Stories We're Following This Week

News + Insights from around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 


Supplements Lead To More Than 23,000 Emergency Room Visits a Year

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Thinkstock

"More than half of emergency department visits due to supplements involved female patients, and weight loss and energy products were responsible in more than half the visits for patients 5 to 34 years old."

—According to a new study, more Americans than ever before are taking
dietary supplements—and landing in the ER (Time.com

Bottom line: Always tell your doctors what medications you are taking, including any vitamins and other dietary supplements, because they can have unintended side effects and negative interactions with your other medications. Keep a personal medical inventory in your purse or wallet at all times, so that in the event of an emergency, caregivers are made aware of your current health condition, any allergies, and the medications and pills you are taking.


A Guide To the New Mammogram Recommendations

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Thinkstock

The American Cancer Society issued new recommendations for breast cancer screening on Tuesday. Confused? The New York Times offers a helpful guide.

Bottom line: The age for a first mammogram has been changed from 40 to 45, for women at average risk for breast cancer. The ACS also no longer recommends clinical exams, in which doctors or nurses feel for lumps in a patient's breasts. But, as this story indicates, other leading medical organizations offer differing guidelines. When there is this much dissonance over screening recommendations, it's even more important for you to discuss with your internist what your best course of action should be, based on your family health history and personal needs. 


This Company wants to Pay Patients to Act Like medical Consumers

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Thinkstock

"In Dallas, there was roughly a 21 times difference between the lowest-priced mammogram, which cost women $50, to the highest-priced test, which was $1,045. There was a 15 times difference in the prices of mammograms in New York City, which ranged from $130 up to $1,898."

—In an age of wildly disparate prices for common medical procedures, a company called
SmartShopper is paying patients to pick the lower-cost option (CNBC)

Bottom line: In our fragmented health care system, it typically doesn't cost more to get better care. But until the day comes when all institutions and caregivers are transparent about their pricing, volume, and outcomes, you can get better quality care by always going to significant instututions when you have a significiant medical problem. Most major academic hospitals in the largest cities take Medicare and all types of insurance, and they have the kind of technology, resources, and experienced staff that you may not find in a small comunnity hospital. 


Is Female Pain Taken Less Seriously?

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Thinkstock

"The average emergency-room patient in the U.S. waits 28 minutes before seeing a doctor. ...Where we were, the average wait was nearly three times as long, an hour and 49 minutes. Our wait would be much, much longer."

—Journalist Joe Fassler, in The Atlantic, who belives his wife was ignored in the ER because she is a woman.

Bottom line: In the confusion and urgency of an emergency department setting, it can be very difficult for any patient to be seen and understood. That's when it helps to have an advocate by your side. For tips on how to handle an emergency situation, see Leslie's tips in Oprah and read "Chapter 7: Emergency Room 101" in The Patient's Playbook.


Are Doctors Hesitant to Talk about the HPV Vaccine?

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Thinkstock

"Despite the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, only 38 percent of teen girls and 14 percent of teen boys receive all three doses... far below rates typically in the 80 and 90 percents for other vaccines."

—According to a new study, doctors have trouble communicating the importance of the human papillomavirus (HPV) to teens and their families, resulting in low vaccination rates (NPR

Bottom line: Some physicians are hesitant to talk about the vaccine because HPV is commonly—though not always—transmitted sexually. And yet, nearly all cervical cancers result from HPV infections, and a three-dose series of the vaccine protects against the strains responsible for an estimated 90 percent of HPV-related cancers. Instead of focusing on how one gets HPV, providers, teens and their parents should frame the discussion around preventing cancer.