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Health blurbs in the news

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Here are some mostly unrelated news items from this week about saving health care dollars, getting an expert opinion and avoiding medication problems when the grandchildren visit.

Researchers find that keeping people out of the ER doesn’t result in the cost savings first estimated

Studies have shown that much of the high cost of health care can be attributed to a small number of patients accessing emergency services.  So to try to cut those costs, policymakers have created programs aimed at treating those individuals in outpatient programs.  But researchers studying recent data on a 5 percent sample of Medicare patients (roughly 1.1 million people) found that the cost savings may have been exaggerated.  Overall, the study found that only about 10 percent of all hospital care was potentially preventable for the top 10 percent of Medicare’s costliest patients.   Does that make the policy changes that hospitals and others have recently undergone obsolete?  Not so, say the researchers who point out that while only 10 percent was potentially preventable, that 10 percent represented about $6.7 billion.  We’ll need more than one way to put this fire out.  Here’s the article.

Getting an expert opinion means looking past the bathroom mirror

Do your medications cause memory problems?  Memory problems can be caused by a number of things.  I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met who self-diagnose (or diagnose their loved one) with Alzheimer’s.  The fact is that depression, alcohol, sleep deprivation and a whole laundry list of things can leave a person with a mind like a sieve.  This is why if you are concerned about memory loss you need to see your doctor.

Another reason to seek help, and perhaps the best one in my opinion is that if your memory loss is caused by something other than a disease like Alzheimer’s, it’s possible, even probable that it’s reversible and seeing as yet another cause of memory loss is stress, fixing the problem could prevent the problem.

Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”  Even physicians are discouraged from self-diagnosis yet according to Pew Internet and American Life Project, eight in 10 Internet users look online for health information.  That’s not to say that once you are diagnosed with something that you shouldn’t put some time and energy into investigating it.  Most doctors simply don’t have the time to sit with every patient and answer every question they have unless you hire a concierge physician.  People should be careful of what they use as their sources however because as in life, the Internet is filled with characters (and websites) that don’t know what they are talking about and some of that information can be harmful.  Since it is difficult to tell the good from the bad, ask your doctor for recommendations for sites that pertain to your particular situation.  One online resource is the National Institutes of Health site called MedlinePlus.  It has a site specific to seniors called NIHSeniorHealth that was developed by the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine.

If you are experiencing memory problems, don’t wait.  See a doctor, preferably one with experience treating patient in your age group.  If you are over 70, that may mean hiring a geriatric physician.  Whoever it is, don’t let your doctor be the person you see in the mirror.

Keep you grandkids off this school bus by putting your meds away

School’s out.  Summer fun is scheduled and probably if you are lucky enough to have scored grandkids along the way, you’ll get to spend some time with them as well.  But before the little darlings come to visit, take a look around (this includes if you have teenage grandkids coming to visit by the way) and put away your meds.  When I was growing up my grandparents kept their medicines in the middle of the kitchen table.  For good reason.  Right out where they could see them meant right out there where they weren’t forgotten.  And that’s not a bad plan if the only people in the house are the people the medicine is prescribed for but if you want to read a scary statistic, consider this article that says that the equivalent of four school buses loaded with kids are rushed to the hospital every day in the U.S. due to accidental medicine ingestion.  Don’t’ let one of them be yours.

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