Archive for Follow the Money

Your Comments – Loud, Clear, and Acted Upon

There simply are not enough hours in the day.

When the “good idea” part of your brain goes into overdrive, and the clock can’t keep up with it, then you’re left with the same 24 everyone else has – with more stuff to do, stuff that takes longer because it’s new.

Such has been my life since launching my patient empowerment and advocacy work in 2005!

All this to explain why I seem to have disappeared from the patient empowerment world – even though what I’ve really been doing is trying to improve the possibility that a patient can get better care – just in a different way.

That different way is through the world of independent patient advocates, based on an acknowledgement made a number of years ago which may ring true to you, too.

From 2005 to 2012, I used to speak to large groups of patients. I would speak on many different topics that related to being a smart patient, like how to make a list of questions for your doctor, or how to find credible information on the internet.  At the time I was also writing for about.com – which kicked me to the curb in 2014 (I still don’t know why!).  I met some really remarkable and wonderful people – who were getting the shaft from the healthcare system and just needed some good advice.

Over and over again, I heard the same comments.  “I know what you’re talking about is right. I need to ask better questions. I need to look up credible information online. I need to shop for better prices for my drugs. I need to vet new doctors to see if they are any good”… etc etc.  And then…

But I feel so lousy!  I’m so sick! I’m too tired! I just don’t have the wherewithal
to do this myself! I need help!

And so THAT is what I have been working on… finding help, and matching the help with those of you who are needing it.

And now – I’m back to blogging and writing again too!  Thus the point of this post.

Here’s where you can find the help you need:  www.AdvoConnection.com

And here’s where you can find my ideas and writing, specifically to help the patients who need it, providing help because – yes – I heard you loud and clear.  Find me at the AdvoConnection Blog.

Thanks for your patience over these many years!  I’ll continue to bring you the best I can, hoping it will translate to better care for you.

Posted in: AdvoConnection, Follow the Money, Health /Medical Consumerism, Healthcare Quality, Patient Advocacy, Patient Empowerment, Patient Tools

Leave a Comment (4) →

Getting Away With Murder? Public Records, New York and Across the US

ollyThis post is two things:

1.  A description of the problem which has to do with money, influence, and once again, it’s the little guy who will lose out.

2.  A call to action for those who live in New York State – where the most egregious of examples is taking place now. (And may be able to be stopped.)

The Problem: 

There is no one comprehensive and accurate repository for information about a doctor’s malpractice record in the United States that patients have access to. (the key: “that patients have access to.”)  Granted, there are plenty of doctor ratings websites out there, but their track records have been dismal when it comes to keeping up with even the most egregious of physician-offenders.

The one neutral reference we have had for learning about doctors’ track records, including the details of the errors of their ways, has been through state-sponsored doctor databases.  Now, these sites have flaws, too. For example, in many states, the information found in them them is self-reported. But at least these sites have teeth, and doctors know they can lose their licenses if they don’t report malpractice suits and arrests.

Even the best of the ratings websites (like Vitals or Healthgrades) have only limited information about lawsuits – usually just that they existed.  At least the state-run sites provide details like whether or not the doctor fought the suit and won, or lost, or what the damages were. Did a patient die unnecessarily? Did the doctor commit fraud?

(In fairness, keep in mind that just because a patient or family member files a lawsuit doesn’t mean the doctor was in the wrong.  And, it’s true, often doctors – or more likely their malpractice insurers – will settle out of court because fighting a suit is such a long, protracted, expensive event.)

However – the point is – that it’s these state-sponsored databases that supply the depth of information we patients need for doing our research on doctors we might want to trust with our medical care. Further, state-run databases and sites don’t rely on advertising, or extortion, or selling our personal information for their income.

The problem is – in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided to remove our doctor profiles site from the internet.  He said it’s to save money – an estimated $1.2 million per year.

Yes – do the math – that cost is 6 cents per New York State resident.

I think (personal opinion only) just as likely is that many of the governor’s friends (physician or hospital administrator donors and PACs) don’t want that database to exist.

Now – even if you don’t live in New York, this should be disturbing to you. Too frequently doctors move from state-to-state to try to escape their track records of abuse and death. At least state-run websites aren’t beholden to advertisements and selling your personal information to profit.  They are neutral and independent even if they aren’t updated 100% of the time. Further, if the site gets pulled in NY, then other governors will look at it as a way to 1. save money (a pittance, but to the uninformed it sounds like a lot) and 2. make those physician and hospital donors and their PACs very happy.  You’ll lose your access to that information in your state, too.

So – the call to action for New Yorkers (with thanks to Ilene Corina for this information):

If you want the NY State physician profile site to stay online, and the requirements for them to be updated to stay in force, please call the governor’s office and let him know. It won’t take you a full 3 minutes:

Phone Governor Cuomo at 518-474-1041 ext. 3.  Tell the person answering the phone that  “I want Physician Profiles left in the NY State budget”. You’ll be asked for your zip code (no more – no personal information.)

Today.

That’s my 6 cents.

………………………………………………………………….

Do you have advice or a story to share that illustrates this post?  Please share in the comments below.

Want more great tips for smart, empowered patients?
Read my book:  You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes (How to Fix Them to Get the Healthcare You Deserve)

 

 

Posted in: Follow the Money, Health /Medical Consumerism, Healthcare Quality, Hospitals, Medical Errors / Mistakes / Misdiagnosis, Patient Advocacy, Patient Empowerment, Patient Safety, Politics and Medicine

Leave a Comment (2) →

Chicken Little, Wishful Thinking and the 24 Hour News Cycle

chickenOne frightening and frustrating trend we’ve seen since the 24-hour news cycle became a reality (meaning – since we have all gotten used to, and expect, to get our news updated at anytime, day or night, everywhere) – credibility has taken a nose dive. We want to think we can count on the “facts” as reported, but too often they get blended with the not-quite-facts, the incorrectly extrapolated facts, the just-plain-wrong facts – and of course, pure fiction.

The “Who Can You Believe?” question became even more acute over the last week with the realization that NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who I have always liked and would still like to invite for dinner, thinks it’s OK to embellish the truth. If you would believe his stories, you would think he had been shot down in a helicopter or watched bodies floating in the New Orleans French Quarter after Katrina. Neither is true.

Now, Brian Williams doesn’t give patient empowerment advice.  But other so, and like Brian, they come across as so gosh-darn believable!  The problem is, sometimes they aren’t, and we have to do some due diligence to figure out when they are, or when they aren’t, when their advice is useful, and when it’s not, or even when it’s downright dangerous.

Do I think they are intentionally leading us astray?  Sometimes. Do I think they intentionally give us bad advice?  Sometimes.  Do I think we need to confirm their advice with another, more objective information?  You bet I do. Too often what we see is more Chicken Little or Wishful Thinking and not something we should put any stock in at all.

So where can we patients turn? How do we know what’s objective, what isn’t, what’s worthy of our time, and who we can believe?

That’s Gary Schwitzer’s entire focus – so let me tell you about Gary’s work.

Gary founded HealthNewsReview.org many years ago.  As a journalism professor, teaching his students how to write informational and objective news stories, he was appalled at the shift in direction being taken by large news organizations. That is – they glom on to “news” that isn’t really news, because they think it will catch someone’s eye (or ears) – and not because it’s really useful. Further, sometimes they simply regurgitate a press release from a pharmaceutical or medical device company, like “Research Shows that Our New Drug Cures Cancer!”  The problem is, too many people believe it.

But smart patients don’t believe any of it until they have investigated further and assessed its veracity.

I encourage you to take a look at Health News Review to see exactly the criteria Gary’s reviewers use to assess health and medical news stories. You might also be interested in his post about conflicts-of-interest among national TV anchors and medical correspondents. Eye-opening.

Gary’s criteria for assessing news stories are front and center, right on his homepage.  Additional information can be found here:  How to Assess Medical Studies

………………………………..

Do you have advice or a story to share that illustrates this post?  Please share in the comments below.

Want more great tips for smart, empowered patients?
Read my book:  You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes (How to Fix Them to Get the Healthcare You Deserve)

 

Posted in: Follow the Money, Health /Medical Consumerism, Media, Medical and Research Studies, Patient Empowerment, Patient Safety, Pharmaceutical Drugs, Politics and Medicine, You Bet Your Life!

Leave a Comment (0) →

Top Doctors and Best Hospitals – for a Price

You mostly see them in airline magazines. But sometimes I see a banner or badge on a doctor’s website, or even a hospital’s billboard.

Big proclamations they are!  Dr. Horatio P. Speshultee is a TOP DOCTOR as ranked by some organization or another.  Or ST. HARELDA’S HOSPITAL has been ranked #1!

Oh really?  Says who?

And, fellow patients, THAT is the key.  WHO SAYS and HOW MUCH THEY PAID FOR THE RANKING is the most important part of all of this.  Because if you are choosing hospitals or doctors based on such labels, the label originator and its purpose will have a huge impact on your ability to get the care you need.  Making bad choices based on the wrong assumptions can only be trouble.

I raise this today after reading this piece in the New York Times, Top Doctors, Dead or Alive.

The author, Abigail Zuger, MD reviews an invitation to her 16-years-long-dead uncle to be considered a TOP DOCTOR ranking.  Maybe he was a good doctor when he will still alive, but… ?  A little suspect at the least.

I’ve seen these sorts of invitations before. I get them from some company called “Who’s Who” – I can be a Who’s Who in all kinds of great things – from business to marketing and maybe even patient empowerment (although I haven’t seen that one.)  It’s a company that produces directories for those with an ego.  If you fill out the paperwork, and pay a sum of money (not usually more than $79 or $89) then you TOO may be listed in that directory and get your very own copy of it!

Please note – no one is vetting this list. No one is looking to see if any real accomplishment is tied to it.  You pay your money, you show up in the book.  And you get to list all your accomplishments, dubious or not, true or not. These companies have been in business for decades, hawking their flattery and reeling in the profits. I can only think that it’s intent is solely to stroke egos.  But hey – if it pays the bills…  who am I to ask questions?

Well – maybe I’m exactly the one to ask… because when it comes to proclaiming these doctors are any good…. well then…. (more…)

Posted in: Follow the Money, Patient Empowerment, Patient Safety

Leave a Comment (1) →

Sometimes It’s Better to Just Say No

Story One: When I was a child (and we’re talking a lo-o-o-ng time ago – when doctors made house calls)… if I got an earache, I would suffer.  REALLY suffer. Mom would drip some warm oil into my ear, and then stuff some cotton in behind it. She’d give me an orange flavored baby aspirin or two.  And I would just lie in bed, or on the couch, miserable.  MISERABLE.  Seems like I would sleep a lot. Two days later, my earache would be gone, and because I was a kid, and resilient, I would be back on my feet.

Story Two: When I was a kid, I fell off my bike as I flew around a corner near my house.  My bike flew off in one direction and I flew in the other, and landed smack on my elbow.  OH THE PAIN!  I pulled the cinders out of my arm, and cried all the way home as I dragged my bike with me.  That evening my dad walked me across the street to see a doctor who lived in our neighborhood.  He felt along my arm, moved it around a little, declared that I had sprained it, then put my arm in a sling where I was expected to keep it for the next few weeks.

Perhaps it’s miraculous that I survived childhood!  But I don’t think so.  I think any of us over a “certain age” had very similar experiences as a child.  We all had sore throats and earaches, we all sprained and broke bones – and we didn’t have the miracles of modern medical care to help.

Fast forward to today.  Today when we go to the doctor, no matter what the complaint, we are met with a barrage of tests, procedures and treatments.  If I had a sore throat and an earache in 2012, I would likely be given a strep test (chi-ching!) and prescribed an antibiotic (chi-ching!)  If I fell off my bike in 2012, I would be given at least an X-ray (chi-ching!), but more likely a CT scan.  I’d be prescribed an antibiotic (chi-ching!) and maybe even a pain killer (chi-ching!)  I’d need follow up testing to see how well everything was healing (chi-ching!)…

Bottom line – healthcare is so much more expensive today because we do things that we don’t necessarily need to do.  We are herded into services that we don’t necessarily need.  And (shame on us) we ASK for things we don’t necessarily need and probably shouldn’t get.

Don’t need?  Shouldn’t get?

Antibiotics, the miracle drug of the 80s and 90s, were so overprescribed that today the bugs they were intended to kill have evolved into superbugs. People die from acquiring infections that didn’t become problematic until the overuse of antibiotics.  Yet – mom takes her child to the doctor with an earache and insists an antibiotic be prescribed for her child.  Two days later, the child is no longer in pain.  (But is that any improvement over the two days it took me to get past my earache 50+ years ago?)

The existence of CT scanners, MRI scanners and PET scanners, and the need to pay for them, compel doctors to order those tests, even in cases when they may not be necessary.  Of course there are times when they are very necessary – but not always, and not as often as they are used now.  When it comes to so much extra scanning, it can create big problems for our health (too much radiation exposure from x-rays or CTs) AND our wallets – imaging is expensive, even when we have insurance.

So how can we know the difference?  How can we be a bit more savvy when it comes to test and treatments, whether or not they are suggested by our doctors?

Last month, a consortium of nine different medical specialties – the very doctors who make money when we have tests and treatments – came out with their lists of tests, treatments and procedures we patients don’t need.  They listed them all on a website, called Choosing Wisely.

If these doctors don’t think we should take these tests, then why would we have them?

What we know is that this elite group has made these recommendations.  What we don’t know is that those recommendations will filter down to the doctors who order these tests, treatments and procedures – because that’s how they make their money, and (they think) that’s how they can defend against lawsuits.  (We can only imagine how unhappy that orthopedist who makes his living running CT scans is with his own peers that tell patients not to get so many CT scans.)

So, knowing that our doctors may not be aware of the lists, or may have chosen to ignore the lists, it’s up to us patients to ask questions.  “Doctor, If I take this antibiotic, how soon will I feel better?  How soon will I feel better if I don’t take it?”  — or — “Doctor, I know an X-ray is much less expensive than a CT scan.  What will a CT scan tell you that an x-ray won’t?  Can I have just the x-ray?”

So yes, fellow empowered patients, it’s time for us to begin making smarter choices, both for our wallets and for our health.  Make yourself generally aware of the new recommendations of tests, procedures and treatments you just don’t need.  Understand that leaders in healthcare who understand about reining in costs, even if they are the ones who lose income, are calling out to their peers to make changes in their recommendations….

Unfortunately, anything in medical care takes a LOT time to implement.  But this is something we patients can do – and do with no detriment to our health OR our wallets.
……………………………………………………………………………………..

Want more Patient Empowerment?
Find hundreds of articles at:

Every Patient’s Advocate

About.com Patient Empowerment

and sign up for my 2x per month newsletter
full of Patient Empowerment Tips.

Posted in: Doctor Communication, Follow the Money, Health /Medical Consumerism, Healthcare Quality, Patient Empowerment, Patient Safety, Patient Tools, Self Help

Leave a Comment (3) →
Page 1 of 4 1234