Monday, October 31, 2016

Shoppimg for Health Insurance Limited Time Only!

Health insurance open enrollment time is here again.  For something so important, it is quite a quandary instead of a clear, concise issue.  First of all, open enrollment implies that you must wait for a certain time once a year for a sixty to ninety day period when you can shop for insurance. This is exactly what it is.  Unlike most nonmedical services you need or want, you can only shop for and get it for a limited time.  Without it you could get sicker, and pay more for your healthcare.  It would be healthier, more convenient, and make more sense to have open enrollment all year long. At one time many years ago, you could shop and get health insurance all year. Time for shopping for your health and insurance should be like shopping for other things you need.  If you had to wait to buy a car during a once a year open enrollment period, and you were without a car, what would you do? 


Health insurance is too important to have such limited access. Though the cost is high for some, most are able to procure enough to prevent bankruptcy from healthcare costs.  Once you have health insurance, you know and feel what is like to have healthcare provisions.  This is a major issue if you have been without it.  The health insurance experience is a healthy way to learn about your healthcare, and what you can do to make yourself healthier.  Many find it to be a security blanket in case of catastrophic illness, but it is also a prevention guide.


If the objective is to insure more people, limited open enrollment time once a year seems to be a contradiction to getting more people insured.  This could better serve everyone if it were provided in a timely, sensible manner if open enrollment was ongoing.  After all, your health is your most important asset.  You should be able to shop, and buy what you need when you need it beyond a limited time.  Best health!


 

Part 1: Basic Diagnostic Health Tests

These basic health tests can help your doctor with your diagnosis and treatment. Know what they are so you know that you are getting it when it is needed. These can be baseline, and routine screening tests as well. 
The EKG, also known as an electrocardiogram, gives information about your heart. It is usually done by the primary care doctor as part of a routine physical, especially if heart disease runs in your family. Typically, this test is done on anyone complaining of chest pain or discomfort. Small patches with adhesive on the back are placed on the chest, arms, and legs while the patient lies on her or his back. The electrode patches are attached to the wire cables running from the EKG machine. The heart’s electrical activity is recorded on paper. By looking at this “heart tracing” graph, the doctor can tell if there are any abnormalities like irregular heartbeats (called arrhythmias), damage to heart muscle from a heart attack, poor blood flow to the heart that causes chest pain (called angina), and heart enlargement. The doctor has been trained to know what changes or abnormalities need further testing, treatment, or hospitalization.
The X-ray test uses small amounts of radiation through an X-ray machine to make pictures. It can be done on almost any part of the body to check out a patient’s symptom, and/or the doctor’s findings during the physical exam. Many primary care doctors have X-ray equipment in the office. If not, the patient may be referred to a special office (diagnostic center) that performs X-rays or to a local hospital radiology department.

X-rays are most commonly done on the chest, abdomen, back, joints, and extremities (arms and legs) and are done either with the patient lying down or standing up, depending on the part of the body being checked. After you have been positioned, the X-ray film cassette is placed in the machine next to the body part being X-rayed. The radiation from the machine will pass through the body part being X-rayed onto the film. The radiology technician (the person who operates the X-ray machine) will then move to a closed space in the same room and press the buttons to take the X-ray.

During this test it is important that a protective lead shield apron be placed over the reproductive parts of the body.  Usually the technician will need to take more than one view, and so you will be asked to move a certain body part or turn a certain way. Different X-ray views give the radiologist (the doctor who reviews and interprets X-rays) a more complete view of the body part. Using the information from this test and the information from your history and physical, your doctor will be able to determine the proper diagnosis (what the problem is), treatment, and/or more tests, if needed.

There is some concern that the radiation from X-rays may be harmful. Studies have shown that small amounts of radiation are not linked with an increased risk of health problems. Over the years the amount of radiation used for X-rays has been decreased.



If you are uninsured, these tests are still available at affordable rates.  Check and compare prices by phone or Internet to find lowest prices.  Your healthcare provider may also be able to direct you to a clinic, hospital or testing center that fits your budget.  Some providers also have payment plans that allow payment over time.  Make your own healthcare plan affordable rather than go without.  Best health!

Part 2: Basic Diagnostic Health Tests

These basic health tests can help your doctor with your diagnosis and treatment. Know what they are so you know that you are getting it when it is needed. These can be baseline, and routine screening tests as well.


The ultrasound is also referred to as a sonogram or sound wave test. It uses sound waves to make images of body parts. This changes electrical energy to sound waves that go through the skin into your body. When the waves contact the body’s organs, they reflect to the transducer, producing echoes. The echoes are then converted into still or moving images by a computer that makes a picture of your organs. The technician is able to see this on the monitoring screen and to make an X-ray or Polaroid-type picture. The ultrasound uses no radiation.  In this test the technician applies gel to the area to be tested. A transducer held by the technician is moved back and forth against that part of the body. This sends out the sound waves that go back into the computer.



The sonogram is commonly used to look at your internal organs in the abdomen (such as the gallbladder, kidneys, liver, spleen, and pancreas), prostate, uterus, and ovaries. It is also used to look at blood vessels (arteries and veins), the thyroid gland, breasts, and the skull. In a pregnant patient, actual moving images of the fetus can be seen. As there is no radiation exposure, the sonogram is very valuable in following fetal development in pregnancy. It is also able to detect and diagnose other conditions related to pregnancy. Sonograms are also useful in checking the heart. These are called echocardiograms or Doppler echos.
Computerized axial tomography, CT or CAT scan is another way to make images of body parts. The CT scanner uses X-ray beams that rotate around the body. These beams then go through a detector, and a computer analyzes and processes the data into an X-ray film. The CT machine has a table that is pulled in and out of the machine, which is a large hollow tube (like a doughnut) that can surround the body. During the test the patient lies down on the table. The scanner (inside the hollow tube) then rotates around the patient.  The CT scan is able to image many parts of the body. It detects more than a regular X-ray and produces two-dimensional views. This test is commonly used to pick up tumors, infections, enlarged organs, and many other abnormalities.


The MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is another diagnostic test that does not use X-rays. Instead, it uses magnetized energy. The images produced are extremely detailed pictures of the body part scanned. It is very much like looking at the pictures in an anatomy book or almost like looking at a person internally. The MRI machine is designed much like a CT scan machine, except a magnet is in the hollow tube instead of X-ray beams. The test is also done while the patient lies down on a table that moves in and out of the machine. The MRI scan takes about thirty minutes to an hour. The MRI is not recommended for persons with metal or electronic implants (such as pacemakers, joint pins, prosthetics, artificial heart valves, metal fragments, shrapnel, IUDs, etc.), as those might interfere with the machine. Be sure your doctor and technician are made aware if you have any such implants. For the claustrophobic person, the closed space of the MRI machine may create some anxiety.  Again, alert your doctor and technician. A mild sedative may be necessary prior to the test to help relax you, or you may be sent to a facility that has an open MRI. MRI scans are useful for scanning almost any body part for almost anything. Tumors, cysts, aneurysms, herniated back discs, and orthopedic conditions are among the many abnormalities that can be detected with this test.

The mammogram is a plain X-ray picture of the breast. It requires a special machine that
compresses each breast against X-ray film to take the picture. The X-ray passes through the breast tissue and shows how the breast looks inside.  This test is excellent for detecting tumors and cysts. It may also show if the area is benign (no cancer) or malignant (cancer). The mammogram is able to pick up cancers that are too small to be felt or seen. It is a valuable cancer screening test.


Medical diagnostic tests are screening as well as diagnostic tools.  Along with a thorough history and physical, these tests can help make a correct diagnosis. Best health!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Minding Your P & Q: Peace and Quiet Help Heal

Patient privacy is a right of every person.  When you get acutely ill, it is very important to have your privacy and quietness.  Healing is a delicate, critical process that needs the body's full attention without extra stress.  Your mind must be clearly focused on the healing process.  Research shows that a private, quiet surroundings promote healing and allow the body to repair and recover.  Unnecessary outside distractions should be curtailed to your comfort level. Aside from key healthcare providers contact should be limited to family and friends. Since most healing occurs during quiet, private times, it is important to maintain a quiet, private environment with scheduled visitation like that seen in hospitals. As Florence Nightingale says in Notes on Nursing, "Unnecessary noise is the most cruel abuse of care which can be inflicted on either the sick or the well." Privacy is your right to a quiet, uneventful healing.  Best health!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Money and Your Medication

The 2015 United States median income was $56,516.  This is $4719  a month.  After taxes this is approximately $3140 for basic living expense including rent/ mortgage, utilities, food, clothing, healthcare, insurances (home. car, health, etc.), transportation, taxes, and miscellaneous.  Ten percent, $314, could be the price of one medicine you need.  If one of your medication cost this much it is one-tenth of your income.  If you are one other medication , you could be paying as much as 20% just for medication. 
Are you having concerns that your $314-a-month medicine your doctor just prescribed is unaffordable? Is it worth it to overextend your budget?  Can you really afford it?  Do you really need it?  What else must you think about cutting back on?  These are just a few of the thoughts that run through a patient's mind when faced with the dilemma of high prescription prices.  A bigger concern is if the medicine will work and make them better.  If it does not they are possibly sicker plus out of money to pay for the medicine and treatments that do work.


Long gone are the days when patients take everything the doctor gives them or says to them as the final say.  Patients have become more empowered in all ways, but especially with health information.  Once diagnosed you can look up almost everything on your diagnosis including medicine side effects, new treatment options, and even an actual surgical procedures. Multiple treatment options are available that may work better than just prescription or non-prescription medication at much less cost.


When you get that expensive over-your-budget medication, discuss it with your doctor before you get price shell shock at the pharmacy counter.  Many doctors have access to medication prices, and may be able to prescribe something affordable within your budget that will help you.  If you have access to Internet while at your appointment, you can look it up via your local pharmacies website, and/or drug price check websites.  Discuss this and other alternative integrative treatment options with your doctor to find what works best for you and your pocketbook.  Best health!