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Why Are American Health Care Costs So High?

In which John discusses the complicated reasons why the United States spends so much more on health care than any other country in the world, and along the way reveals some surprising information, including that Americans spend more of their tax dollars on public health care than people in Canada, the UK, or Australia. Who's at fault? Insurance companies? Drug companies? Malpractice lawyers? Hospitals? Or is it more complicated than a simple blame game? (Hint: It's that one.) For a much more thorough examination of health care expenses in America, I recommend this series at The Incidental Economist: The Commonwealth Fund's Study of Health Care Prices in the US: Some of the stats in this video also come from this New York Times story: This is the first part in what will be a periodic series on health care costs and reforms leading up to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in 2014.  
Nicole Chalmers
over 7 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 4u1p2i?1444774268

Like being at your own funeral - without the inconvenience of dying

I’m sure there are times when all us GPs feel under-appreciated — by our patients, staff, specialist colleagues or society in general. You can’t blame them for sometimes taking us for granted — it’s part of the human condition. People don’t value what they have until they lose it, whether “it” is the ability to walk or a domestic fairy who makes sure there’s always spare toilet paper. It’s a common lament that we can’t be at our own funerals to hear how much we’re loved. Mind you, eulogies are rarely objective and balanced. Nonetheless, it’s a pity we’re not around to hear the praise — deserved or otherwise — that is expressed once we’re gone. The long-serving, somewhat-taken-for-granted GP has a non-fatal way of bringing out the appreciation in his or her patients and staff: moving on. After 10 years of GP-ing in the Noosa hinterland and a lifetime of living in south-east Queensland, I headed south of the border: to northern NSW. The hardest part of the move for me — harder than selling my house in a depressed market, harder than dealing with banks, builders, real estate agents, solicitors and Australia Post, harder even than trying to get rational answers out of my telecommunications company after they cut off my internet and phone prematurely — was telling my patients that I was leaving. I knew many of my patients were very attached. I knew they’d come to me expecting to receive a loyal, life-long partner kind of doctoring, rather than the one-night-stand variety. But I had no idea how difficult it would be to break the “I’m leaving you” news again and again and again. Hard as breaking up a relationship may be, at least you only have to do it once when you leave a romantic partnership. For me, telling patients I was leaving felt a bit like breaking up with hundreds of boyfriends, one after the other after the other. You may interpret this as my being too close to my patients or not close enough to my boyfriends, but the fact is I found the protracted process exhausting, emotionally draining and just plain horrible. The “it’s not you, it’s me” part goes without saying and I know I am far from irreplaceable, but seeing the tears well up in countless eyes because of the words I’ve uttered was enough to break my tender heart. Looking on the bright side, as I am wont to do, if I’d ever felt under-appreciated, I sure don’t now. I received more expressions of gratitude in those last three months than I did in the previous decade. To hear how influential I was in some of my patients’ lives put a warm glow in my battered heart. And as much as it hurt me to see my patients upset, it probably would’ve hurt me more if they’d been completely indifferent to my leaving. However, I did please someone. Mrs L had been trying for years to get her husband to agree to move interstate to be near family. His last remaining excuse was that his multiple complex medical problems meant that he couldn’t possibly leave me, his long-term GP. A grateful Mrs L rang me within hours of my informing them of my impending departure to say: “He’s finally come around. Thank you so much for deciding to leave us.” It’s nice to be appreciated! (This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor ) Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at  
Dr Genevieve Yates
about 7 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 rx9yc2?1444774277

Early Retirement and Career Change

This is my first blog on Meducation. I decided to tell the reader a bit about myself, so that future blogs will make sense. At age 48 and in an active and successful academic practice of OB & GYN, my best friend died from a complication of cardiac surgery. This tragic event made my wife's and me consider other things in life than just work, thus at age 55, I decided to retire from my academic position and to start working as a locum in many different cultural settings. The plan was to work somewhere in an area of need for six months and alternate this with travel for six months. It did not quite work out exactly that way, but close enough. I worked in Japan, then Pakistan, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, St Lucia, and Chiapas in Mexico. Much earlier I had had a two year experience in Africa. It was a very satisfying experience and my wife and I have never looked back. Many of my friends and colleagues kept urging me to write a book about our experiences and how we accomplished them. For a long time I kept resisting, probably because I felt that no one might be interested, and because I might have been lazy, and most likely for both of these reasons. I finally gave in, started writing and published an e book. The title is "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path." the book can be down loaded for free from Smashwords at: The book is meant for medical as well as non medical people. It is written as a series of loosely connected anecdotes, some medical, some non medical, some funny, some not so funny. The book describes the immense satisfaction my wife and I experienced from our decision and I hope that reading the book might inspire others, medical or non medical people, who might be thinking about a career change or early retirement to jump of the beaten path. The book might also inspire other with similar experiences to write about them. I would love to receive some comments. William J. LeMaire JUNE 2014 Learn more about me please visit my website at:  
DR William LeMaire
almost 7 years ago
Img 0869

Another Way Down Under

A snapshot of how I ended up starting my "FY3" in Australia teaching anatomy to medical students and the lessons I have learnt along the way. I hope this will help current foundation year trainees consider something a little different...  
Dr. Luke Farmery
over 5 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 1317d55?1444774133

To the neurology/neurosurgery avids, those who just can't get it and others

Hi guys, my name is Angela! I am currently an F2 doing a year in Australia! My key interest is neurosurgery and as a neurosurgery SHO now in Adelaide, I thought I'd start a blog on a few neurosurgery/neurology issues I encounter regularly on the wards. This is aimed to help all medical students studying neurology/F1/SHO in neurosurgery. Few topics could include: Basic management of neurosurgery/neurology patients - the neurology exam Ophthalmology exam and lesion representation Understanding GCS Raised intracranial pressure Acute head injury Seizure management Cauda equina Headaches Decreased conscious level Cord compression Electrolytes imbalance in the neurosurgical patient Fluid management in the neurosurgical patient Acute meningitis Any thoughts/comments?  
Angela Li Ching Ng
over 7 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 yurv3e?1444774179

What it means to be an Australian with skin cancer

Each year on the 26th of January, Australia Day, Australians of all shapes, sizes and political persuasions are encouraged to reflect on what it means to be living in this big, brown, sunny land of ours. It is a time to acknowledge past wrongs, honour outstanding Australians, welcome new citizens, and perhaps toss a lamb chop on the barbie (barbecue), enjoying the great Australian summer. It is also a time to count our blessings. Australians whinge a lot about our health system. While I am certainly not suggesting the model we have is anywhere near perfect, it could be a whole lot worse. I recently read this NY times article which talks about the astronomical and ever-rising health care costs in the US and suggests that this, at least sometimes, involves a lack of informed consent (re: costs and alternative treatment options). The US is certainly not the “land of the free” when it comes to health care. There are many factors involved, not least being the trend in the US to provide specialised care for conditions that are competently and cost-effectively dealt with in primary care (by GPs) in Australia. The article gives examples such as a five minute consult conducted by a dermatologist, during which liquid nitrogen was applied to a wart, costing the patient $500. In Australia, (if bulk billed by a GP) it would have cost the patient nothing and the taxpayer $16.60 (slightly higher if the patient was a pensioner). It describes a benign mole shaved off by a nurse practitioner (with a scalpel, no stitches) costing the patient $914.56. In Australia, it could be done for under $50. The most staggering example of all was the description of the treatment of a small facial Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) which cost over $25000 (no, that is not a typo – twenty five THOUSAND dollars). In Australia, it would probably have cost the taxpayer less than $200 for its removal (depending on exact size, location and method of closure). The patient interviewed for the article was sent for Mohs surgery (and claims she was not given a choice in the matter). Mohs (pronounced “Moe’s” as in Moe’s Tavern from The Simpsons) is a highly effective technique for treating skin cancer and minimises the loss of non-cancerous tissue (in traditional skin cancer surgery you deliberately remove some of the surrounding normal skin to ensure you’ve excised all of the cancerous cells) . Wikipedia entry on Mohs. This can be of great benefit in a small minority of cancers. However, this super-specialised technique is very expensive and time/ labour intensive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has become extremely popular in the US. ”Moh’s for everything” seems to be the new catch cry when it comes to skin cancer treatment in the US. In the past two years, working very part time in skin cancer medicine in Australia, I have diagnosed literally hundreds of BCCs (Basal Cell Carcinomas). The vast majority of these I successfully treated (ie cured) in our practice without needing any specialist help. A handful were referred to general or plastic surgeons and one, only one, was referred for Mohs surgery. The nearest Mohs surgeon being 200 kilometres away from our clinic may have something to do with the low referral rate, but the fact remains, most BCCs (facial or otherwise), can be cured and have a good cosmetic outcome, without the need for Mohs surgery. To my mind, using Mohs on garden variety BCCs is like employing a team of chefs to come into your kitchen each morning to place bread in your toaster and then butter it for you. Overkill. Those soaking up some fine Aussie sunshine on the beach or at a backyard barbie with friends this Australia Day, gifting their skin with perfect skin-cancer-growing conditions, may wish to give thanks that when their BCCs bloom, affordable (relative to costs in the US, at least) treatment is right under their cancerous noses. Being the skin cancer capital of the world is perhaps not a title of which Australians should be proud, but the way we can treat them effectively, without breaking the bank, should be. Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at  
Dr Genevieve Yates
over 7 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 1crpsox?1444774314

Neuropsychiatry's Fuzzy Borderlands

In NeuroPsychiatry it might be difficult to locate its territory, and find its niche. This might be an uneasy endeavour as its two parent branches neurology and psychiatry are still viable, also it siblings organic psychiatry, behavioural neurology and biological psychiatry are also present. This blogpost attempts to search for the definition and domains of neuropsychiatry. Neuropsychiatry can be defined as the 'biologic face' of mental health (Royal Melbourne Hospital, Neuropsychiatry unit). It is the neurological aspects of psychiatry and the psychiatric aspects of neurology (Pacific Neurpsychiatry Institute). It is not a new term. Many physicians used to brand themselves as neuropsychiatrists at the rise of the twentieth century. It has been looked upon with a sense of unease as a hybrid branch. Also, it was subject to pejorative connotations, as the provenance of amateurs in both parent disciplines (Lishman, 1987). The foundational claim is that 'all' mental disorders are disorders of the brain' (Berrios and Marková, 2002). The American NeuroPsychiatric Association (ANPA) defines it as 'the integrated study of psychiatric and neurologic disorders' (ANPA, 2013). The overlap between neuropsychiatry and biological psychiatry was observed (Trimble and George, 2010) as the domain of enquiry of the first and the approach of the second will meet at point. Berrios and Marková seemed to have focused on the degree of conversion among biological psychiatry, organic psychiatry, neuropsychiatry and behavioural neurology. They stated that they share the same foundational claims (FCcs): (1) mental disorder is a disorder of the brain; (2) reasons are not good enough as causes of mental disorder; and (3) biological psychiatry and its congeners have the patrimony of scientific truth. They further elaborated that the difference is primarily due to difference in historic origins. (D'haenen et al., 2002). The American Neuropsychiatric Association (ANPA) defines neuropsychiatry as the integrative study of neurological and psychiatric disorders on a clinical level, on a theoretical level; ANPA defines it as the bridge between neuroscience and clinical practice. The interrelation between both specialities is adopted by The Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists as it defines it as a psychiatric subspeciality. This seems to resonate the concept that 'biologisation' of psychiatry is inevitable (Sachdev and Mohan, 2013). The definition according to Gale Encyclopedia encompasses the interface between the two disciplines (Fundukian and Wilson, 2008). In order to acknowledge the wide use of the term 'neuropsychiatry'; the fourth edition of Lishman's Organic Psychiatry, appeared and it was renamed as 'textbook of neuropsychiatry'. The editor stated that the term is not used in its more restrictive sense (David, 2009). Ostow backtracked the origin of biological causes for illness to humoral view of temperament.In the nineteenth century, the differentiation between both did not seem to be apparent. The schism seems to have emerged in the twentieth century. The difficulties that arose with such early adoption of neuronal basis to psychiatric disorders are that they were based on on unsubstantiated beliefs and wild logic rather than scientific substance. (Panksepp, 2004). Folstein stated that Freud and Charcot postulated psychological and social roots for abnormal behaviours, thus differentiating neurology from psychiatry. (David, 2009). The separation may have lead to alienation of doctors on both camps and helped in creating an arbitary division in their scope of knowledge and skills. The re-emergence of interest in neurospsychiatry has been described to be due to the growing sense of discomfort in the lack of acknowledgment of brain disorders when considering psychiatric symptoms (Arciniegas and Beresford, 2001). There is considerable blurring regarding defining the territory and the boundaries of neuropsychiatry. The Royal College of Psychiatrists founded section of Neuropsychiatry in 2008. The major working groups include epilepsy, sleep disorders, brain injury and complex neurodisability. In 1987 the British NeuroPsychiatry Association was established, to address the professional need for distinction, without adopting the concept of formal affiliation with parent disciplinary bodies as the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The ANPA was founded in 1988. It issued training guide for residents. The guide included neurological and psychiatric assessments, interpretation of EEG and brain imaging techniques. With regards to the territory, it included delirium, dementia, psychosis, mood and anxiety disorders due to general medical condition. Neurpsychiatric aspects of psychopharmacologic treatments, epilepsy, neuropsychiatric aspects of traumatic brain injury and stroke. The diagnosis of movement disorders, neurobehavioural disorders, demyelinating disease, intellectual and developmental disorders, as well as sleep disorders was also included. The World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP) was established in Buenos Aires in 1974 to address the rising significance of biological psychiatry and to join local national societies together. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is currently working on a biologically-based diagnosis, that incorporates neural circuits, cells, molecules to behavioural changes. The diagnostic system - named 'Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) - is agnostic to current classification systems DSM-5 & ICD-10. Especially that the current diagnostic classficiations are mostly based on descriptive rather than neurobiological aetiological basis. (Insel et al., 2010). For example, the ICD-10 F-Code designates the first block to Organic illness, however, it seems to stop short of localisation of the cause of illness apart from the common prefix organic. It also addresses adverse drug events as tardive dyskinesia but stops short of describing it neural correlates. Also, psychosocial roots of mental illness seem to be apparent in aetiologically-based diagnoses as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, acute stress reaction, and adjustment disorders, the diagnostic cluster emphasise the necessity of having 'stress'. Other diagnoses seem to draw from the psychodynamic literature, e.g. conversion[dissociative] disorder. The need for neuropsychiatry, has been increasing as the advances in diagnostic imaging and laboratory investigations became more clinically relevant. Nowadays, there are tests as DaT-Scan that can tell the difference between neurocognitive disorder with Lewy Bodies and Parkinson's Disease. Vascular neurocognitive disorders warrant imaging as the rule rather than the exception, vascular depression has been addressed is a separate entity. Frontal Lobe Syndromes have been subdivided into orbitofrontal and dorsolateral (Moore,2008) Much training is needed to address this subspeciality. The early cases that may have stirred up the neurological roots of psychiatric disorders can be backdated to the case of Phineas Gage, and later, the case H.M. The eearlier fruits of adopting a neuropsychiatric perspective can be shown in the writings of Eliot Slater, as he attempted to search for the scientific underpinnings of psychiatry, and helped via seminal articles to highlight the organic aspect of psychiatry. Articles like 'The diagnosis of "Hysteria", where Slater, challenged the common wisdom of concepts like hysteria and conversion, rejecting the social roots of mental illness, and presenting a very strong case for the possibility of organicity, and actual cases of for which 'hysteria' was a plain misdiagnosis was way ahead of its time prior to CT Brain. Slater even challenged the mere existence of the concept of 'hysteria. (Slater, 1965) Within the same decade Alwyn Lishman published his textbook 'Organic Psychiatry' addressing the organic aspects of psychiatric disorders. Around the same time, the pioneers of social/psychological roots of mental illness became under attack. Hans Eysenck, published his book 'Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire'. Eysenck stated clearly that the case of Anna O. seems to have been mispresented and that she never had 'hysteria' and recovered she actually had 'tuberculous meningitis' and she died of its complications (Eysenck, 1986). To summarise, it seems difficult and may be futile to sharply delineate neurpsychiatry, biological psychiatry, organic psychiatry and behavioural neurology. However, it seems important to learn about the biological psychiatry as an approach and practice neuropsychiatry as a subspeciality. The territory is yet unclear from gross organic lesions as stroke to the potential of encompassing entire psychiatry as the arbitary distinction between 'functional' and 'organic' fades away. Perhaps practice will help to shape the domain of the speciality, and imaging will guide it. To date, the number of post-graduate studies are still low in comparison to the need for such speciality, much more board certification may be needed as well as the currently emerging masters and doctoral degrees. This post is previously posted on bmj doc2doc blogs Bibliography Eysenck, H.J., Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire, Pelican Series, 1986 German E Berrios, I.S.M., The concept of neuropsychiatry: A historical overview, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2002, Vol. 53, pp. 629-638 Kieran O’Driscoll, J.P.L., “No longer Gage”: an iron bar through the head, British Medical Journal, 1998, Vol. 317, pp. 1637-1638 Perminder S. Sachdev, A.M., Neuropsychiatry: Where Are We And Where Do We Go From Here?, Mens Sana Monographs, 2013, Vol. 11(1), pp. 4-15 Slater, E., The Diagnosis of "Hysteria", British Medical Journal, 1965, Vol. 5447(1), pp. 1395–1399 Thomas Insel, Bruce Cuthbert, R.H.M.G.K.Q.C.S.P.W., Research Domain Criteria (RDoC): Toward a New Classification Framework for Research on Mental Disorders, American Journal of Psychiatry, 2010, Vol. 167:7, pp. 748-751 Organic Psychiatry, Anthony S. David, Simon Fleminger, M. D. K. S. L. J. D. M. (ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, 2009 Neuropsychiatry an introductory approach, Arciniegas & Beresford (ed.), Cambridge University Press, 2001 Biological Psychiatry, Hugo D’haenen, J.A. den Boer, P. W. (ed.), John Wiley and Sons, 2010 Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health, Laurie J. Fundukian, J. W. (ed.), Thomson Gale, 2008 Biological Psychiatry, M. Trimble, M. G. (ed.), Wiley-Blackwell, 2010 Textbook of Neuropsychiatry, Moore, D. P. (ed.), Hodder Arnold, 2008 Textbook of Biological Psychiatry, Panksepp, J. (ed.), John Wiley and Sons, 2004 The American Neuropsychiatric Association Website The Royal Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Unit Website The British Neuropsychiatry Association website The Royal College of Psychiatrists website The World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry website  
Dr Emad Sidhom
over 6 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 s45v8o?1444774247

Money-back guarantees

Ironically, it seems the health products with the least evidence are coming with the greatest assurances. A few years ago, a package holiday company advertised guaranteed sunny holidays in Queensland (Australia). The deal went something like this: if it rained on a certain percentage of your holiday days, you received a trip refund. An attractive drawcard indeed, but what the company failed to grasp was that the “Sunshine State” is very often anything but sunny. This is especially so where I live, on the somewhat ironically named Sunshine Coast. We had 200 rainy days last year and well over 2 metres of rain, and that was before big floods in January. Unsurprisingly, the guaranteed sunny holiday offer was short-lived. There are some things that really shouldn’t come with guarantees. The weather is one, health is another. Or so I thought… “Those capsules you started me on last month for my nerve pain didn’t work. I tried them for a couple of weeks, but they didn’t do nothin'.” “Perhaps you’d do better on a higher dose.” “Nah, they made me feel kinda dizzy. I’d prefer to get my money back on these ones an’ try somethin’ different.” “I can try you on something else, but there are no refunds available on the ones you’ve already used, I’m afraid.” “But they cost me over 80 dollars!” “Yes, I explained at the time that they are not subsidised by the government.” “But they didn’t work! If I bought a toaster that didn’t work, I’d take it back and get me money back, no problem.” “Medications are not appliances. They don’t work every time, but that doesn’t mean they’re faulty.” “But what about natural products? I order herbs for me prostate and me heart every month and they come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. You doctors say those things don’t really work so how come the sellers are willing to put their money where their mouths are?” He decided to try a “natural” treatment next, confident of its likely effectiveness thanks to the satisfaction guarantee offered. Last week I had a 38-year-old female requesting a medical certificate stating that her back pain was no better. The reason? She planned to take it to her physiotherapist and request a refund because the treatment hadn’t helped. Like the afflicted patient above, she didn’t accept that health-related products and services weren’t “cure guaranteed”. “My thigh sculptor machine promised visible results in 60 days or my money back. Why aren’t physios held accountable too?” Upon a quick Google search, I found that many “natural health” companies offer money-back guarantees, as do companies peddling skin products and gimmicky home exercise equipment. I even found a site offering guaranteed homeopathic immunisation. Hmmm… In an information-rich, high-tech world, we are becoming less and less tolerant of uncertainty. Society wants perfect, predictable results — now! For all its advances, modern medicine cannot provide this and we don’t pretend otherwise. Ironically, it seems the health products with the least evidence are coming with the greatest assurances. A clever marketing ploy that patients seem to be buying into — literally and figuratively. I think we all need to be reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s famous words: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” We can’t really put guarantees on whether it will rain down on our holidays or on our health, and should retain a healthy scepticism towards those who attempt to do so. This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at  
Dr Genevieve Yates
about 7 years ago

HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening in Australia

Stream HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening in Australia by BMJ talk medicine from desktop or your mobile device  
about 7 years ago
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Stream Prof Stuart Biddle – Mythbusting Sports Medicine Australia Keynote Presenter: Physical Activity by BMJ talk medicine from desktop or your mobile device  
over 6 years ago