Friday, February 26, 2010
How Much Does Technology Improve Health?
This post by Jonathan LaPook, ACP Member, originally appeared at Better Health.
Last week's CDC report, Health, United States, 2009 confirms that Americans are increasingly turning to medications, scans, and procedures to improve their health. Exercising, eating right and weight loss: not so much.
Watch Dr. LaPook online
Don't get me wrong. I love technology as much as the next guy--maybe more. I'm writing this on a laptop while jetting from California to New York. My iPhone, Blackberry, and Kindle are all within 10 feet of me. But my inner Luddite is starting to stir.
Here are the good news and bad news about three major findings of the CDC report:
1) The use of imaging studies like CT and MRI scans has tripled in the past 10 years.
The good news
These tests can be truly lifesaving. They can diagnose conditions like appendicitis and cancer much earlier than in the past.
The bad news
They're expensive and carry risks. The annual price tag for all these scans is about $100 billion and about 35% to 40% are estimated to be unnecessary. Experts are concerned that radiation exposure from tests like CT scans might increase the risk of cancer. And false positives often lead to further testing.
2) The percentage of Americans taking at least one prescription drug increased from 38% in 1988-1994 to 47% in 2003-2006. Those taking three or more drugs increased from 11% to 21%.
The good news
Medications clearly help control many medical problems, for example, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.
The bad news
The more pills you take, including vitamins, minerals, and herbs, the greater the risk of an adverse interaction. Just three months ago, the FDA warned that commonly-used medications such as Prilosec and Nexium can make the anti-clotting drug Plavix less effective.
And medications can give patients a false sense of security. No matter how much Lipitor you take, you're not safe from heart disease if you eat a lousy diet, never exercise, and are obese.
3) Procedures such as angioplasty (opening up a blocked artery supplying the heart) and joint replacements are skyrocketing.
The good news
Used wisely, procedures are a tremendous boon. Emergency angioplasty performed during a heart attack saves lives. Knee and hip replacements can keep people active who otherwise would become immobile.
The bad news
About 30 percent of elective procedures are unnecessary, according to experts like Dr. Elliott Fisher, director of population health and policy at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. Dr. Fisher advises, "If I were a patient, I'd ask two questions: help me understand the risks and benefits of these procedures, and by the way doctor, do you have a financial interest in ordering this test?"
To try to put the CDC report in perspective, I spoke to Dr. Linda Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. She explained that despite advances in many areas over the past decade, we are falling way short in providing adequate healthcare to Americans. A big reason: We lack a public health system that emphasizes prevention.
She told me, "In our fast paced society, which goes for silver bullets, quick fixes, high return on investment on quarterly reports, prevention is not part of that scenario because prevention's for all of our lives, for our whole lives. And if we're successful in prevention, we don't see anything different and that is a mindset change which we need to learn to live with." She added, "Eighty percent of health is created through prevention and public health. Three percent of our (health care) dollars go into that. We need to find a better balance."
This post originally appeared on Better Health, a network of popular health bloggers brought together by Val Jones, MD. Better Health's mission is to support and promote health care professional bloggers, provide insightful and trustworthy health commentary, and help to inform health policy makers about the provider point of view on health care reform, science, research and patient care.
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Members of the American College of Physicians contribute posts from their own sites to ACP Internistand ACP Hospitalist. Contributors include:
Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.
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Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.
Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.
Controversies in Hospital
Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).
db's Medical Rants
Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.
Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.
Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.
Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.
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David Katz, MD
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACP, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care.
Richard Just, MD, ACP Member, has 36 years in clinical practice of hematology and medical oncology. His blog is a joint publication with Gregg Masters, MPH.
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Alexander M. Djuricich, MD, FACP, is the Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education (CME), and a Program Director in Medicine-Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, where he blogs about medical education.
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Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.
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The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.