Doctors and policy wonks hear a lot these days about “low-value care.” What exactly is that, and should you care? The term refers to tests, medications, and procedures that add little to a patient’s health or well-being but which cost them or the system more money than any benefit warranted. Some of the earliest research that looked at this was done at Dartmouth, where they found enormous variations in the cost ...

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For centuries, doctors felt that their notes were their property, and none of the patients’ business. This attitude slowly shifted, and the Health Insurance Portability and Availability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 put into law the fact that patients must be allowed to review and get copies of their medical records. Despite this, access to records has remained a daunting task for many. A study done in 2017 of 83 hospitals, ...

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Earlier in June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) won a major legal victory by getting an injunction to prevent Florida-based US Stem Cell Clinic from offering its treatments. The company claimed to create stem cells from patients’ body fat and use these to treat a variety of serious illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and chronic lung disease. This company is just one of many that have sprung up ...

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Two recent patient experiences prompted this post. In the Wall Street Journal, Dana Hawkins-Simons described several years of being seen by specialist after specialist for her complaints of tiredness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, palpitations, shortness of breath and “brain fog.” She finally researched her symptoms and demanded that she be checked for vitamin B12 deficiency, which turned out to be the cause of her symptoms. Recently, the ...

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You can save your baby for $2 million. Can you afford to do this? If you cannot, should we all pay? Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a rare genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. All types of SMA result from a single known cause, a deficiency of a protein called SMN, for "survival of motor neuron." When SMA symptoms are present at birth ...

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A recent New York Times piece had the catchy title, “Don’t visit your doctor in the afternoon.” It was prompted by a study published in JAMA Network Open that had the much less catchy title “Association of Primary Care Clinic Appointment Time with Clinician Ordering and Patient Completion of Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening.” The study found that the frequency of appropriate ordering of ...

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As my patients aged along with me, I noticed both the expected increased numbers of people with some form of dementia and even more patients who were worried about this topic. Unless you have been away on a ten-year safari, you are very aware that dementia is a growing problem. Some 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, and similar numbers occur in most western countries. The incidence goes ...

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One of the arguments made against adopting single-payer health care in this country is that it would “lead to rationing.” This assumes that we lucky people in the U.S. have unlimited access to whatever health care we need and are at risk of losing it. This argument came to mind when I saw a few recent news items. One was that a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, recused himself ...

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A wag once said: “There is no such thing as a healthy person, just one who has not had enough tests.” As we make every minor deviation from the average into a disease, that jest is becoming uncomfortably close to the way our current medical system behaves. Part of the problem is that many diseases represent an arbitrary cut-off of a number. Thus, hypertension is defined as a blood pressure above a ...

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This is the scenario. You (or your mother) were admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. On the third day a cheery continuing care nurse comes in and says, “You don’t have a fever, and the doctors feel you can be discharged to finish your course of antibiotics, but your nurse tells me you are still too weak to go home, so we are going to send you to rehab. Here ...

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