October 9, 2020

National Health Literacy Month

It would be tough to find a time in our history when being health literate had more life-and-death significance than right now. We're bombarded with blasts of information--reliable and not so much. To be empowered and engaged health care advocates for ourselves and others, we have to know how to tell them apart. Let's be honest, it's not something we're that familiar or comfortable with. 

Health literacy is recognizing when, how and where to access, process and understand basic health information needed to make informed decisions. It is every patient's right to receive competent, appropriate and safe health care. Learn how to practice shared decision making and become the power patient you deserve to be.

What have you got have to lose? 

September 22, 2020

Do you have an identity twin?

Did you realize that the medical record your health care professional is relying on in treating you may or may not be yours? Patient matching is the process of verifying that the medical record accessed on your behalf is a complete and accurate record of your medical history and current issues. Even if you are asked for your first and last names and your date of birth, it's pretty likely someone in that database has those same three patient identifiers.

Almost 10 percent of medical records kept within a single clinic or hospital lack patient matching. If your provider is part of a larger organization with several facilities or locations, lack of patient matching can occur up to half the time. Misidentification leads to dangerous and costly medical errors, such as having the wrong test, getting someone else's test results, medication errors and even a mistaken diagnosis. 

To be safer, volunteer several key identifiers when you are in the health care system: name, birthdate, address, Social Security Number and phone number. And review the highlights of your medical record anytime a treatment decision needs to be made, to make sure that health care information is all yours. 

August 19, 2020

Is this a good use of health care research resources?

In the midst of the pandemic, Dartmouth has studied 137 federal and state CoVid-19 related web pages and concluded they are all in violation of recommendations by the CDC, the AMA and the National Institutes of Health to keep medical information at a health literacy reading level of no more than eighth grade. Good to know. 

Of course, since Dartmouth has both a medical school and a school of public health, I’m thinking it might have been a more practical use of that research time and money to gather relevant CoVid-19 information, put it in language that even you and I can understand and distribute it to the public. Dartmouth would have gotten some positive free publicity and they would have been providing useable health care information to the public. 

(Just for the hell of it, I checked Dartmouth's website for public information on CoVid-19 and, according to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade readability scale, it’s written at eight grades above the reading level recommended by the CDC, AMA and NIH.)

August 5, 2020

It's true, we have a health literacy problem in America

Suddenly there's a lot of chatter about how Americans aren't very well equipped to cope with the pandemic because we're so health illiterate. 

Far be it from me to argue that we don't have a health literacy problem in this country, because we do. But let's say a person were to have all the skills and tools needed to access needed health care decision making information. Which "expert" should that health literate consumer rely on? The one who says a mask is the only thing that lies between you and certain doom? Or the one who says it should be business as usual in America? 

Do we have a health literacy problem in America? Absolutely. Is that why health care consumers don't know what the hell to do right now? Absolutely not. 

June 1, 2020

You know what's most scary about all that's going on around us?

The circumstances that frighten us the most, that give us the greatest anxiety and that leave us unable to make rational, well-considered and fully informed decisions are the ones that leave us feeling out of control. Whether it's the dangers of a pandemic or the shaky economy in its wake or civil unrest or a challenging leg in our personal health care journey--any one of those factors can leave us with a sense of insecurity. Bring on two or more of them at once and rational medical decision making goes out the window.

That's why being health literate and having a process in place for making informed decisions about one's health care is so important. It's a Gobsmacked Preparedness Plan, having a set of tools and skills at the ready in case of unexpected circumstances on a national--or personal--level. 

If anything good can come from facing such unexpected turns in the road, it may be that we are prompted to be more prepared for the next one to come. And come they will. Consider your level of health literacy and sharpen your skills, if needed. Above all, be safe out there. 

April 8, 2020

This crisis is shedding light on yet another challenge

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to pen a Des Moines Register guest editorial on the health care supply chain challenges brought to light by the CV-19 pandemic. I hope we will continue to address the issues of increased demands and dwindling resources long after we have come through this crisis--and we will come through it.  Be safe out there. 

March 26, 2020

Being health literate is more important than ever!

It's crucial that we practice health literacy in the coming days. Here's the facts:   

COVID-19 isn't the first coronavirus. In fact, the common cold is a coronavirus. But COVID-19 is a new strain, a novel coronavirus. That means we're learning more each day about how it is transmitted, which populations are more likely to have severe symptoms and how to prevent it.  One thing that isn't new is that we have a shortage of health care workers and resources in America. That becomes a life-threatening issue when a pandemic challenges the system's surge capacity.

* COVID-19 has a higher transmission rate than the seasonal flu, which means each carrier infects about twice as many others. That may be because people who are carriers are slower to display symptoms, or may never have visible symptoms.   [1]

* COVID-19 has a mortality rate many times greater than the flu. While the flu usually takes the lives of about one-tenth of one percent of those who get sick, the rate of those dying from COVID-19 is estimated at 5 to 7 percent. That's 50 to 70 times more deadly. [2]

* The COVID-19 virus can remain in aerosol form (in the air) and on surfaces for about three days. Constant disinfection of all surfaces and remaining 3 to 6 feet from others is mandatory. [3]

* Four to six of every ten U.S. adults have a risk of getting a severe, and perhaps life-threatening, case of COVID-19 because of their age or an existing underlying medical condition. That's a double threat because of our lack of resources to provide immediate medical care (ventilators) and the permanent lung damage that can result.  [4]

* Severe outcomes from COVID-19 can occur in persons of any age. Being young (under age 65) does not make a person immune to this coronavirus. [5]

1.  World Health Organization  - March 17, 2020
2.  National Institutes of Health - February 29, 2020
3.  National Institutes of Health - March 17, 2020
4.  Kaiser Family Foundation - March 17, 2020
5.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - March 18, 2020

March 15, 2020

Now is the time to be health literate!

In the midst of this pandemic, it has never been more important for each one of us to be an engaged health care decision maker. That means seeking reliable and up-to-date sources of information and taking prudent preventive steps to remain healthy.

If you aren't sure what COVID-19 really is, how to avoid being infected, how to recognize symptoms or how to treat it, please spend some time visiting Johns Hopkins website or WebMD website. Educate yourself about this disease and take the steps necessary to protect yourself and those around you. 

Be safe. Be smart. Be health literate. Your life depends on it. 

March 11, 2020

The federal Commission that never was . . .

What we really need is a central source of workforce data so we can plan for the needs of the aging and chronically ill. No, wait, we already have it!  Just watch.

February 26, 2020

It's your choice: Patient or Pawn?

The Baby Boomers have been economic and cultural game-changers for over 70 years. Why should their health care be any exception? Just watch.

February 3, 2020

I'm still here

Folks are asking why they haven't seen a Spoof or Truth? lately. Well, it's not for lack of amazing health care factoids. Actually, I'm really deep into writing this new book, which has become a journey of its own making. Patient or Pawn? not only tells the story of what is coming in health care access (read: lack of it), but it also guides the reader in the path of self-preservation as we go forward.

Let me just say that what I have discovered so far has been quite eye-opening. More previews of coming attractions in the near future. In the meantime, stay tuned!

December 9, 2019

Are our Electronic Health Records safeguarded?

No, it's not a rhetorical question, but it really could be. A big part of the pitch for losing the paperwork and going all digital was the security of Electronic Health Records. Well, the lifeboat has sprung a leak. Just watch.

October 31, 2019

HAPPY HALLOWEEN and stop worrying about a Zombie Apocalypse!

If you lie awake at night worrying about an approaching Zombie Apocalypse, fuggedaboutit. Besides being totally on top of dealing with health care accessiblity for Americans, the government is laser-focused on the real threat to our welfare. Just watch.

October 23, 2019

National Health Literacy Month

Trust me when I tell you that the person most suited to advocate for what's in your best interests is you. But that takes the skills and tools of health literacy so you will know when, how and where to access the services and resources you need for informed medical decision making.

Imagine what your next health care experience might look like and make a plan now.

October 22, 2019

Sometimes a watch is just a watch.

The advances in health care technology are mind-melting. But have we really developed a simple add-on to your watch that will alert you when your heart is out of rhythm? Hmmm. Just watch.