The Trump Administration has vowed to put an end to “surprise medical bills.” But this may be easier said than done.
Reports of “sticker shock” have exponentially grown over the years and consumers want transparency of what their health care visit is going to cost. However, the average physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, hospital, medical center, etc. don’t know themselves until the insurance company sends an EOB “Explanation of Benefits” delineating what is discounted, what is covered, and what is the patient responsibility.
So to start, President Trump is asking Congress to address those charges incurred by “out of network” facilities to which patients go to in an emergency setting. Wanting to hold “insurance companies and hospitals accountable,” President Trump wants to put an end to patients getting charged for “services they did not know anything about, and sometimes services they did not have any information on.”
Can he do it? Politicians on both sides of the aisle want to help curb health care costs, but both sides want to get the credit. There’s race to see who could do more for healthcare before the 2020 election.
There’s a few reasons why cost transparency in an emergency medical setting is challenging.
Firstly, insurance companies aren’t transparent to hospitals. They only inform the medical facility of the out of pocket costs once they take weeks to review the claim. This can be streamlined and cut down in time with software, but same day pricing by an insurance company is impeded by the need to see if the patient paid (or will pay) their premiums that month, or if they are still employed and have the same active insurance.
Secondly, patients don’t always know what their diagnosis is when they walk up to the front counter. Some may think they have a “cold,” but actually end up having a bout of pneumonia. Some may think they have a “stomach bug,” but after CT confirmation, learn they have appendicitis. Hence until the medical provider performs the evaluation and testing, a diagnosis and then “cost to treat”, cannot be given.
Finally, patients may not prefer the “cost factor” added into their facilities’ decision making. If they pay a certain amount for a visit and end up needing more pain control, a repeat breathing treatment, or some extra bandages, they may not want to have to take out their wallet, sort of speak, each time they need more services.
As a physician who, for years, pleaded with insurance companies to give us an idea of what they would want a patient to pay, I’m for any campaign to increase price transparency and offer patient’s more choice. However, since medicine and health can be unpredictable, coming up with predictable “costs” may prove difficult.
Those who have had their appendix removed may be at 3X greater risk of later developing Parkinson’s.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center looked at 62 million health records from 26 institutions throughout the US and found that those who had an appendectomy, surgical removal of the appendix, had a 3-fold risk of developing Parkinson’s later in life.
Internal medicine second year resident and study author, Dr. Mohammed Z. Sheriff, states,
Researchers suggest more research to be done, with investigational focus on gut health as it relates to neurological health.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, next to Alzheimer’s, and the most common movement disorder that affects 1% of the world’s population over 60 years old. In the US, 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. It affects several areas of the brain, primarily the substantia nigra, altering balance and movement by affecting dopamine producing cells.
It was first described in 1817 by James Parkinson as a “shaking palsy.”
Common symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
and patients may later develop…
Most cases are idiopathic, meaning the disease arises with no specific cause. However some cases are genetic and multiple genes have been identified that are associated with the disease.
The average age of onset is 60, but some cases may occur as “early onset”, before the age of 50, and if before the age of 20, it is known as juvenile-onset Parkinson’s.
Men appear to be more affected than women at twice the rate.
Risk may be enhanced with a history of head trauma.
Exposure to herbicides and pesticides has been linked to an increase risk of Parkinson’s as well.
Average progression rates can last years to decades, however, earlier onset disease may manifest much quicker.
Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s, symptoms can be treated by a variety of measures.
In general, it is not a good idea to panic about anything. The panic itself often causes more harm than the original threat.
Crisis situations, real or contrived, lead to new intrusive laws that the public would never accept otherwise. We supposedly cherish freedom, but if we believe that the world will end if we don’t act NOW, then we may clamor for the government to save us. Cynical politicians bent on increasing their power never let a crisis go to waste.
Something like the Green New Deal—the end of our comfortable, prosperous lifestyle—takes a truly apocalyptic threat. But to eliminate our freedom to decline a medical treatment, the threat that “millions will die” of measles is evidently enough. Or if not millions (most older people had measles and recovered fully), a few especially vulnerable children, who can’t be vaccinated themselves, might catch measles and die.
There are several hundred cases of measles nationwide, more than in 2014, and bills are being pushed through state legislatures to eliminate all but very narrow exemptions to the 60 shots now mandated for school attendance.
In New York City, people are receiving summonses based on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s emergency order. Everybody, adult or child, who lives in four ZIP code areas must get an MMR shot or prove immunity, or face the prospect of a $1,000 fine ($2,000 if you don’t appear as ordered). Your religious exemption is overridden. The threat of 6 months in prison and the prospect of forcible vaccination were removed before a hearing on a lawsuit brought by five mothers. The judge dismissed the case.
Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said that the purpose of the fines is not to punish but to encourage more people to proclaim the message that vaccines are safe and effective. Get it? If you say something to avoid a fine, that makes it true.
It’s about the need for herd immunity, they say. We need a 95 percent vaccination rate for herd immunity to measles. With only 91 percent or so we are having outbreaks! If we could just vaccinate another 4 or 5 percent!
Mayor De Blasio has a point about vaccinating everyone. Adults are getting measles because their shots have worn off. It is likely that we have survived for decades with a large part of the adult population vaccinated—but not immune. So where do the mandates stop?
Outbreaks have occurred in populations with a near-100 percent vaccination rate. Was it vaccine failure? Or was the vaccine not refrigerated properly? Or was a claimed outbreak real? One in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was called off when a special test, a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed a vaccine-strain measles virus rather than a wild-strain measles virus. Some 5 percent of vaccinees may get an illness that looks like measles, but it is just a “vaccine reaction.” Can they shed live virus? Yes. Should you keep your immunocompromised child away from recently vaccinated people? Just asking.
Like all medical treatments, vaccines are neither 100 percent effective, nor 100 percent safe. Read the FDA-required, FDA-approved package inserts. Arizona defeated a law that would have required making these available to parents in obtaining informed consent. (You can get them on the internet.) Vaccine Court has paid out about $4 billion in damages—recently for two children with severe brain damage from encephalopathy (that’s brain inflammation) after a fight lasting about 15 years. Just incidentally, they had an autism diagnosis also. Parents bring their severely injured children to hearings. You won’t see these children on tv, only pictures of babies with measles. No “fear-mongering” allowed about “rare,” possibly coincidental problems from vaccines.
There are trade-offs with vaccines: risks and benefits. But in the panic about measles, the right to give or withhold informed consent—fundamental in medical ethics as well as U.S. and international law—is being sacrificed. And so is free speech. The AMA wants to censor “anti-vaccine” information on social media. I happened on a factual article by investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, but was not able to retweet it because it had been removed.
The threat of infectious diseases is real and increasing. We need more robust public health measures, better vaccines, and improved public knowledge and awareness. Deploying vaccine police and shutting down debate will erode trust in health authorities and physicians, although more people may get their shots. But such heavy-handed measures will not defeat the enemy—measles and worse diseases.
Jane M. Orient, M.D. obtained her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1974. Her views and opinions, if expressed, are her own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Her column can often be found at www.pennypressnv.com. Her column has been reprinted in full, with permission.
A Peek into How Doctors Think – An Introduction to “Columns”
Anyone who is on their path to becoming a successful physician needs to be able to take a good history and perform a thorough physical. However in this day and age, patient care is performed in a very speedily process and thus the boards test a medical student on how succinctly they can perform a patient history.
Thus students and licensed medical providers need to be adept at “data gathering” no matter what the patient presents with. Our job is to figure out what’s going on, no matter how difficult the task, and do so quickly. So how do we accomplish this?
We start by looking at the cause and then breaking down what could be occurring resulting in that cause, or in other words, forming a differential diagnosis. So if someone has chest pain, one may form a differential consisting of heart attack, pericarditis and costochondritis. But other issues may be at play such as a pneumonia or an esophagitis.
So when we look at a person with chest pain, we consider all the body parts or causes that could be causing the symptoms.
Hence with a patient presenting with chest pain, one would consider a cardiovascular cause, pulmonary cause, gastrointestinal cause, musculoskeletal cause, and even psychiatric cause.
This is the basis of forming one’s columns. For every chief complaint we form columns either mentally or on paper and then ask associated symptoms (or pertinent positives or negatives) to determine which column we’re in. Usually a few “power questions” will help discriminate which column you are in. Once you hit the correct column you will ask further questions along that line.
True there are many more questions we could ask than just the “power questions,” but during a time crunch we need to ask very specific ones to determine if we are on the right track. If we receive multiple “no”s along a column, we know to move onto the next column.
Hence if a patient with chest pain denies dizziness and diaphoresis or sternal pain upon palpation but admits to cough, shortness of breath and sputum production, we have just narrowed down the chest pain patient to a pulmonary cause as opposed to assuming it was cardiac in nature. Then we would continue down the pulmonary column, thinking our differential may be a pneumonia/bronchitis/pulmonary embolism, and ask about hemoptysis, fever, chills, etc.
So for each patient one must create columns depending on the chief complaint and then ask power questions to help focus down your differential.
Now these columns can also assist with the physical exam component of data gathering. If the above patient presenting with chest pain could have a cardiac/pulmonary/GI/musculoskeletal condition, one would examine his heart, lungs, upper abdomen and palpate the sternum and ribs.
For an added bonus, the columns can additionally assist one in forming their differential for the SOAP note.
Chest pain r/o
If a case involves a not so clear-cut symptom, columns could be used as well.
For example a patient presenting with hair loss. If one complains of hair loss, a variety of differentials could be at play. One column could be an endocrinology source (such as hypothyroidism or diabetes), another could be psychological (such as stress or trichotillomania), a third could be medications (such as chemotherapy agents), and a fourth could include genetics. Narrowing these down with power questions could exclude non-contributing columns.
So whether it’s a direct body system or cause, columns help one focus down the differential and allow an easy visual that enables one during a timed test to think quickly and know which questions to ask.
Again these columns are instituted after the History of Present Illness in which a student obtains onset/chronology, palliative/provocative factors, quality of symptoms, radiation, severity and timing (OPQRST).
They will be written down in the SOAP note after the HPI.
Example: Mary is a 25-year-old female presenting with acute onset right foot pain. It began 6 hours ago after she went for a job. Ice provides some relief but walking on it worsens the pain. The pain is sharp, constant with a severity of 7/10. She denies fever, chills, open wounds, swelling, redness, temperature changes, numbness or tingling.
Since during this step in the history most medical students find it challenging to know “which questions to ask.” The columns and power questions simplify this.
To learn this method to improve one’s data gathering skills click here.
Last month in the United Kingdom, more than 5,000 people stood in line in the rain - for hours, to see if they were a potential stem cell match for a young boy battling cancer. You see, back in December 2018, 5 year old Oscar Saxelby-Lee had been diagnosed with “acute lymphoblastic leukaemia” when the family took him to Birmingham Children’s Hospital over Christmas. Oscar was just feeling, “unwell.” The family was certainly not expecting to hear that Oscar had leukemia.
But he did. And it was a particularly rare and aggressive kind of cancer, too. Only a few hundred people, in the UK (where all of this took place) per year are afflicted. Oscar underwent four weeks of successful chemotherapy but then the doctors said he would need a stem cell transplant within a few months.
Oscar's community and school reached out via social media and told the UK about Oscar and his cause. Tens of thousands of people reached out to help including the aforementioned 5,000 that stood in the rain. Usually in these circumstances, a family member would donate stem cells but neither of the parents were a close match. Thankfully, three people, out of several thousand - were found to be a perfect match for Oscar.
From the Hand in Hand for Oscar Facebook page:
"We have the best news to share! Oscar has a match!!!! Absolutely thrilled to announce Oscar has finally got a stem cell match, not just one but three and will be undergoing transplant very soon!! What an emotional rollercoaster it's literally been a journey of heartache and dread continuously, but...WOW!!! What a feeling of relief and positivity to help Oscar kick cancer's butt!! It's been so so traumatic but we are over the moon with being given a chance to tackle the next step in treatment. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts to all of you out there who have registered, supported and continued to spread the word for our beautiful boy and those in need of wonderous bone marrow cells. We could never have done this without you all!!”
Before the transplant could happen, Oscar needed four days of radiotherapy, which he received, and last week - Oscar was found to be free of leukaemia blast cells. The stem cell transplant is the only thing left.
I’ll update more on Oscar as soon as I hear.
The latest challenge sweeping social media is the “Shell On” challenge in which teens Snapchat videos of themselves eating through fruit skin, cardboard boxes and plastic bags containing their food.
Although this appears to not be as dangerous as the Tide Pod or Boiling Water Challenge, it can cause choking and asphyxiation.
In the video linked on the front page the teen takes bites out of fruit with their peel, and then bites through a cereal box.
Last year we learned of the “Boiling Water Challenge” in which kids drink boiling water from a straw or have it poured all over their body. Then they topped it off with a more dangerous challenge, the “Fire Challenge.”
The Fire Challenge is executed by pouring rubbing alcohol on one’s body and then setting oneself on fire. A video records the victim running into a tub or shower to wash it off, and this trend has gone viral.
Unfortunately it’s one of the most dangerous. A 12 year-old girl from Detroit who participated in this challenge is undergoing multiple surgeries to repair burns afflicting close to 50% of her body.
Multiple cases of the “Fire Challenge” have been reported over the years, including a 12 year-old boy from Georgia.
One would think children, especially teens, innately know that fire is dangerous but maybe the younger generation has been so protected that they haven’t experienced the basic concepts of danger and inadvertently underestimate its force.
Challenges that involve dangerous stunts have been around for some time. The Choking Challenge induced children to suffocate themselves for the high of feeling asphyxiated. The Tide Pod Challenge tempted kids to put colorful cleaning packets in their mouths, hoping they wouldn’t burst.
The Cinnamon Challenge sparked thousands to inhale the common kitchen spice and cough till they puked. Then the Condom Challenge offered two options where one dropped a condom filled with water on a friends face, or snorted one through the nose.
We adults can’t for the life of us figure out what the reward is in performing these challenges, but presume it's fame and awe among friends and social media followers. But these challenges prove dangerous and in some cases deadly. Unfortunately the YouTube Clips never show the after effects of these pranks…maybe they should.
36 lots of losartan potassium and losartan potassium/hydrochlorothiazide have been initiated by Torrent Ltd Pharmaceuticals due to a detection of N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid (NMBA). NMBA, according to Toronto Research Chemicals, is a known carcinogen in a wide range of animal species. There have been no reports of users becoming ill and the recall is being done out of precaution.
N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid (NMBA) was the third chemical detected resulting in the latest two recalls of losartan, an angiotensin receptor blocker commonly used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). It is believed to have been created during the manufacturing process of the generic drug.
The FDA reports:
Earlier this Fall, ScieGen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. recalled certain lots of irbesartan, a similar angiotensin receptor blocker used in blood pressure management.
The recalls initially began last summer when FDA recalled a number of lots of valsartan due to an “impurity,” N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) that is known to cause cancer in animals. Weeks later they additionally found traces of N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA).
According to Reuters, earlier last summer, the MHRA, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, located in the UK, said the appearance of the impurity, NDMA, came after a change in the process for making valsartan at one facility owned by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals, a company in Linhai, China.
In animals, NDMA is known to cause liver and lung cancer. In humans its carcinogenic risk is unknown, however the CDC states it may cause liver function impairment and cirrhosis.
With NDEA, data is limited, but due to its classification as a nitrosamine and its prevalence in tobacco smoke it is classified as a probable human carcinogen.
According to New Jersey Department of Health’s website, NDEA has been linked to liver, lung and gastrointestinal tract cancer in animals.
Losartan, valsartan and irbesartan are medications in the class of angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) used for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
Those taking either tablet for their blood pressure are urged to not abruptly stop their medication but rather check with their medical provider and pharmacy to see if their particular prescription is involved in the recall.
I suspect more recalls will follow as processes may be similar across multiple pharmaceutical facilities and NMBA, NDMA and NDEA are byproducts that may not be individually unique to just one “brand” of medication manufacturing.
On Passover, we read from the Book of Exodus in the Torah explaining the Hebrew’s years of enslavement and the struggle it took to free them. G-d sent Moses to ask Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II to “Let my people go.” When the Pharaoh refused, the Lord sent down 10 plagues:
Scholars have debated how these occurred and scientists have interestingly found scientific explanations for each. This is what they found:
The water of the Nile turned to “blood”. It was undrinkable. One theory is the red clay could have been washed into the river and tributaries, or “Red Tide”, an algae bloom of Oscillatoria rubescens, for example, turned the water red. Moreover the algae can release toxins that kill nearby fish. Once the water is unlivable……
Frogs swarmed into the towns and homes. One theory suggests that since frogs like to live near the water, the toxicity and smell caused them to move from the waterways to the towns. The quantity of frogs still needs an explanation but how many of us see one spider in our house and claim the whole residence is “infested”……
Infestations occurred as the next plague and could be explained by the above two. The frogs eat insects and keep the populations in control when they hang out by the marshes and rivers. The drought and unlivable water conditions cause the frogs to leave and eventually die, so insects go unchecked.
Swarms of flies encompassed the fourth plague. Scientists explain this from the lack of competing insects and frogs not around to eat them. They, in turn, fed on the dead frogs.
One would think the Pharaoh would have given in by now but he didn’t. The fifth plague caused death of Egyptian livestock. Insects carry disease and swarms of them could have caused the livestock to become diseased. Moreover, water sources were becoming scarce as well.
Egyptians became infected with boils on their skin. Insects carry disease, lack of clean water and food could make one susceptible and pathogens can enter into societies and cause epidemics. One theory suggested a smallpox outbreak occurred. Researchers found small pox scars on recovered mummies and postulated that 3000 years ago an epidemic could have occurred.
The plague of hail and fire must have been a scary one. Many have postulated that hail and fire raining from the sky could have occurred from a nearby volcano. If that’s the case why not make “volcano” the plague. But interestingly, 3500 years ago the Santorini volcano north of Crete in the Aegean Sea, erupted. And for those of us who saw Dante’s Peak, there was ash falling everywhere.
Locusts swarmed the landscape. If a volcano was nearby, I’d head south too.
The ninth plague was darkness. Without light, temperatures drop, work can’t be done, crops won’t grow. Scientists suggest this could have occurred from an eclipse, dust storm, or the plume of smoke from the volcano.
The tenth and final plague was the death of every Egyptian first-born. Scientists have some difficulty explaining this one except for many first born were out the fields helping the adults when the pestilence, boils, etc. ensued. Another theory suggests the grain stores became contaminated and the first born might have had first pick of the grain, becoming sick first.
The Bible is rich with history and lessons and such a work needs no explaining. But there are those who like to mesh science with the Bible. So for all of us celebrating our ancestor’s exodus and freedom from slavery, Happy Passover.
Most of us squirt one pump of hand sanitizer, slap it together in our palms and then dry the rest off on our pants. But researchers say there is a protocol and choreography that must be performed in order to prevent the spread of millions of pathogens that could be lurking on our hands.
The World Health Organization recommends the following steps to be taken when using hand sanitizer:
The process takes about 30 seconds. However, in a study released this week, researchers from the University Hospital Basel found that if all steps were taken but performed in 15 seconds, the same results will be obtained. However, if fewer steps were taken, more bacteria/viruses/pathogens will remain on the hands.
For those who have eczema or sensitive skin, they may not tolerate the alcohol based hand sanitizers and should use soap and water instead.
Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen on HBO's wildly popular Game of Thrones, revealed in an essay published by the The New Yorker she suffered two potentially fatal attacks while filming the popular series.
In 2011, she reports that while she was exercising, she felt a severe headache and then began vomiting violently. An ambulance took her to the hospital and her MRI showed she had a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). She describes the ordeal:
"...Then my trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain. I tried to ignore the pain and push through it, but I just couldn’t. I told my trainer I had to take a break. Somehow, almost crawling, I made it to the locker room. I reached the toilet, sank to my knees, and proceeded to be violently, voluminously ill. Meanwhile, the pain—shooting, stabbing, constricting pain—was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged..."
Clarke had to undergo surgery and recovered but then suffered another one in 2013, that was found on repeat brain scan.
She in detail describes the painful recovery but fortunately survived and was able to film one the most successful series in TV history and become one of the most beloved characters on the show.
An aneurysm is a “ballooning” or swelling of an artery. Theses may occur where the artery junction weakens. High blood pressure can contribute to aneurysm formation as can smoking. Some aneurysms may have no symptoms at all but others could rupture, causing a hemorrhage in the brain, stroke. Elevated blood pressure, heaving lifting, and trauma could cause these to rupture.
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 15% of people with a ruptured brain aneurysm die before they reach the hospital. 40% can be fatal.
Surgery or endovascular coiling is done to prevent further blood flow to the aneurysm.