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Thursday, May 26, 2016
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Two years ago I had a knee replacement. They had a two-hour class for ten of us having a joint replacement. They required it as preparation for surgery. They gave us an overview, and then also tools, for instance a calendar. They led us through an exercise: Put your surgery date on the calendar, then go ten days back and write down a note to stop your Motrin or other anti-inflammatory meds; and then lay out the future, with your post-op appointment ten days out. They told us what kind of healing you should see within two weeks. It was really comprehensive.
Monday, April 25, 2016
David Woolery was in the Marine Corps in eastern Afghanistan in 2004 when a bomb exploded under a convoy he was in, injuring some of the men. He got through that with the help of his fellow Marines, but the return to the U.S. was more unsettling.
“Out here is every man for himself,” he said. People back-stabbing. It’s all me, me, me.”
In 2015, Mr. Woolery started a Buddy Check 22 Facebook group for his unit, which was “a big lifeline” that later expanded to other veterans. They shared stories of combat, spoke the same language. Recently, a member dropped a screen shot of a veteran’s suicidal remark into the group’s page and wrote, “Let’s find this guy.”
“The man had said his good-byes and was about to kill himself,” Mr. Woolery said. But word spread, and eventually people tracked him down and sent help. It was lifesaving through crowd-sharing.
Why the name “Buddy Check 22?” To thousands of veterans and active-duty soldiers, the 22nd of every month is a reminder to make a suicide prevention spot-check on former comrades. A Department of Veterans Affairs study in 2012 said an estimated 22 veterans committed suicide every day in 2010. While other studies calculated a lower tally, closer to one or two per day, the number 22 has taken on potent symbolism on social media.
Advice to veterans: Join this group.
Read another suicide prevention story. Thanks to Christine Hauser of the New York Times for the source article on April 24.
Friday, April 22, 2016
As the Director of Oncology Intake at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Dr. Larry Altshuler has been an integrative medicine specialist for 36 years. Here’s an excerpt from his new book, Doctor, Say What?: An insider's scoop to getting the best medical care:
Denise is a 32-year-old woman who had severe IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome]. Her IBS had been present for 20 years, and she could never go out because she might have a sudden attack of diarrhea at any time. While exploring her subconscious through the interactive imagery technique, we discovered that some type of fear had started the condition. I had her image her fear, and suddenly she saw a big, black, hairy rat in a cage (this represented that she had “caged” away her fear). I I told her to imagine opening the cage and letting out the rat (symbolically “releasing her fear”). When she did, in her mind, she heard the rat say, “Thank you for releasing me.” I then asked her to see herself hugging the rat (symbolically “embracing the fear”). When she did, the image of the rat changed into a bunny rabbit and hopped away, and she heard it say, “Thanks. You don’t need me anymore.” After that session, Denise never had another episode of IBS, and that was 12 years ago.
Interactive Imagery (also called Active Imagination)…is significantly more powerful than guided imagery…Instead of creating specific images, you allow your mind to spontaneously present images to you. These images represent your symptoms, illness, or emotions. By interacting with these images, you can gain understanding of why you are ill and how you can heal yourself.
Certainly, many of you may think this is in the realm of science fiction, but having used this process with hundreds of patients (most of them skeptical), I can tell you it’s real.
Read another story of a doctor as a caring thought partner. Thanks to Mallory Campoli of Smith Publicity for connecting us.
Monday, April 4, 2016
Thursday, March 31, 2016
A 17-year-old girl, Mariah Edwards, had a routine tonsillectomy, with Fentanyl as a pain killer. However, right after the outpatient surgical procedure, she stopped breathing, but no one noticed this for 25 minutes. The only automatic monitors of her vital signs had been muted. And no one saw her because a curtain had been pulled around the post-op bay. She died days later from the lack of oxygen. This tragedy could have been prevented with proper post-op monitoring and care.
Her family’s lawyers at Ross Feller Casey have posted online a free checklist of questions that patients or their advocates can ask beforehand to assure themselves that doctors and nurses will safely care for their family member. This is particularly important because the first few hours after surgery are often the most risky due to the use of anesthesia, the delivery of pain medication, and other complications that can arise in the recovery room.
Don’t be shy about questioning credentials or asking about post-op care. You are putting your trust, medical health, and quite possibly your life, in the hands of these people, so it is absolutely appropriate that you want to know about their experience and what to expect in the recovery room. You can, and should, ask to talk to whoever will be participating in the operation. It’s not unreasonable to request to talk with the anesthesiologist, surgeon, and other members of the surgical team before any surgery is performed.
Remember, it is just as important to ask about what will happen after the surgery as it is to ask about the procedure itself. You can ask about anything that you find relevant to the operation and time spent in recovery. It’s a good idea to make a list of questions prior to surgery so that you don’t forget any. Sometimes asking the right questions about post-op care can make the difference between a positive medical outcome and a tragedy.
Read another checklist story. Thanks to Mario Cattabiani, the Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey in Philadelphia and David Bernard of OutpatientSurgery.net for this story.
Friday, March 25, 2016
I have a minor medical condition for which my doctor suggested an over-the-counter nasal spray, Flonase (fluticasone propionate). Sometimes, for months at a time I’ll take it daily, sometimes every other day, sometimes less often, which my doctor says is fine. The bottle says it contains 120 metered sprays. How to know when it’s time to replace it?
I keep a scrap of paper and a pen next to it in my bathroom, writing down the date as I administer it to myself each time. I can count the dates I’ve written so I know when to get a new one. By doing that, I don’t throw away a bottle with usable medicine, nor keep using a sprayer with no medicine.
This could be useful for anyone who wants to consistently take medicine. It’s most useful for medications you’re taking on something other than a daily basis. For daily medicine, a seven-day pill box organizer, or something similar, is probably more convenient.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Sunday, May 24, 2015
In reviewing Oliver Sacks’ memoir, On the Move: A Life, book reviewer Andrew Solomon captured the spirit of narrative medicine. I once saw a carpenter at work, tapping a nail once to set it, and then with a decisive second stroke, driving it all the way home. Solomon hit the nail on the head just like that:
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
In Part 1, Beverly Swymer told the story of how the Patient Family Advisory Council of Milford Regional Medical Center improved care in the Emergency Room for behavioral health patients.
As Part 2, here are my thoughts on their results, and their ingredients of success. –Ken Farbstein
This effort reduced E.R. recidivism by 82% among a group of behavioral health patients who had frequently used Milford’s E.R. (from 7.3 visits/patient to 1.3, n=12 patients over the period of four months before, and four months after, these changes took effect). This was probably particularly helpful in freeing E.R. capacity because the number of behavioral health E.R. visits at Milford had been growing about 7% each year.
In interviewing Beverly, I had urged her to elaborate on her role, and I was puzzled at the absence of “I” in her answers. We often preach about the importance of collaborative styles, but rarely see them in practice. I came to realize that I was hearing from a genuinely collaborative, self-effacing leader. Beverly served on the PFAC after her long career at Milford as a nurse ended in 2009. Her leadership style, or indeed her nature, along with her acquaintance with many of the staff, and the active participation of staff including the Chair of Emergency Medicine, helped to bring about these solid accomplishments.
When I asked bluntly about her own role and contribution, she answered wisely, in a way that might sound clichéd in someone else’s mouth: “It’s very important to make people feel empowered, to impact the journey, to think this will come about if we work on this together, like we did with rounds in the E.R. The PFAC was a vehicle to come together to see what we could do to make a difference, and we did make a difference.”
Read about other accomplishments of Milford Regional's PFAC. Thanks to Terri McDonald, Kim Munto, and Beverly Swymer for these stories.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Fabio Giraldo is a Scribe with ScribeAmerica. This is his story:
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
March 23 marked five years since Pres. Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Ten million more people now have insurance coverage. As the ACA has only been in effect for a little more than a year, though, to ascertain its other likely effects, it is more useful to consider the first five years of the universal health coverage law in Massachusetts, the model for the ACA.
In Massachusetts, universal coverage became law in April 2006 as Chapter 58. The most widely cited study of its effects over the first five years describes an improvement in the self-assessed health status of non-elderly Massachusetts adults. That's the gold standard for whether the whole law was worth it: do people feel healthier? Before the law, 60% rated their health as very good or excellent; afterward, 65% rated it that way. Far more people were insured, and got medical care, according to the article by Sharon K. Long, Karen Stockley and Heather Dahlen in Health Affairs in January 2012, "Massachusetts Health Reforms: Uninsurance Remains Low, Self-Reported Health Status Improves As State Prepares To Tackle Costs."
Read a story about the likely effects of universal health insurance on women's health.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Friday, January 16, 2015
The poster near the Jewish Community Center's locker rooms proclaims in 288-point type: "Rabbi Loses 35 Pounds!," and then nudges: "Exercise and eating well are the new rituals."
"This program transformed the way I think about meals, food and fitness. I struggled for years to lose weight and keep it off. But the TIO (Take It Off) program put it all together in a way that helped me shed pounds, get strong and fit, and feel good about what I eat and what I don't. Checking in each week in a private session, along with personal training, has helped me keep on track. I'm not going back to the way I used to eat, and I'm not giving up my regular workouts. This has truly brought positive change to my life," says Rabbi Barbara Penzner.
She is being the change, leading by example. Her leadership in several other realms has been inspirational and life-changing, too. To name just two: Years ago, she helped form and guide the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, an important component of the coalition that brought universal health insurance to Massachusetts. And she led the Hyatt Hotel boycott, which eventually led to fair treatment for hotel workers in Boston and across the country.
Joan Hayes has served as her personal trainer (and mine) at the Jewish Community Center in Newton, Massachusetts. Thanks, Joan!
Read another story about sustaining healthier habits.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015