policy

Why Health Advocacy Matters to Medical Students

The American Medical Association (AMA) endorses: Physicians must “advocate for the social, economic, educational, and political changes that ameliorate suffering and contribute to human well-being.”1 Canada has adopted a similar commitment. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and CanMEDS, a physician competency framework further elaborates the ways in which physicians are accountable to society when it comes to health advocacy: “described as responding to individual patient’s health needs by advocating within and beyond the clinical environment, and also to the needs of communities or populations for system-level change in a socially accountable manner.”2 Physicians are particularly well qualified to function as effective advocates for patient’s health. Not only do they understand the medical aspects of issues better than anyone else; they are also better able to observe and draw out the links between social factors and health. Physicians hold a high degree of trust with the public, as doctors are experts in their respective fields.  Therefore, “given their social standing, physicians enjoy an unusual degree of access to policy makers, to local and national leaders, and to citizens; thus, they possess a great deal of leverage in influencing public processes and priorities.”3 This is especially important in the world of pediatrics as often times our patients are those that are the most vulnerable in society and cannot advocate for themselves. This is precisely one of...

Tracking the Flu, One Thermometer At A Time

Since 2014 Kinsa has been promoting and developing their smart thermometers – a thermometer that links to your smartphone, allowing patients, parents or other healthcare professionals to record and track their temperature data over time. With this year’s record-breaking flu season, Kinsa’s smart thermometer has achieved critical mass, with Kinsa reporting up to 25,000 readings per day. With all this real-time data, Kinsa is claiming to be able to track flu season faster and more accurately than public health authorities, such as the CDC. Once your child has registered a temperature, Kinsa’s smartphone app gives helpful tips about how to treat and manage fever. But who else now knows that your child is sick? A happy side effect of having 500,000 smart thermometers in American households is a glut of data about who has a fever and where. Kinsa has a very savvy marketing team, and the company is monetizing not only their devices, but also their data. For example, Kinsa has created a school program, called “FLUency,” to market the devices to schools and parents. The FLUency program includes a school-specific app for parents to share symptoms, such as if their children are exhibiting coughing, sore throat, earache, etc. Kinsa has also developed “Kinsa Insights,” a reportal that sells access to Kinsa’s anonymized data, with the promise that Insights clients are getting the data directly from sick households, before...

Healthcare’s Future: What Happened Since The Election

The elections of 2016 brought about a significant change in the way American healthcare was run in the previous years. ObamaCare slowly took a toll as Donald Trump made his way into presidency: “’17 is going to be a disaster cost-wise for Obamacare. It’s going to explode in ’17.” (ABC News) According to Trump, the healthcare system of the United States needed a lot of work and that is exactly what the president was aiming at- a brighter future for healthcare. Over the years, the growth in presidency brought about a growth in the health plans of individual citizens, however, recently Trump raised an uproar in the repealing of ObamaCare. This post will discuss the major changes that have been brought about as Donald Trump took over presidency and whether or not the Republicans insight of ObamaCare brought success. Here we will discuss the aims, challenges and the proposals that was brought in by the elections. However, to understand how the healthcare system made drastic changes in the recent years, it’s important to first understand what exactly the ObamaCare was. What is ObamaCare? To put it in very simple terms, ObamaCare is a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made in 2010 which simply aims to make health insurance a mandatory option for every individual. Enacted by the 111th United States Congress, President Barak Obama finally turned it into a...

In Light of Recent Events: How CPR Can Help With Saving Lives

As a writer for this blog, I’m going to take this opportunity to discuss a topic that is not covered enough at most schools, and in society in general. I’m sure as most of you know, since the beginning of the year 2000, the United States has had a stunning increase in annual terrorist attacks, i.e. mass casualty incidents, in the eyes of health care providers. There have been over 400 documented terrorism-related cases and charges since 9/11/2001. Terrorist attacks such as the Virginia Tech, Columbine, San Bernardino, and Sandy Hook school shootings have left this country in a state of shock. Horrifyingly enough, the two deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred on 6/12/2016 and 10/1/2017, both in the past two years. The Pulse Night Club shooting led to the loss of at least 49 lives, with over 50 others injured. The Las Vegas shooting, which happened recently, left at least 58 people dead, and over 515 others injured. Take a moment and just re-read those last few sentences, let it sink in. Situations like these overwhelm the country, from both a medical and emotional standpoint, on a basis that is way to frequent for comfort. Many people will tell us that there’s really nothing we can do as “just pre-med students”, and they’re completely wrong. As a paramedic, there are 3 life-saving techniques that I think every...

How One Woman Pioneered Breast Cancer Research

The BRCA1 protein is a caretaker of the cell. When DNA becomes damaged, BRCA1 helps restore the DNA to its proper form or initiates program cell death if it is beyond repair. This ensures that cells maintain their intended function. However, if BRCA1 itself becomes damaged, it can no longer perform its essential role. Its importance is highlighted by the finding that when this occurs, there is a greater risk for developing cancer. Discovery of BRCA1’s relevance to cancer in 1990 was groundbreaking because it established that there is a genetic component to cancer, not just viral as commonly thought at the time. More so, it has allowed for screening for mutations in BRCA1 and the related BRCA2 gene that can identify at-risk women so they can receive life-saving treatments. These mutations are thought to be responsible for approximately 3-8% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. and up to 25% of inherited breast cancer. What may be even more remarkable than this discovery is the woman who discovered it, Mary-Claire King. Dr. King identified the BRCA1-cancer connection at a time when the idea of genes playing a role in cancer was radical. As a self-described “stubborn person”, she persisted and continued to push the idea forward. At the same time, she took on a leadership role as a scientist, despite training at a time when independent female scientists...

The Future Prescription Drugs Being Developed Right Now

At any one time, there are hundreds of drugs being developed around the world. Some of them could change the way we treat conditions such as lung cancer and asthma. Here are six drugs currently in development that have a real chance of finding their way onto shelves. Drugs are a very touchy subject for aspiring doctors — medical students have definitely taken the time to learn about prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry forms a big portion of the affairs that physicians carry out everyday. From the drugs prescribed to the clinical trials conducted, medicine is closely intermingled with the development and use of new medications. However, issues arise when the reporting on the safety, efficacy, and utility of these drugs remains undisclosed due to certain conventional procedures. If you are a medical student who has gone through clinical rotations, you might likely have had this experience (especially on the surgical floors). If you are just starting medical school, it’s something to look forward to! Medical students must also keep cognizant of the opioid epidemic. All it took was one-hundred words to kill over hundreds of thousands of Americans. A new report from the New England Journal of Medicine tells the story of how this short doctor’s note helped facilitate today’s American opioid epidemic. Read more about it here. Since opioids were not widely used forty years ago, so doctors did not have...

Drastic Times Call for Drastic Measures: The Opioid Epidemic and the Electronic Health Record

The over-prescription of medication has reached epidemic proportions. While politicians give speeches and draft legislature to address the opioid epidemic, the improper use of prescription medication impacts our society in many ways. For example, when a patient presents with a cold virus and is prescribed an antibiotic “just in case,” not only does the antibiotic cost the patient money, but it will have no effect on the cold virus. On a larger scale, these unnecessary antibiotics may encourage the evolution of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Most medical practices in America have adopted some sort of electronic health record system, but Americans have resisted a national electronic health record database, citing valid concerns about privacy and government overreach. However, Rumball-Smith et al., argue in JAMA that if carefully implemented and used wisely, the electronic health record (EHR) could address systematic problems when it comes to prescription drugs and “be a powerful vehicle for measurement and intervention around low-value care.” Image by mcfarlandmo / CC by 2.0 So why not implement a national database for electronic health records? The main advantage of this system is also the biggest threat – the ability to track information down the to the individual level presents an opportunity to intervene. But at what cost to privacy? A national EHR could show if a patient was soliciting pain medication from multiple doctors and flag that patient’s record. Or,...

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