Why (and How) You Can Take Better Care of Your Long Term Health Than Your Doctor

February 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Health

When I give my talk on alternative health, the thing that most startles people is the fact that the death rate falls when doctors go on strike. I am not making this up. It was well documented in both the US and Israel where in the latter country in 2000 the death rate FELL by nearly 40% over the strike period.

Now in the US they are looking at statistics which show that there are nearly a quarter of a million deaths from one common medical mistake. Gary Null PhD, Carolyn Dean MD ND, Martin Feldman MD, Debora Rasio MD, and Dorothy Smith PhD looked at the death rate from medical errors to adverse drug reactions to unnecessary procedures, heart disease, cancer deaths and infant mortality and their statistics came from the most respected medical and scientific journals and investigative reports by the Institutes of Medicine (IOM).
What they discovered seven years ago is that on the whole American medicine caused more harm than good. So surely things have improved? Well no, because a new analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that, despite efforts to improve patient safety in the past few years, the health care system hasn’t changed much at all.

The statistics are worrying with 18 percent of patients being harmed by medical care (some repeatedly) and that over 63 percent of the injuries could have been prevented. In nearly 2.5 percent of these cases, the problems caused or contributed to a person’s death. In another 3 percent, patients suffered from permanent injury, while over 8 percent experienced life-threatening issues, such as severe bleeding during surgery.

Overall there were over 25 injuries per 100 admissions – or in other words a one in four chance of getting worse from medical treatment, not better. The Thirteenth Annual HealthGrades Hospital Quality in America Study confirms this as their last report analyzed approximately 40 million Medicare patients’ records from 2007 through 2009, and found that 1 in 9 patients developed a hospital-acquired infection.

Further that “the incidence rate of medical harm occurring is estimated to be over 40,000 each and EVERY day.” according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.” Authors of this study found that physician reviewers determined nearly half, or 44 percent of the adverse and temporary harm events “were clearly or likely preventable.”
So is this just happening in the US? Sadly no, we already know that in the UK the dangers of hospital infection are high and have led to deaths. My aim here is not to frighten you but to repeat the very basic fact that the more you take responsibility for your own health then the less you are likely to become one of those statistics.

Errors in prescribing medicine are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., killing between 44,000 and 98,000 people each year and it is preventable.

The main errors that occur are:
•drug overdose
•prescribing the wrong drug
•taking the wrong drug, or
•accidents involving medications during surgery or medical procedures

The older you are then the more likely the risk of such errors and you also have a greater propensity for experiencing harmful and fatal errors. One factor here is that many patients receive multiple prescriptions at varying strengths, some of which may counteract each other or cause more severe reactions when combined.

What Can You Do?
It is not rocket science and I am (almost) embarrassed to mention it but it is so basic. A good diet, a healthy environment, low stress levels and regular exercise. That’s it. That will help you stay healthy and at low risk from many of the conditions that undermine our wellbeing from heart disease to cancer.

The risk factors are a high fat diet, processed foods, no exercise, over consumption of alcohol and sugar and all of those are within your power to change. No of course I am not saying never drink alcohol or eat a biscuit, but paying attention to how you live will pay dividends.

Stress is also a major causative factor in many illnesses so reduce it by looking at your lifestyle and adding in activities that relax you. Whether it’s playing golf, gardening or listening to music it should make you feel like you have had a mini break when you set aside time for it – and honouring that need will immediately reduce your stress load.

The ‘pill for every ill’ era that has beendominant in medicine from the 1950’s onwards has hopefully started to give way to taking a positive, proactive, attitude to health care so that you are in charge of giving your body, mind and spirit the best possible conditions to withstand disease.

I am always heartened by how much knowledge people now have about alternative medicine, nutrition and supplemetns and the role they play in supporting your health.

By taking care of yourself you are creating the optimal conditions for a healthy outcome. That way, when you do need treatment, you are starting from a base of solid good health that can only be a bonus in helping you get well.

Health insurance says ‘no’ to mistakes

November 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Health, Wellness

We take out insurance to protect ourselves against what might happen in the case of house, home, or health insurance and against what will happen in the case of life insurance. Now there is a new twist that is hitting hard in the USA, and as we seem to follow their lead in most things I thought I would give you a heads-up on this one. Medicare is the federally-funded medical plan for Americans age 65 and over that covers medical expenses such as doctor’s visits, hospital stays, drugs and other treatment – similar to the NHS, but here comes a major difference. They have just announced that they will no longer pay to correct medical errors. So, for instance if during your operation the surgeon amputates the wrong toe then the hospital itself will have to pay for corrective treatment, not Medicare. And quite right too, you might think, but in the UK this would mean that it was coming out of your hospital’s budget from the NHS which would mean less money for initial treatments. Now, we don’t want to reward bad work, but if the US trend is followed here – and the private insurers have quickly followed suit there – then the next part of Medicare’s announcement will impact us as consumers as well.

Medicare will not provide any insurance cover for what they are calling “reasonably preventable” conditions. They have listed 10 of these, including post-operative infections from select procedures,bed sores, injuries resulting from falls, and incompatible blood transfusions. In other words ‘mistakes’ that happen in hospitals every day. It is making hospitals performance oriented, which as we have seen with patient and operation targets does not always work in the way it was intended. Medicare’s Payment Advisory Commission also recently recommended that hospitals with high readmission rates had their payments reduced. So if you live in a chronically unhealthy area, or one with a high number of elderly people they are being asked to treat the same number of people for less money – and how will that impact patient care?