical errors

July 20, 2018

Wondering whether to buy green bananas?

Google's artificial intelligence group, "Medical Brain," has developed an algorithm that analyzes a person's entire medical records to make all sorts of interesting--and potentially crucial--predictions about health care outcomes and even life expectancy. Jo's VERY SHORT video on predicting your expiration date.

I am all about using every credible tool in the box to practice fully informed and shared decision making--as long as we remember that the computer only knows what humans tell it, so health literate decision making still comes down to effective patient-doctor communication. 

June 25, 2018

Have a modesty issue?

I just might have landed on a solution for you. You know, we are about to experience a dramatic increase in the health care labor shortages already being felt. Check this out: Jo's VERY SHORT video on the robot dresser