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Stress About Care Adds to Patients’ Health Concerns

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Aug 17, 2018 8:00:00 AM

As medical practitioners, we feel the stress of the nation’s health care issues every day. Continual paperwork, denial of claims, and ever-changing regulations put non-stop pressure on our offices. But the stress of a fractured health care system is impacting our patients’ lives even more significantly.

News readers around the world were stunned by last month’s story of the woman in Boston who, after having her leg trapped between a subway car and a platform, refused to allow an ambulance to be called for her because she couldn’t afford it. This is an extreme example, but it is no longer unusual for patients to refuse needed care or skip important follow-up visits, simply because of the cost involved.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the uninsured who are financially unable to get medical help in the U.S., but also those with insurance. As deductibles and co-pays continue to rise, and the list of what is covered grows more and more specific, even those with “good” insurance find their bills mounting. A study published in January by the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that the cost of health care is a major life stressor for 2/3 of Americans, both those with incomes below and above $50,000 per year.

“Given the uncertain fate of our nation's health care system, it is not surprising that the majority of adults surveyed expressed concerns about access to health care and costs," says APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr, pointing out the ironic fact that “If stress becomes chronic, it can lead to significant health consequences.”

Patients who are afraid of healthcare costs often do not seek care when they need it. Early detection cannot happen if the patient does not come in until the symptoms become unbearable. Similarly, early detection cannot happen if the insurance company will not pay for diagnostic tests, or demand a co-pay the patient cannot pay out of pocket.

When patients see that the insurance companies and hospitals value profit over patients, they no longer trust their care providers. Even though the doctors have just as much conflict with the insurance providers, often the patient feels it’s a “me vs. them” relationship where the doctor is one of “them”. The doctor-patient relationship is damaged by the ongoing fight for profit even when you’re on the same side.

Other reasons for healthcare related stress ranged from the cost of insurance itself to rising medication costs, non-covered tests or procedures, and the possibility of changing coverage due to changing regulations. Younger people reported higher levels of stress about their health care than those over 65. Millennials and Gen-Xers are particularly worried about the future of healthcare in the US as well as the lack of coverage for mental health care. The stress of paying for health care should not be a factor in our patients’ health or mental wellness issues.

As care providers, we often feel powerless in the face of the edicts handed down by the government and health insurance companies. But we need to be aware that however helpless we feel, our patients have even less of a voice than we do. We must be their advocates, and make our views clear to the powers that be, medicine is about healing, not profits and paperwork.

As a member of the Emerald Coast Medical Association, you can add your voice to that of your peers and colleagues. On your own, it is hard to effect change in the system, but together we make a stronger, louder statement. If you are not yet a member, we encourage you to try out a meeting with no obligation.

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Topics: Affordable Healthcare

What’s Your Number? New Blood Pressure Guidelines Impact Millions

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Aug 10, 2018 8:30:00 AM

On August 1st, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released updates to their guidelines for the prevention, detection, and management of high blood pressure. This is the first change to this guidance in 14 years and means that nearly half of all Americans, 46%, now classify as having high blood pressure.

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Topics: News

Abuse-Deterrent Drugs: Should We Believe the Hype?

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Aug 3, 2018 9:41:12 AM

How can we solve the opiate crisis? If you’re like most practitioners, you have thought about this problem and found very few helpful solutions. As the death toll rises, steps are being taken to prevent future patients from winding up addicted to opiates but how can we help those who are already taking them?

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Topics: Opioids

Will New FDA Guidance Really Lower Drug Prices?

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Jul 27, 2018 9:22:22 AM

One of the concerns most often voiced by Americans regarding healthcare is the high cost of prescription drugs. Even with insurance, not all drugs are affordable to every patient, while the same exact medication may be much more accessible to those living in other, comparable nations.

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Topics: Affordable Healthcare

CMS Proposal Aims to Improve Doctor-Patient Relationships

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Jul 20, 2018 9:20:42 AM

In May, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told us that he planned to use his pen to make significant and hopefully positive changes to the healthcare industry in the United States. Staying true to his word, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a proposal that could have a drastic, positive impact on doctor-patient relationships in the U.S.

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Topics: Medicare, Doctor-Patient Relationships, Affordable Healthcare

Remedying the Shortage in Mental Healthcare

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Jul 13, 2018 11:13:16 AM

Over the last decade, the number of individuals struggling with mental health issues has increased, while the number of inpatient beds for mental health patients has continually declined. The journal Psychiatric Services estimated in 2017 that more than 8 million Americans were suffering from serious psychological problems. Unfortunately, this coincides with an ongoing trend of deinstitutionalization that began over 50 years ago when state hospitals decided that many of their mentally ill inpatients would do just as well in the community.

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Topics: Treatment, Member Portal, Mental Health

What’s Driving U.S. Healthcare Costs Higher?

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Jul 6, 2018 3:53:49 PM

In 2016, Americans spent an average of about $9,000 per person on healthcare. This figure is almost double what patients in comparable high-income countries such as Canada, Germany, Denmark and Japan spent on healthcare in the same period. According to the biennial study published by the the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP), the average cost for an MRI in the United States was $1,119 in 2015. This compares quite unfavorably with prices in other nations. The same MRI could be performed for $503 that year in Switzerland and only $215 in Australia. Having appendix removal surgery in America carried a price tag of almost $16,000, while in Switzerland one could have the same operation for only $6,040, and in Spain it was a mere $2,003.

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Topics: News

Doctors & Depression: How Much is Too Much?

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Jun 29, 2018 7:05:00 AM

With the recent high profile suicides in the news, many physicians are thinking about the importance of treating the whole patient, the role of empathy in medicine, and how best to observe the way a patient may be feeling emotionally in addition to how they are faring physically. Depression is dangerous and insidious, and we often feel that we must be on high alert to identify it in those we treat.  

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Topics: Prevention, Treatment, Member Meetings

Cyber-Attacks on Medical Devices: More Common Than We Thought

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Jun 22, 2018 8:40:00 AM

Dick Cheney ordered changes to his pacemaker to better protect it from hackers. Johnson & Johnson had to warn customers about a security bug in one of its insulin pumps. And St. Jude spent months in 2017 dealing with the fallout of vulnerabilities in some of the company's defibrillators, pacemakers, and other medical electronics. You'd think by now medical device companies would have learned a lesson about electronic security on medical devices.

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Topics: Cyber Liability Insurnance

Regulating Opioids: Chronic Pain Patients Caught in the Crossfire

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Jun 15, 2018 10:08:45 AM

As we all know, opioid use has skyrocketed in the United States, increasing by 300 percent from 1997 to 2010. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an in depth-analysis in March showing that drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

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Topics: Opioids

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