Preparing for a (Gulp!) Colonoscopy: What It Says About Our Healthcare System

As of November 30, I am now, as my gastroenterologist puts it, 39 + 11 years old. You know what that means! So, a couple of weeks ago I called his office to make an appointment.

I would have preferred to simply make the appointment online or even e-mailed the office, but since the practice didn’t offer this, I fought my phonaphobia and punched in the numbers. Of course, I went through five prompts before getting a live person and was put on hold for a few minutes. About 10 minutes later, I finally had my appointment.

I was told to arrive at 2:30 p.m., which I dutifully did. Then the receptionist gave me a stack of paperwork to complete. And a pen. Among the information I had to provide:

• My husband’s Social Security number, since our insurance comes courtesy of his job. Not sure why this was needed, since the receptionist made a copy of my insurance card, which has all pertinent information on it. Not to mention that in this day and age of identity theft, I don’t like giving out Social Security numbers to anyone. But the last time I refused to provide a Social Security number … Continue Reading

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mHealth: Changing the Paradigm of the Doctor/Patient Relationship

I’m in Washington, D.C., at the mHealth Summit, and what I’m hearing is so exciting I had to share. For those who don’t know, mHealth—or mobile health—is the hottest thing happening in health care, with the power to completely transform our healthcare system.

The overriding goal is to untether providers and patients from the requirement that our interactions occur face-to-face and enable us to interact in real time, whenever we want. It goes deeper than that. Wireless technology can even monitor our health without a healthcare provider involved.

Don’t believe me? How about a tiny device for your iPhone that monitors your heart rate, pulse, blood pressure and even movements, then runs the data through a complex algorithm and alerts your doctor or nurse if there’s a problem? This is a real app being demonstrated here.

So why have I unchained myself from my computer and come out into the world for three days? Because I’ve been hired to write a book on mHealth for two physicians and a consultant with a large healthcare organization. It’s one of the most fascinating projects I’ve worked on in a long time, and I’ll be writing more about it here. It’s fascinating … Continue Reading

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$25,000 and Counting: The Cost of an Infected Tooth

I’m  happy to report that all repercussions from the tooth saga have resolved. The only way you’d know anything occurred is  the small scar just under my jaw and the hole in my mouth where my second molar once resided.

Oh, and the pile of bills growing like mold in a petri dish.

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

So far, my insurance company informed me last week, we are up to $25,554.98 for the outpatient, emergency room, and inpatient care, including two CT scans, that I received in August thanks to the aberrant tooth infection that morphed into an abscess that required surgery to drain.

With the discounts the insurance company negotiated with providers, that amount fell to $22,903 (a 10.3% discount for those keeping track).

My share of the cost so far is $2,413.67. That doesn’t count any dental expenses, which are covered under my dental insurance. I estimate they total about $1,500 so far for  two visits to the dentist, three visits to the oral surgeon (including one tooth pulling under general anesthesia), and one visit to the endodontist. Oh, and my out-of-pocket cost will be at least half of that, if not more.

Thankfully, my … Continue Reading

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When Is Enough Enough?

A new survey in the journal Health Affairs journal synthesizes nearly everything I believe is wrong with the US healthcare system. The survey found that patients believe that more care is better, that the latest and most expensive treatments are the best, that none of their doctors provide substandard care, and that evidence-based guidelines are a pretext for denying them the care they need and deserve.


Until we can retrain consumers (that would be all of us) to understand that in medicine more is NOT better, that evidence-based guidelines may translate in some instances into less but better care, that doctors are falliable and should be questioned, and that the cost of a treatment has nothing to do with the quality, we will never get out of the healthcare quagmire in which we find ourselves.

Your thoughts?

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