Peeking Behind the Veil of Health Care Guidelines

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force issues guidelines that may very well dictate the type of health care you’ll receive.

doctor patientLast November, we received new guidelines for mammograms from a governmental organization called the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), recommending that mammograms should be given to women at age 50 rather than age 40 and every other year rather than annually. The announcement elicited an outcry from almost every organization around the country because early detection is key to saving women’s lives from breast cancer.

At last, organizations are finally beginning to fight back and buck the USPSTF recommendations. In early January, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging published their guidelines recommending mammograms at age forty for average risk women and at age 30 for those at higher risk. “The significant decrease in breast cancer mortality, which amounts to nearly 30 percent since 1990, is a major Continue reading “Peeking Behind the Veil of Health Care Guidelines”

False Positives and Negatives in Health Care

NY Daily News MammogramMost doctors recommend regular checkups for their patients. A physical is designed to screen for the issues that most commonly threaten our health; often this involves doing lab tests, x-rays, and, at certain times in life, procedures such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and tests for heart disease. Sometimes these tests result in what are referred to as “false positives” and “false negatives.”

Despite all of our technological advances, screening techniques are not perfect and, in a small percentage of cases, yield information that may be inaccurate. Doctors call these results false positives or negatives because they can Continue reading “False Positives and Negatives in Health Care”

Your History Reveals a Lot About Your Health

A thorough review of a patient’s health history, along with his or her family’s history, can provide vital information.

Family healthMy relationship with my patients is a collaboration, in which we both focus on their health or the health of their loved ones. We work together to verify health, leaving as little as possible to assumption, and that’s why regular physicals are so important.

In health care, there are two facts that we all know:

  1. Our bodies will experience trouble at some point.
  2. Catching any problem early gives us the most options for treatment and continued health.

Even though we know that, many of us never see a doctor unless we’re ill, and when we do, we focus only on the illness. We don’t have regular physicals Continue reading “Your History Reveals a Lot About Your Health”

How to Find Bargains in Health Care

Here are some cost-saving ideas patients can take to their doctors for physicals, lab tests, and more

Vaccination photoMany of my patients are as concerned with costs as with the state of their health. Because of that, I work with them to make sure health care is both affordable and comprehensive. By far, the cheapest form of health care is prevention. So in my practice, I focus on intercepting disease or health issues as early as possible or preventing them altogether. It does not take much to be a little creative. Here are some cost-saving ideas patients can take to their doctors.

Physicals do not have be administered exactly every 12 months. There is nothing wrong with getting checkups every 15 to 18 months –– a process I call “straddling.” For instance, many of my patients will come in for physicals this fall, and if they are healthy, we will not schedule their next physical until early 2011. Yet only 13 to 16 months will transpire between physicals, allowing the patient to “straddle” two calendar years –– from late 2009 to early 2011. They get 2010 off, and they won’t have to deal with paying out to cover their deductible in that year. This is especially helpful to individuals with high deductibles.

Continue reading “How to Find Bargains in Health Care”

One Doctor’s Orders: 8 Ways to Treat Health-Care Reform

Our health care system is in critical condition, and Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to put it back in the recovery room. Here are the key issues I would like to see in a final health care bill.

Mayo Brothers
The Mayo Brothers

Our health care system is in critical condition, and Congress and the Obama administration have the opportunity to put it back in the recovery room. Here are the key issues I would like to see in a final health care bill.

1. Shift the debate from saving money to saving lives.

Currently, our health system is designed for disease care rather than health care. Instead of focusing on keeping people healthy, the system would rather focus on treating disease and illness, often prolonging the unprolongable. For example, Medicare provides reimbursements for lab tests and x-rays only when the doctor issues a diagnosis. As a physician, I find that totally backwards –– I order tests to determine a diagnosis, rather than the other way around.

Continue reading “One Doctor’s Orders: 8 Ways to Treat Health-Care Reform”

The Reality Check Checkup

225px-Hippocrates_rubensOur bodies act as vehicles, and as with most vehicles, there are maintenance schedules that, if followed, can ensure them to remain in the best possible shape for as long as possible. I like to tell my patients that we do not wait for planes to crash before tuning them up –– we check everything before even starting the engines to maximize the probability for the best outcome. No one quibbles about the cost of aircraft maintenance.

This approach can be applied to the human body as well. I’m a believer in verifying health rather than merely assuming it. and the only way to verify health is by performing regular, thorough health “maintenance.” For our bodies, the tune-up is a physical every 12 to 18 months. Over the years, I’ve developed the Reality Check Checkup, a comprehensive physical that I conduct for every patient. After more than 25 years of seeing patients, I have found that this nontraditional approach keeps my patients healthy and out of my office or the hospital.

Continue reading “The Reality Check Checkup”

How to Fix Costs of Health Care? Let’s Do the Math

The easiest way to contain health care costs to is to make sure people are healthy and to intercept diseases early enough to treat them successfully. Let’s look at the real costs of preventive care versus a serious illness.

Hemingway's Ambulance
Hemingway's Ambulance
We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how we can’t have true health care reform without substantive cost-cutting. Dr. Abraham Verghese of Stanford University recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The bottom line is that our health care is costly because it is costly, not because we deliver more care, better care or special care. Alas, a solution that does not address the cost of care, and negotiate new prices for the services offered will not work. … if [President Barack Obama] is to be the first President to successfully accomplish reform there does not seem to be much choice: cut costs.”

I couldn’t agree more. But the whole health care debate going on right now seems to be looking for ways to reduce cost  by reducing services when we should be looking to reduce the cost of services. Continue reading “How to Fix Costs of Health Care? Let’s Do the Math”