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From The Wall Street Journal  |  January 9, 2008; Page D1  |  By Laura Landro

Learning to Ask Tough Questions Of Your Surgeon

While many Web savvy patients today can ask a doctor about minute details of their circulatory system or cancer treatment, when it comes to asking the really tough, personal questions, they often clam up. Even when going under the knife, patients are often too intimidated to ask how qualified a surgeon is, or what safety procedures are in place.

But as complications and errors dog some surgical procedures, experts say it is increasingly crucial for patients to vet their surgeons and take an active role in preventing mistakes.

Read more about how to “Size up a Surgeon”:

Do Americans Really Understand their Health Coverage?

According to an article in “MyHealthGuide” published by  eHealth  Inc. on  January 3, 2008, “A survey of 1,010 U.S. adults conducted by Opinion Research Corporation and commissioned by eHealth, Inc., the parent company of eHealthInsurance, indicated most consumers lack a basic understanding of even the most common health insurance terms as well as the particulars of their own health insurance coverage.”  The article went  on to note studies that concluded that half of all respondents were uncertain how much they paid for their monthly health insurance premiums and even more were uncertain about their annual deductibles. Most did not understand the terminology used in their health insurance policies and did not even know what PPO stands for.

What were the things most consumers requested?

1. Side-by-side comparisons of policies

2. Live assistance with questions

3. A glossary of health insurance terms

Type 2 Diabetes May be Increased by Improper Sleep Patterns

In an article in MyHealthGuide on January 2, 2008, the discussion focused on sleep patterns as studied in proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  An online article by the NAS reported that disruptions in deep sleep might increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Nine men and women ages 20 to 31 and of normal weight and in good health were studied during sleep, as researchers made noise to interrupt their deep slow-wave sleep without waking them.

Slow-wave sleep (SWS) is considered the most "restorative" sleep stage. Studies suggest that SWS may be important for normal glucose tolerance and therefore a lack of SWS sleep could adversely affect glucose homeostasis and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Participants in the study who experienced deep sleep interruptions over the course of three days presented with decreased ability to regulate blood sugar and decrease in insulin sensitivity, in addition to  reduced delta spectral power, the dominant EEG frequency range in SWS.

Poor sleep quality may increase glucose tolerance and diabetes risk, particularly in aging and obese individuals, potentially increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes as persons age or gain weight.

From The Wall Street Journal  |  December 12, 2007; Page D1  |  By Laura Landro

Keeping Patients From Landing Back in the Hospital

Hospitals are taking steps to prevent the most common risk to patients after discharge: landing back in the hospital due to complications that could have been prevented with better follow-up care. One hospital sends a refrigerator magnet home with heart-failure patients…

A revolving door of readmissions is driving up costs for hospitals and causing needless harm to patients, especially elderly people with multiple chronic diseases. Nearly 18% of Medicare patients admitted to a hospital are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, accounting for $15 billion in spending, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, the independent federal body that advises Congress on Medicare. As a result, readmission rates are coming under increasing scrutiny from regulators, insurers, employers and quality-measurement groups, who are considering methods to tie payment to lower readmissions.

For complete story see:

From Health Journal, The Wall Street Journal  |  November 20, 2007; Page D1  |  By David Armstrong/ WSJ

Your Doctor's Business Is Your Business

Orthopedic surgeon Joseph Zuckerman recently started giving his patients some additional information before they undergo surgery.

It is a letter revealing that Dr. Zuckerman is one of the designers of the artificial shoulder the patient is about to receive and that he is paid royalties from the implant manufacturer -- Exatech Inc. of Gainesville, Fla. As is standard, Dr. Zuckerman doesn't collect any royalties on the shoulders he installs himself, but the surgeon nonetheless thought his patients should know of his financial relationship with the maker.

"There should be a discussion between physicians and patients about financial involvements," says Dr. Zuckerman, chairman of orthopedic surgery at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. "As time goes on, patients will add this to the list of questions they have."

For complete article see:

From The Job Cure  |  The Wall Street Journal Online (Subscription Required)
November 13, 2007; Page D1  |  By John R. Graham

Opinion: Debunking The Health Cost Myth

"As major employers, we are engaging in one of the most crucial domestic policy debates of our time -- fixing our nation's healthcare crisis, reducing out of control costs, and ensuring every American has affordable healthcare," said CEO Steve Burd of Safeway, a supermarket chain, earlier this year.

He's not alone. Several American business leaders have come to believe that the American healthcare system is not only bad for our health but also for national competitiveness. In the automotive industry, General Motors claims that it spends about $1,600 per car on health care. In Japan, according to GM, Toyota's per automobile healthcare expenditure is just $110.

Some politicians and executives have concluded that the "solution" to this problem is universal, government-run health care. They must be onto something, right?

For complete article see:

From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)  |  October 11, 2007; Page D3  |  By Victoria E. Knigh

Escalating Healthcare Costs Fuel Medical Identity Theft
Patients Are Told To Guard ID Cards Like Other Plastic

When a wallet is lost or stolen, the first thing most Americans do is call their creditcard company. But if healthcare ID or pharmacy cards are among the missing items, you should also alert your insurer.

Medical identity theft -- in which someone uses your name and health insurance without your knowledge or consent to obtain medical treatment, prescription drugs or goods -- is on the rise. At least a half-million Americans have been affected, according to Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a San Diego research group that focuses on privacy issues.

Medical identity theft can imperil your health and finances. Unfortunately, detecting this form of thievery isn't always easy for consumers, who are often unaware of its existence, and remedying the damage can be difficult. However, there are steps to take to protect yourself from becoming a victim, experts say.

For complete article see:

Anxiety Raises Heart Attack Risk

Older men who suffer from chronic anxiety substantially increase their risk of having a heart attack, a new study reports.

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While stress has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems, this is the first time that chronic anxiety has been identified as a risk factor also.

"There is an independent contribution of anxiety that can predict the onset of a heart attack among healthy older men," said lead researcher Biing-Jiun Shen, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

For complete article see:



Article Archives:

Learning to Ask Tough Questions Of Your Surgeon
January 9, 2008

Americans Lack Understanding of Their Health Coverage and Basic Health Insurance Terminology
January 3, 2008

Sleep Disruptions May Increase Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
January 2, 2008

Keeping Patients From Landing Back in the Hospital
December 12, 2007

Your Doctor's Business Is Your Business
November 20, 2007

Opinion: Debunking The Health Cost Myth
November 13, 2007

Escalating Healthcare Costs Fuel Medical Identity Theft
October 11, 2007

Anxiety Can Predict Heart Attack Risk in Men
September 07, 2007

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