A plan to create change in the healthcare world

Before taking this class, I will admit that I had a very narrowed view of the healthcare industry, and was not familiar with all the intricate components that make up the healthcare sector. The beauty of becoming a doctor is all too glamorized, and many fail to realize that the healthcare industry is not solely about the doctor and their practice. Medicare, Medicaid, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare laws, the doctor-patient relationship, elderly care, overtreatment, overdiagnosis – these are just a few of the many things that this sociology class has introduced me too. As a future healthcare provider, I now realize the importance in understanding these individual components and how they shape the way patients receive care.

The most fulfilling thing this class has instilled in me is a desire to change all the negative aspects of healthcare. One of the major parts that we focused on in class is the lack of care millions of Americans receive, despite Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies. I was baffled by the staggering numbers of Americans that find themselves unable to provide medically for themselves, and find themselves resorting to alternative methods, foreign country care, or simply avoiding medical care altogether. As I’ve discussed before in a previous reflection post, I believe the most impactful way to change the course of our current healthcare is to become educated, and vote. This upcoming presidential election is inching closer and closer, and educating myself of each party’s platform and ideals in the best way to see change in the healthcare world.

Although I initially took this class as a fulfillment for my Public Health Minor, the wealth of knowledge I have acquired will better me as a healthcare consumer, and a future healthcare provider. Even after finishing this class, I plan to keep educating myself on the persisting changes in the healthcare world.

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A New Understanding of Healthcare

Before taking this course, I knew generalities about healthcare but never anything too specific. I knew, mainly, that everything involving an aspect of healthcare in the U.S. was overpriced. I was hoping that this high cost of healthcare was for a reason, better equipment, better doctors, better medicines, etc. Unfortunately, as I found out, this was not the case. This course has completely changed my perspective of healthcare and has influenced my decisions of re-evaluting a profession that I thought to be flawless.  Continue reading “A New Understanding of Healthcare”

Process Reflection 3

Sociology of Healthcare has definitely been one of the more interesting courses I have taken at Boston University. As a senior in Sargent College, I have taken many health and health-related courses before, but I liked how this course had a different spin and perspective to it. I never really understood what sociologists did, but it was eye-opening to see that they discover and question the underlying factors that influence things, such as healthcare in the United States. Personally, I felt that the first lecture lingered with me and laid the foundation of the course for the semester because we learned about the stark difference between sociology in medicine and sociology of medicine. I never thought about the idea that you can question the healthcare system and the science behind it because in society, it is just accept as truth. The fact that sociologists can question and explore the history and factors that created healthcare into what it is today is incredible. I also found this class to be relatively important because healthcare is something we are affected by in daily life, whether we want to or not. Because of the practicality of the information we gained, we know about the Affordable Care Act, healthcare motives and trends, hospital history, different medical professions, the costs behind healthcare, factors that influence different types of people in relation to health coverage, and much more. The topic of socioeconomic factors stuck with me as well because no matter where we are in the social, gender, or race hierarchy, socioeconomic factors will always influence healthcare the most throughout the gradient. Although I do not have plans for medical school, I can take away so many relevant topics from this course as I seek for careers in healthcare administration and policy. Sociology of Healthcare was insightful and this course has been a delight.

Health Care & Death

In the article, “Tip-Toeing Toward Conversations About Death”, by Martha Bebinger, the evolvement of health care in regards to death is discussed. Bebinger stated that a new law in Massachusetts was passed, “urges more of us to make preparations for these wrenching experiences by requiring that doctors offer information on end-of-life care to “appropriate” patients.” This is a huge step for health care. Most of the time doctors only focused on saving patients lives, not making them comfortable for their death.

This huge step in health care is really important because families and patients should be able to live the last days of their lives in a way that makes them the most comfortable. I fully support this new law. However, it brings about a few questions. With this new evolvement in health care will assisted suicide soon be legalized in Massachusetts and other states?

Empathy Over Quality?

In the article, “The Patient in the Intensive Care Unit,” Robert Zussman states that patients who are place in the ICU end up losing their individual characteristics and becoming only a set of symptoms and numbers. Zussman seems to be blaming the doctors who work in the ICU for being less empathetic towards these patients. I believe that if doctors are being less empathetic is is merely because of the time sensitiveness of the cases that usually bring a patient to an ICU. With this said, do patients and their families value a doctors empathy over their quality of care? Has the view of health care altered in a way that a nice caring doctor is valued more then one who can perform much better? and is it fair to judge these doctors who are simply trying to save lives?

How do we justify our failing nursing home system?

It’s no secret that the life in a nursing home isn’t what people imagine it to be. Most expect a warm and nurturing environment that comforts the elderly, but realistically speaking, nursing homes revolve around a “profit-driven system” (Weitz, pg.241). Chapter 10 in Weitz emphasizes the truth behind modern-day nursing homes, indicating that may nonprofit nursing homes and for-profit homes significantly lack both quality of life and quality of care. Nursing assistants are considered “budgeted expenses”, nursing home administrators and owners keep overall care to a minimum, and health and safety violations are at an all time high. In fact, “federal regulators in 2008 cited more than 90% of nursing homes for health and safety violations” (Weitz, pg.241). This overwhelmingly large percentage of nursing home violations places residents at risk of “bedsores, malnutrition, pneumonia, and other avoidable health problems” (Weitz, pg.241).

With all these federal health and safety violations, it makes one wonder what is being done to fix these problems. Weitz indicates many problems that come with nursing homes, as well as at-home care and hospices, but fails to provide solutions to this increasing problem. And so I ask – What are possible solutions to this failing, profit-driven system that so many people rely on? How do we stop the process of commodification – turning patients into commodities?

Everyone’s Health Records… All In One Place?!

http://www.fastcompany.com/3054027/elasticity/ge-wants-to-move-all-your-health-data-to-the-cloud

In this day and age, everything is computerized and shared virtually, whether it be pictures, videos or notes. However, medical records are usually lost between hospitals, and patients find that they’re required to get the same CT scan that they did months ago at another hospital, doubling their exposure to radioactivity as well as accumulating ridiculous amounts of costs. Luckily enough, GE Healthcare has introduced a service that could fix this problem altogether – a service they call GE Health Cloud that links up “medical devices around the world, processes the data, and stores patient records securely online so they can be viewed from anywhere” (Captain, par.4). Indeed it’s true that something of this magnitude has the possibility of violating patients’ confidentiality, but the company promises that Health Cloud meets all U.S. HIPPA privacy requirements for healthcare records. GE Healthcare is planning to launch their new service in late spring 2016, revolving around devices like “CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRI scanners, and starting off with 500,000 of GE’s machines” (Captain, par.5). De Witte, the president and CEO of GE Healthcare, emphasizes that this service could save time and money, as well as even save lives. He gives the example of a patient with an ischemic stroke, which requires immediate diagnosis and treatment within 3-4 hours. A CT scan would require at least 4-5 hours, and the duration would put the patient’s life at risk. But with this service, any of the patient’s radiological records can be examined within minutes using the Health Cloud. The problem will eventually come with the hospital’s decisions to participate in the service, which can obviously be costly to the hospitals. It’ll be a difficult problem to come across when one hospital decides to participate in the service, and another hospital decides to ignore it.

I think this is one of the most promising articles I’ve come across in a long time. Medical technology is always being reinvented and expanded, so it’s shocking that a service like this hasn’t already been created. The biggest obvious downside to this service will indeed be the costs that hospitals will have to manage, but this is a situation where the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Aside from saving the patient a great deal of time, effort, and money, this could ultimately save a patient’s life (as explained in the paragraph above) as well as help the patient’s health in ensuring they aren’t overly exposed to unnecessary and redundant radioactivity that comes from many of these scanners. I am, however, skeptical of how every hospital will react to this service. I do believe many will reject this service solely based on costs, but if the costs are evenly distributed between the hospital and patients, I feel that the costs would end up being reasonable for both parties, still saving patients money from the ridiculous costs that come with all these expensive tests. I look forward to following up on the service’s success

Clueless (*As IF*)

Many Doctors Unaware of Truvada, Drug for Preventing H.I.V.

By Donald G. McNeil Jr.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/26/health/many-doctors-unaware-of-truvada-drug-for-preventing-hiv.html?ref=health 

Kudos to you if you actually got the reference I was making in the title.

But in all seriousness, this article frustrates me a lot. One of my good friends from high school is a campus advocate for Truvada (a.k.a. “PrEP”, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) at NYU and I can already imagine how upset the information in this article would make him.

Continue reading “Clueless (*As IF*)”

Analytical Posting : Treating A.D.H.D

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/23/video-game-is-built-to-be-prescribed-to-children-with-a-d-h-d/?ref=health

Earlier this month, the New York Times published an article describing a new method to treat A.D.H. D. in children. Basically, Akili Interactive Labs is a company that develops “electronic medicine” using high-quality, interactive video games. Recently, they came out with Project: EVO, a computer program “created to improve attention and reduce impulsivity in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” However, while the creation of a treatment that doesn’t force children as young as three and four to be medicated seems to be a wonderful new development, Project: EVO already sparks some concerns.

On one hand, it’s remarkable that there is a group of cognitive neuroscientists, biomedical scientists and experts in medical devices that is committed to treating children with A.D.H.D. without using drugs in a culture that is constantly using medication solve problems. The theory behind the whole brain training industry that targets children with A.D.H.D. along with adults who are trying to prevent dementia and other age-related cognitive ailments, is that people will be able to improve cognitive functions by using interactive, repetitive, and increasingly difficult exercises to strengthen the brain the same way lifting weights at the gym strengths other muscles in the body. “Electronic medicine,” as opposed to drugs could be a great alternative for parents who worry about side effects of drugs like amphetamine and methylphenidate that are typically used to treat A.D.H.D.

However, the problem with that last point is that doctors are not being encouraged to prescribe electronic treatment over standard drugs; rather, they are to prescribe both to children. Especially considering the video games are recommended for half an hour a day, five times a week for four weeks, they could be more stigmatizing for children and they wouldn’t actually replace the potentially harmful side effects from drugs. Kids who use Project: EVO could also later have an increased dependence on screen time, which is proven to, at times, end up being harmful to the development and health of children.

Also, I can’t help but worry about one more thing in the context of our discussions about the ways in which pharmaceutical companies medicalize illnesses. According to the article, “Shire, which manufactures Adderall, was an early investor in Akili and helped design the recent pilot study.” Shire has a vested interest in seeing increased treatment of A.D.H.D. in order to sell more Adderall. This is clear conflict of interest that could skew reports on the true effectiveness of Project: EVO. Unfortunately, what could be happening here is that a franchise is being made out of the treatment of A.D.H.D. And when business gets in the way of medicine, it is the patients who suffer.

Alternative Medicine and Mainstream Medicine

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/nyregion/wary-of-mainstream-medicine-immigrants-seek-remedies-from-home.html?ref=health

In recent lectures, we have learned about the rising popularity of alternative medicines and their predominance in immigrants and minority cultures. In Richard Schiffman’s NY Times article, he looks into why many immigrants have turned to home remedies and alternative medicines rather than mainstream medicine despite its constant advancements.

One of the reasons stated in the article that many immigrants turn to alternative medicine and home remedies is because it is more familiar to them and offers a feeling that is reminiscent of home. Many immigrants feel a sense of security when using medical remedies that they are most familiar with. Additionally, trusting American health professionals is extremely difficult for many immigrants and minorities as they fear they will be taken advantage of or receive treatment that is inferior to that of a “real” American.

Continue reading “Alternative Medicine and Mainstream Medicine”