Make America Healthier Through Better Coverage

One of my favorite aspects about America is that we are a “melting pot,” the diversity that in my opinion makes America great and has been inexorably increasing for generations. As of 2017, according to an article from Modern Healthcare by Maria Castellucci (9/10/2018), the total population is 18.1% Latino, 21.2% “not-Latino, not-white,” and 60.7% “not-Latino, white.”

The challenge we face in this country is to focus our attention on how better to care for the people within our borders.

We have a crisis on our hands and it has to do with outcomes, or the results of the care being delivered. Outcomes are directly tied to healthcare access and quality of care being provided, both of which are also tied to reimbursement.

The real issue that we all face is that “17% of Latinos are uninsured, the highest rate among all ethnicities.”

Additionally, census data projections show 24.6% of the population will be Latino by 2045, and the U.S. will be minority white.

Texas, which didn’t expand Medicaid, had a 16.6% uninsured rate in 2016, the highest in the U.S. According to 2010 census data, 39.4% of the population was Latino.

Only “California, which in 2015 became the first state in the nation to see the number of residents who identified as people of color eclipse whites, now has better outcomes than the rest of the nation because of the state’s diversity. The study found all populations except for blacks had lower rates of mortality and infant mortality and higher life expectancy than the national averages. The major drivers were better outcomes among both Latino and Asian populations, which combined make up 52% of the state’s population and had lower mortality and higher life expectancy than whites. One factor was that communities of color cater to their residents’ needs.

Care provided to uninsured individuals causes a drain on resources precisely because the care is unreimbursed. Fortunately, we aim to provide care to ALL individuals, regardless of their ability to pay for that care. But the fact remains that resources are finite and everything comes with a cost.

So the obvious solution is to expand coverage to all people living in America. We are all Americans and in order to continue to have a successful and thriving society, we must improve the care we provide by improving the balance between cost and resources.

The need to refocus is critical. Our willingness to retrain our attentions is the unmet challenge.

Safety Alert — AMA Daily


FDA issues warning about consuming food prepared with liquid nitrogen

CNN (8/30, Drash) reports on its website that the Food and Drug Administration “issued a safety alert Thursday, warning consumers about the potential dangers of eating food prepared with liquid nitrogen.” FDA spokesman Peter Cassell said in a statement, “The FDA is aware of increased reports of injuries associate with foods prepared with liquid nitrogen and is working with stakeholders to better understand the use of liquid nitrogen in foods at retail food establishments.”

FDA recalls homeopathic products over water contamination concerns

USA Today (8/30, Snider) reports King Bio, a homeopathic drug maker, is recalling all of its products that use water over concerns of possible contamination with “several microbial contaminants.” USA Today explains, “The FDA, which recently inspected and collected samples at King Bio’s facility, contacted the company earlier this week to recommend recalling all products that include water.”

CNN (8/30, Goldschmidt) reports the products include “symptom relievers for ear infections, coughs, chicken pox, cold sores, warts, styes, swollen glands, snoring and tremors, appetite enhancers, attention and learning enhancers, and body detox,” among others.

Newsweek (8/30, Gander) reports the company “said microbes including burkholderia multivorans, which can cause serious respiratory infections in individuals with weak immune systems, were found at the facility.” Infants, children, pregnant women “and those with weak immune systems are at particular risk of contracting life-threatening illnesses” due to the contaminants.


Screen time limits also needed for parents, experts say

Reuters (8/30, Crist) reports, “As much as children need limits on their smartphone use and screen time on other devices, parents” also “need ‘off-hours’ time, too, according to a new resource published” online in JAMA Pediatrics. Reuters adds, “‘Parental screen time can reduce face-to-face interaction that is vital to children’s emotional and intellectual development,’ said Dr. Jennifer Shu of Children’s Medical Group in Atlanta, who is also medical editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics consumer information website,”

The above news report was obtained in an email to me from the AMA.

Are Social Media and Mental Health Inversely Related?

Is Facebook good for humanity? Is Twitter useful? Are these platforms of exchange socially beneficial?These are frequent questions that I hear being discussed.

Does this post have anything to do with healthcare? Well, from a psychosocial standpoint of course it does. Although I hope you will please excuse my lack of psychology credentials; I don’t profess to be anything but an introspective interventional radiologist.

How we feel before, during and after checking our social media feeds is a critical component of the world we live in today. Every time we feel the need to check our news feed or see how many “likes” we have received or answer another tweet we are consciously or subconsciously recognizing a certain level of dependence.

In order to defeat that dependency we must understand, recognize and accept it as fact. Once that is accomplished we can limit ourselves from social media overload. No devices at dinner. Get back into the world. Interact with people. Vocalize. Call somebody on the phone and have a conversation. Say hi to the person passing in front of you instead of checking your most recent texts, head down, eyes focused, ignoring all else as the world passes you by. We recognize these unhealthy tendencies but we choose not to push back on them. We can do better.

The other question to consider is how meaningful is social media and, more importantly, how meaningful is our use of social media?

If we collectively use social media to educate, inform, assist or provide we will maximize its usefulness to ourselves and to others. If there is a positive meaningfulness to our use of social media then interpersonal relationships should also tend towards the positive. I have seen few interactions more socially destructive than the verbal attacks that occur on social media both in the powerful lofty political world as as well as in the world of everyday people like me and you.

Coupled with those negative interactions are the ever-diminishing times we spend in face to face communication with friendly faces. What we verbalize to each other is usually far different from what we fire off in a post, text, email or tweet. Consider that potential next time you tap/click send.

Instead of leaning towards comments made by people whose views that mirror our own, we can use social media for improved understanding of opposing beliefs. A strong leader surrounds him/herself with people who hold opposing views in order to be more effective at reaching all constituents. Each of us leads a cohort whether we know it or not. Manage that responsibility in a positive manner and the world around us may benefit.

When a fact is unknown, we can use social media to answer our question and delve deeper into the subject for a better appreciation and for more lasting knowledge. As an example, I often reach out to colleagues to assist and provide me with more information so that I can better care for people.

As with anything, It is what we make of It. With over 1 billion users, any platform will be limited by what we humans do with it. The less significant influence, frankly, comes from what the platform was originally designed to do. We all know that Facebook was originally designed as a sort of freshman yearbook to introduce incoming students to the Harvard student body. The platform is not dysfunctional, but in this context we tend to be.

We use social media for many reasons. In our ever-changing world, we will all be better off if we make our interactions meaningful and positive.

Prostate Artery Embolization

As men age, for many of them, the prostate may become a problem. For some reason, the prostate was designed so that, as we age, it gets bigger and urinating becomes more difficult. This difficulty obviously causes men some degree of consternation. It is one of those things that doesn’t seem fair. It is also one of those things that seems like it could have been better designed. See, the prostate wraps around the ureter, the small straw-like conduit through which urine passes from the bladder. As the prostate increases in size, the straw is squeezed and, therefore, urinating becomes more difficult.

Hope is near, However! Along comes a surgeon. Urologists have long been able to attempt to alleviate men’s urinary difficulties by either cutting a hole in the prostate or cutting the prostate out altogether. But this type of surgery is fraught with risks.

Every decision has risks and benefits. One of the risks of prostate surgery, or TURP, is impotence. Another risk is incontinence. These are just two of a man’s main concerns when considering an intervention on his body. Of course, no treatment means kidney failure and even death so perhaps impotence and incontinence are the lesser of two evils.

But wait, there is another solution! Prostate artery embolization has come along in recent years. What is that you say? Well, simplifying, we interventional radiologists snake a tiny catheter through the arteries of your body and navigate to the tiny arteries feeding the prostate. We then send tiny particles into those prostate arteries, blocking blood flow to the prostate. What happens after that? The prostate shrinks.

So, we can effectively accomplish what the urologists have been doing all along…but with no risk of impotence or incontinence! Sounds really good to me.

Now, these pictures will be somewhat difficult to understand, but below you will see the before and after pictures of the prostate arteries being embolized. The first two images show multiple small arterial branches supplying the prostate. The next two images don’t show those branches because they’ve been blocked off by the procedure.


Right prostate artery:

Left prostate artery




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