policy

Ebola… Never! Measles? Sure!

With the end of the Ebola outbreak officially declared in one of the three greatest affected countries, it is worth reflecting upon the hysteria and panic that Ebola brought in light of the increasing prevalence of anti-vaccination movements in the United States. The death toll from Ebola was remarkably devastating and there is no doubt that this epidemic had one of the highest mortality rates of recent years. However, the way in which public officials and policy makers responded to this epidemic brings to question their relative lax attitude towards public vaccination intended to prevent epidemics just like this most recent one. Obviously there are unique circumstances regarding the Ebola outbreak linked to its severity, but why do officials and parents have no similar fear for diseases five times as contagious, like measles, that could leave their children with pneumonia, deafness, or encephalitis–just a few of several debilitating complications? This infographic below illustrates the relative deadliness and contagiousness of many of the most common and recent infectious diseases. Ebola is noticeably high on the deadliness scale, but one of the least contagious. Naturally, fatality should incite more fear than contagiousness alone, but given the complications of many of these less fatal diseases, they deserve more attention and concern than currently being given. Click image to enlarge. Nurse Kaci Hickox, for example, gained notoriety when Governor Chris Christie of New...

The Patient Experience Should Be a Doctor’s Priority. But Here’s Why It Hasn’t Been…

The customer is always right....

Why Does Healthcare in America Cost SO Much?

There are a lot of talking points flying around the public sphere about the true nature of America’s sky-high healthcare costs: Are malpractice suits to blame? Or is it the resulting defensive medicine? Is there over-utilization? Is it administrative inefficiencies? Or do all of these issues barely account for fractions of the problem in comparison to the larger systemic market failure contributing to the lion’s share of the U.S.’s unprecedented costs? In case it wasn’t obvious: it’s the latter. In his latest video, author and critic John Green spells out the crux of the issue in the clearest possible way, it’s definitely worth a quick watch no matter how much you think you know about insurance and healthcare policy. “It’s vital that we grapple with it meaningfully instead of just treating healthcare costs as political...

America’s Other Drug Problem [Infographic]

Welcome to America’s “other” drug problem – patients’ lack of medication adherence. A new infographic by HealthPrize (a company that rewards patients for adhering to their medication regimens) looks at the reasons behind why patients don’t keep up with their prescriptions. It turns out that almost a quarter of patients who don’t take their meds “don’t always trust their doctor or their medications,” a frightful thought for those of us looking forward to one day being healthcare providers. Infographic found on Visual.ly. Click to...

Dear Girl Scouts, I Love Your Cookies, But That’s The Problem

Dear Girl Scouts of America, I love your cookies. Samoas, Thin Mints, you name it, we love it. But that seems to be the problem. This morning I came across an article in MedCity News written by a cardiologist, Dr. John Mandrola, which acted as a sort of open letter to The Girl Scouts. Dr. Mandrola explains: “It happened while I was leaving a grocery store in the southeastern United States. The young girl who asked me if I wanted to buy Girl Scout cookies was strikingly perfect. She was thin, happy, and well spoken. So were her colleagues. The moms, too, were of healthy weight and cheer. It was as if they were English-speaking transplants from the Netherlands. They did not appear to be regular consumers of their own product.” According to the CDC, obesity costs this country about $150 billion a year, or almost 10% of the national medical budget. Approximately one in three adults and one in six children are obese. Obesity is an epidemic in the United States today and a major cause of death, attributable to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Our country has made great strides in the past decade or so to address this issue, especially in our youth. In fact, a study recently published in JAMA found that obesity rates among children between the ages of 2 to 5 decreased 43% between 2003...

Do You Know How Much a Blood Test Costs?

If the answer is no, look it up! I admit, I had no idea how much a blood test cost. But I bet most of you reading this article—aspiring docs and almost MDs—did not either (otherwise, why would you open this article?). Don’t worry. You are not alone. Study after study shows that the overwhelming majority of physicians and residents are in the dark when it comes to the price of care. This gaping hole in our medical knowledge is a big problem, especially in the changing landscape of U.S. healthcare. You’ve probably heard that our healthcare system is making a big push away from ‘fee-for-service’ and more towards ‘pay-for-performance’ or ‘quality-based care.’ This sounds nice on paper and it should– let’s hope– curb costs in the long-term, but it will pinch in the short-term. Whether we (future physicians) like it or not, conversations on costs will likely become a fixture as we step into the hospital. In the short-term, quality-based care is essentially a euphemism for cutting costs, which means pressure on physicians from patients and administrations. Our future patients will see insurance policies that have higher deductibles, larger co-pays, and more restrictions on care. They will be forced to pay more up-front and out-of-pocket. There are plenty of arguments for why this is good, but the bottom line (no pun intended) is that patients will increasingly question...

Wait! I Need Some Time To Think About It

Dear Adam, Ideally speaking, I should say that I am happy to hear back from you. However, I am genuinely sorry to hear about your newfound condition of Hereditary Sensory Neuropathy Type I (HSN Type I). Based on what I know about the disorder, which is obviously quite limited due to the ailment’s nature, the best treatment is indeed symptomatic therapy coupled with optimism for your health. The questions that you posed in your letter bring up crucial points. I agree with you that while we have funds from national institutes devoted towards the development of therapies for disorders commonly found in the populace, the rarest of medical conditions often go unnoticed due to the overshadowing influence of diseases such as diabetes and coronary artery disease. The study of the most unique of disorders serves the dual purpose of helping a select group of individuals suffering from incurable as well as unmanageable diseases and of expanding our knowledge about the intricacies of the human body. There are many scientists out there who are passionate about pursuing a career in finding out more about these rare medical conditions. However, national and government institutes that provide the funds for their work would rather boost their public image by providing their financial support to investigations of widespread diseases. It is a reality that is hard to face yet inescapable. Whether one looks...