Searching Online: Health information doesn’t have to be scary


By: Silje Lier, MPH, Communication Advisor
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
US Department of Health and Human Services

Do you often do a Web search of your physical symptoms in hopes of finding more information? Do the search results make you feel anxious and afraid, convinced that you’re suffering from a rare illness?

Today, 3 out of 4 Internet users look up health information online. And with the huge variety of information available to the public, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Everyone deserves to have access to health websites they can trust. But how do you know which websites can be trusted?

For starters, you should be able to (quickly!) answer the following four questions about the website you visit:

  • Who sponsors or hosts the website?
  • When was the information published?
  • Is my privacy being protected?
  • Whom can I contact for more information?

If a health website doesn’t tell you these things, go somewhere else that does get you to the health information you need.

One of these trusted websites is, a plain language website that provides free, reliable prevention and wellness guidance, vetted and continually updated by content experts across HHS.

Its interactive myhealthfinder tool lets users get personalized guidance on recommended preventive services (like flu shots and annual checkups), which, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, must be covered by all Marketplace plans and many others at no out-of-pocket cost.


Just say no . . .


Radical Approach To Huge Hospital Bills: Set Your Own Price

Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Jay Hancock

In the late 1990s you could have taken what hospitals charged to administer inpatient chemotherapy and bought a Ford Escort econobox.

Today average chemo charges (not even counting the price of the anti-cancer drugs) are enough to pay for a Lexus GX sport-utility vehicle, government data show.

Hospital prices have risen nearly three times as much as overall inflation since Ronald Reagan was president.

When hospitals send invoices with charges that seem to bear no relationship to their costs, one benefit firm tells its clients to just say no.

Health payers have tried HMOs, accountable care organizations and other innovations to control them, with little effect.

A small benefits consulting firm called ELAP Services is causing commotion by suggesting an alternative: Refuse to pay.

When hospitals send invoices with charges that seem to bear no relationship to their costs, the Pennsylvania firm tells its clients (generally medium-sized employers) to just say no. Continue reading


FDA Ready to Lift Ban on Blood Donations by Gay Men: MedlinePlus


RedBloodCellsThe change will better align the FDA’s donation policy for gay and bisexual men with its policies regarding other people potentially exposed to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, officials said.

For example, there’s currently a maximum one-year deferral policy in the United States for blood donations by men who have had sex with an HIV-positive woman or commercial sex workers. The same goes for women who have had sex with HIV-positive men.

However, sexually active gay men in a monogamous relationship would not be allowed to donate blood under the new policy.

Source: FDA Ready to Lift Ban on Blood Donations by Gay Men: MedlinePlus


Brain Injury Linked to Raised Risk of Road Rage: MedlinePlus


Illustration of the skull and brainPeople who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are at increased risk for road rage, a new study finds. .

The study found that those who had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury in their lifetime had many more incidents of serious road rage than those without a brain injury.

Serious road rage was defined as making threats to harm another driver or passenger, or damage another vehicle.

People with a history of traumatic brain injury were also much more likely to have been involved in a traffic crash that caused injury to themselves or passengers, or damage to their vehicle.

Source: Brain Injury Linked to Raised Risk of Road Rage: MedlinePlus


‘Free’ contraception means ‘free,’ Obama administration tells insurers

Birth control patch - Photo by John Heilman, MD under creative commons licesnse

Birth control patch – Photo by John Heilman, MD (CC)

By Phil  Galewitz

Free means free.

The Obama administration said Monday that health plans must offer for free at least one of every type of prescription birth control — clarifying regulations that left some insurers misinterpreting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

“Today’s guidance seeks to eliminate any ambiguity,” the Health and Human Services Department said. “Insurers must cover without cost-sharing at least one form of contraception in each of the methods that the Food and Drug Administration has identified … including the ring, the patch and intrauterine devices.”

The ruling comes after reports by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group, found many insurers were not providing no-cost birth control for all prescription methods. (KHN is an editorially independent project of the Kaiser Family Foundation.) Continue reading


Home visits by nurses for first-time mothers help reduce costs


Symphonie Dawson and her son Andrew.

By Michelle Andrews

Symphonie Dawson was 23 and studying to be a paralegal while working part-time for a temporary staffing agency when she learned that the reason she kept feeling sick was because she was pregnant.

Living with her mom and two siblings near Dallas, Dawson worried about what to expect during pregnancy and what giving birth would be like, not to mention how to juggle having a baby with being in school.

(Photo courtesy of Symphonie Dawson)

Continue reading


How one hospital brought its C-sections down in a hurry

In 2012, Hoag Hospital’s cesarean section rate was about 38 percent – five percent higher than the state average.  The Newport Beach hospital has been working to lower the amount of c-sections by stepping up data analysis and patient education (Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

In 2012, Hoag Hospital’s cesarean section rate was about 38 percent – five percent higher than the state average.(Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Anna Gorman

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.— Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, one of the largest and most respected facilities in Orange County, needed to move quickly.

A big insurer had warned that its maternity costs were too high and it might be cut from the plan’s network. The reason? Too many cesarean sections.

“We were under intense scrutiny,” said Dr. Allyson Brooks, executive medical director of Hoag’s women’s health institute.

The C-section rate at the time, in early 2012, was about 38 percent. That was higher than the state average of 33 percent and above most others in the area, according to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, which seeks to use data to improve birth outcomes.

Within three years, Hoag had lowered its cesarean section rates for all women to just over a third of all births. For low-risk births (first-time moms with single, normal pregnancies), the rate dropped to about a quarter of births. Hoag also increased the percentage of women who had vaginal births after delivering previous children by C-section.

In medicine, this qualifies as a quick turnaround. And the story of how Hoag changed sheds light on what it takes to rapidly improve a hospital’s performance of crucial services, to the benefit of patients, insurers and taxpayers.

Continue reading


Heroin sends more young adults to California emergency rooms | Reuters


320px-HeroinThe number of young adults admitted to California hospital emergency rooms with heroin poisoning increased sixfold over the past decade, the state said, the latest evidence of growing abuse of the highly addictive drug.

Heroin abuse has been on the rise across the United States, in part because it has become easier to obtain than prescription opiates like Oxycontin.

Source: Heroin sends more young adults to California emergency rooms | Reuters




U.S. Supreme CourtMany people in the United States doubt that the Supreme Court can rule fairly in the latest litigation jeopardizing President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Associated Press-GfK poll finds only 1 person in 10 is highly confident that the justices will rely on objective interpretations of the law rather than their personal opinions.

Nearly half, 48 percent, are not confident of the court’s impartiality.

Source: News from The Associated Press




Breast Cancer CellA new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care.

The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself.

A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance that could make personalized medicine possible for far more people.

Source: News from The Associated Press


Top five stories of the week

Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly


Staffing intensive care units remotely


tomsic (1)By Michael Tomsic, WFAE

Staffing An Intensive Care Unit From Miles Away Has Advantages

Recovering from pneumonia is an unusual experience in the 10-bed intensive care unit at the Carolinas HealthCare System hospital in rural Lincolnton, North Carolina.

The small hospital has its regular staff in Lincolnton, but Richard Gilbert, one of the ICU patients, has an extra nurse who is 45 miles away.

That registered nurse, Cassie Gregor, sits in front of six computer screens in an office building. She wears a headset, and her voice is piped into Gilbert’s room via computer speakers.

A doorbell sounds before the camera turns on, alerting Gilbert that the nurse is looking in. They chit-chat as Gregor monitors Gilbert’s vital signs. The nurse asks how he’s feeling and if there’s anything he needs.

Carolinas HealthCare System monitors ICUs in 10 of its hospitals from this command center near Charlotte. The command center is staffed 24-7 with a rotating crew of seven to nine nurses and doctors who specialize in critical care. Everyone on the team also does bedside shift.

Carolinas HealthCare started this project about two years ago and says it’s good for staff and patients.

For one thing, medical staff at the command center can maintain a constant focus on patients. The command center is quiet — none of the alarms are going off that most ICUs need to alert nurses and doctors down the hall that they’re needed. Dr. Scott Lindblom says it’s a nice change of pace.

The peace, he says, “makes it a much more pleasant environment actually to work in than what we’re used to — the usual chaos of the ICU.”

 (Photo by Kevin McCarthy/Carolinas HealthCare System) Continue reading


Free Women’s Health Seminars in June – PacMed


pacmedPacMed will host two free Women’s Health seminars in June


    •  5 things women are too embarrassed to talk about
    • Migraine headache relief: tips and treatments
    • 14 things your eyes say about your health
    •  Heartburn and hemorrhoids

When and where:

Saturday, June 6, at PacMed’s Renton clinic
9–11 AM (8:30 registration)
601 S Carr Rd, #100, Renton, WA 98055

Saturday, June 20, at PacMeds Canyon Park clinic
9–11 AM (8:30 registration)
1909 214th St SE, #300, Bothell, WA 98021

There will be free Health Risk Assessment Screenings at the Canyon Park event

Registration for the event can be found here: