June 4, 2019

No advance directives? No big deal, right?

Advance directives are a record of 1) your appointed substitute medical decision maker if you lose capacity and 2) your wishes for care if you are terminally ill or irreversibly unconscious. But it's okay if you blow this off, because your state's law will recognize a loved one to step in as your advocate, right? Just watch Jo's VERY SHORT VIDEO on Elder Orphans.

May 28, 2019

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

A fundamental of health literacy is preventive care--doing what we can to head off health care issues at the pass. It seems so logical. Wouldn't anyone prefer to spot a problem as soon as possible in order to treat it as effectively as possible? Maybe. Just watch Jo's VERY SHORT VIDEO on Preventive Care.

May 24, 2019

Tsk tsk on the ancestor shaming

Sometimes ancestors can be the convenient scapegoat for bumps in life's road. It's tempting to gaze around at the family reunion and think, "Well, it's easy to see where I got my [fill in the blank]."

Is having a chronic medical condition one of those times? Just watch Jo's VERY SHORT video on genetics vs. lifestyle choices to learn. 

May 15, 2019

Seriously? Is anybody listening?

This is more than a little disturbing. Iowa's position in U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings fell from No. 1 to No. 14 overall, and from No. 3 to No. 20 in the "Health Care" category. Best States RankingsConsidering that "health care" and "elder issues" were  conspicuous by their absence from both the Governor's Wish List and her I Got My Wish List, this is not really surprising.

When older Iowans gather, they talk about 1) their health and 2) how politics, taxes and the weather affect their health. By 2030, Iowa will be home to 144,000 more seniors than today. That means even greater demands on a health care system already straining to meet Iowans' needs. 

Is anyone listening? 

May 7, 2019

The secret to a long life?

It's one of those things that seems too simple to be true, but it is: falling is a leading cause of death as we age. And it's getting more prevalent, not less. Now, you would expect the numbers to go up, just because of our aging population, but guess what? The rate is also increasing, as shown in this brief video: Jo's VERY SHORT video on falls.

April 30, 2019

When is it most dangerous for a patient?

It seems like being in an Emergency Room, in the midst of a medical crisis, would be the most dangerous time for a patient. With so much multi-tasking going on, doesn't that setting hold the highest risk of a medical error occurring? 

Not so much. Moving between types of care--the time known as the "hand off"--is where a lack of communication is most likely to risk our safety as patients. For instance, going from the ER to a hospital room, or being released from acute care to rehab or going home. Just watch Jo's VERY SHORT VIDEO on the risks of the "hand off" to learn a shocking statistic. 

April 23, 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. 

April 16, 2019

Overnight epidemic of High Blood Pressure

This may be hard to believe, but the number of American men under age 45 with high blood pressure has tripled--since November of 2017! For women under 45, the number has doubled.

How can that be?  Just watch: Jo's VERY SHORT video on high blood pressure
In November of 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association adjusted their guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure ("hypertension"). They started by lowering the threshold for "high blood pressure" from 140/90 to 130/80. Overnight, nearly half of all American adults were classified as having high blood pressure.

So, when was the last time you had your BP taken? You know that funny looking machine at your pharmacy? Have a seat and check it out. 
To make sure you get an accurate reading, follow these steps:  GETTING AN ACCURATE BLOOD PRESSURE READING

If your numbers are high (and the machine's chart may not have been updated with the new guidelines), make a doctor's appointment to see what's what.

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. 

April 9, 2019

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

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. 

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.