healthcare

It is officially July, and that means something in the medical world. With the passage of one day, the first of the month exalts recent medical school graduates to the rank of intern. The same holds true for those who completed residency training, spontaneously morphing into subspecialty fellows or attendings. Along with such promotions comes high turnover departures which prompts the tongue-in-cheek refrain don’t get sick in July. The July effect. The notion that teaching-hospital halls are riddled with newbies, or those a bit green in terms of experience, tends to make many reticent about seeking their care this time of year.

But, is this attitude regarding this annual transition ritual a false perception?

Let’s look at some data

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Patient records are unruly; they consist of numbers, images, and text. Electronic health records (EHR) are more frequently digital “Xerox” versions of the patient chart’s you’d associate with the kindly physicians depicted by Norman Rockwell. As a result of the jumble of data types and formats, data mining to identify predictive analytics initially require a careful selection of variables of interest which are abstracted from medical records and put in a machine-readable form. Data preparation often takes longer than the analysis itself, and because variables are determined before analysis, these datasets are one trick ponies unable to be used to investigate other issues.  They are rate-limiting bottlenecks for the proponents of Big Data, in their quest to apply machine learning to...

Humans, it seems, are susceptible to DSS -- "do something syndrome."

Described by economist John Maynard Keynes as a desire for action over inaction, it partially explains why politicians insist on passing thousands of new laws every single year. It even explains why goalkeepers dive left or right during a soccer penalty kick, when remaining in the middle of the goal is a better decision. Doing something is preferable to not doing something.

That human urge also applies to our healthcare. A sick patient expects the doctor to do something, even if nothing useful can be done. This point has been underscored by new research scheduled to be published in the Journal of...

Every time I'm in Poland, I make several trips to our favorite massage therapist. Because of the exchange rate and the lower cost of labor, I can get an hour-long massage for just over $30.

Our massage therapist is also a bit kooky. She opposes much of what I accept, such as genetically modified food, and she believes in alternative medicine of all types, particularly reflexology. When she pinches your toe, she thinks she's fixing your liver, or something.

One time, due to my poor Polish skills, I accidentally agreed to a cupping session. My personal (and painful) encounter with alternative medicine confirmed what I always thought -- it's a load of garbage. But, I don't...

While our culture is preoccupied with violations of consumer data privacy yielding targeted marketing for shoes, travel or food preferences, law and advertising firms are leading a more nefarious erosive charge on patient privacy. Unbeknownst to emergency room visitors, companies are setting up digital geofences around hospital perimeters that capture mobile phone entry to the premises. This initiates a cascade of events that allows marketing agencies hired by personal injury law firms, for example, to solicit patients directly with ads to their phone (while still in the ER). Though these ads can be cast while in a clinic or other medical locale, the system is sparked by arrival to the emergency room.

Think about that for a moment. Whether you voluntarily go to seek urgent...

Protected personal health information has traditionally been exempt from privacy concerns, given the unique nature of its scope and regulation, until the advent of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, forced implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs) and prescription drug monitoring programs. With such a recent public focus on Facebook’s misleading policies over use of our data, Europe’s reactive efforts to govern the internet and the latest action to get the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 on the...

Early on January 27, 2018, The Most Interesting Man in the World passed away at the age of 91.

No, I'm not speaking of Jonathan Goldsmith, the guy who just pretended to be The Most Interesting Man in the World. I'm speaking of the real deal, my grandfather, Dimitri Berezow -- a man who survived Stalin and Hitler, cheated death on multiple occasions, and went on to live the American dream.

His was an impossibly unique story – one that seems too extraordinary to be true (and yet is) -- capped with a cautionary tale about modern healthcare.

Living Free in Stalin's Russia

For many people, including my Ukrainian grandmother, life in the Soviet Union was hell. To break...

Value-based healthcare is the refrain for all the stakeholders, patients and their advocacy groups, physicians and their societies, payers both insurance and government. We must replace payment for volume or procedures with payment for value. As it turns out, like the blind men describing the elephant, what each stakeholder means by value varies tremendously. An online survey conducted by the University of Utah sheds light on our misaligned definitions of value. As they write,

 “… stakeholders have been talking past each other, not fully understanding each other’s perspectives, experiences, and concerns. We are often using the same key words to mean different things.”

Patients and physicians were...

Bad boys, bad boys 
What'cha gonna do?
What'cha gonna do when they come for you?

When the bad boys are pharmaceutical and health companies as well as a collection of physicians; and the “they” in “they come for you” is the Department of Justice (DOJ) the answer is, settle.

In 2017 two-thirds of their settlements, $2.4 billion, came from the health sector. But before we take a look at the bad boys themselves, remember, a settlement does not necessarily mean guilty. We also need to know a few legal definitions. 

  • Fraud is intentional deception of another person to that person’s detriment
  • Waste is “squandering resources or the use of resources without gain or advantage or incurring...

This year brought about a number of public discussions surrounding not only less mainstream medical conditions, but also physically and emotionally challenging and ethically complex ones. Disorders and illnesses that routinely get minimal light shed upon them made it into the news cycle. It is only via this attention that awareness for prevention opportunities, seeking early care or research discoveries and treatment advancement get pursued, even funded.

 

Here are ten of this year’s more intriguing medical cases that made the spotlight:

 

1.  Ovarian Tumors With Brain Tissue...