Better Health Care Newsletter by Patrick Malone

Our newsletter helps patients and their families get the best possible medical care. We teach consumers how to become their own advocates for high-quality care and how to ask the right questions and get the best answers – from doctors, nurses, and other health care providers. The American medical care system can be intimidating and daunting for the average consumer, so we take on a whole range of issues important for anyone getting health care.

Here is  a comprehensive index of back issues:

2018

What you need to know right now about your health insurance coverage

With health insurance, ‘skinny’ isn’t good
High stress with high deductibles
Problem-solving is never easy
Medicaid: Millions got covered. And millions didn’t.
For seniors, due diligence can be key with Medicare

What the new research on alcohol really means

Intoxication factors big in rising road toll
Liquor can be hard on waistline and liver
Excessive drinking is a growing problem
Drunken online shopping: a costly new  trend
Booze and sex may be even more risky as STD cases soar

Be wary of getting buffaloed into one of these medical herds

The controversy over new  blood pressure guidelines
“Pre-diabetes” A useful label or not?
Are those aches of age, or are twice as many Americans really arthritic?
Maybe you don’t belong in this roundup?
U.S. health care: more bucks, less bang
One herd that’s good: Herd immunity

Dispelling the silence and shame around suicide

Real facts about suicide too often are shrouded by destructive myths
The eternal question: What makes life worth living?
A key first step: Spotting someone at risk
Soothing survivors by just being there
The lessons for the rest of us from physician suicides
Helpful resources abound

Summer-proofing your kids from the year’s ‘100 deadliest days’

Fun months can carry big risks
Easing road risks for mobile youngsters
Keeping kids safe around water
A primer on sun, heat and biting bugs
Some constructive responses when kids say ‘I’m bored’
Put food hygiene on menu for a healthier summer
To avoid medical bill shock, plan and prepare, just in case

The rising toll of hepatitis, and what each of us can do to protect ourselves and our families

U.S. struggling with spikes in liver-harming hepatitis A, B, and C infections
Hepatitis infections exact major harms on both health and finances
Practical ways each of us can help prevent hepatitis
A few words about alcohol
Transplant policies and practices change with times

Partnering with your doctors to keep your care up to date

For your health’s sake, don’t let your doctor turn into a medical fossil
When medicine advances, but your doctor lags
How patients can be informed, prepared partners in health care
A little gray can be OK
And what to do for shy patients

The opioid epidemic: How we got in, how we can get out

Opioid prescription drugs are killing tens of thousands
Big Pharma and doctors got this epidemic started
There’s a challenging path forward to end this lethal public health scourge

How loneliness hurts health

An epidemic of loneliness threatens not only our happiness but also our health
Big and small responses may reverse harms of social isolation and alienation
Valentine splurges can be hard on waist and wallet
Americans’ sex lives: Full of contradictions

Some small steps for healthier living in 2018

Facts to motivate change
Eat food. Not too much. Think less salt, sugar, and red meat. Try more fish & nuts.
Take a big step for health: Get moving!
To curb stress and anxiety, try the “off” button.
Adults need vaccinations, too
How to save a fast $100

2017

For the holidays, consider the best gift ever

The need is great, the supply is poor: Organ donation is easy but few sign up
When life-and-death decisions get made, controversies follow
Can porcine pals, stem cells provide new organ sources?
Key rights and valuables

Coping in an age of anxiety

Anxiety disorders: pervasive but treatable
Kids’ anxiety gives grownups cause to wring their hands
Easing anxiety on two levels
Sleep and exercise: key ways to keep anxiety in check
Are media, social media and e-devices making us fret too much?

Disasters prove that now is the time to research good nursing home care 

Need for nursing care may arise suddenly

Research, visit, consult. Repeat. And take all the time you can.
Make a decision, then make sure to stay engaged.
Care giving at home: It’s a tough option
Get these documents in order

Deflating the hype and exposing the risks of stem-cell treatments

Big bills and big harms in therapeutic ‘Wild, Wild West

Regenerative medicine holds great promise still. But not yet.
Why skepticism is smart
A caution on the placebo effect
Stop following celebrity trends

What you need to know before having a knee or hip replaced

Cautions on the path to joint replacement
‘Routine’ surgeries can and do go wrong. Hospital and rehab stays also can go awry.
Safeguards that matter
Protect your joints from undue harm
The woes of arthritis

Spring cleaning your medications can safeguard your health & save money

Break out of the prescription drug frenzy
Reconsider whether you need OTC drugs, vitamins, supplements
Paring your daily pill intake
Keeping the kids safe with many drugs around
Don’t dispose meds so they poison the environment

Our vehicles are killing us – and we can do a lot to stop it

Distractions taking a deadly road toll
Drunk, drugged, and sleepy: impaired motorists pose huge vehicular risks
We curbed the carnage before, and we can commit to doing it again
Pedestrians and bikers, beware
Taxi, bus, train drivers can be distracted, too

Diabetes: The new and the tried-and-true for coping

It’s 2017: Don’t we know tons about controlling this too-familiar disease?
Managing a chronic condition with less Big Pharma meddling
A disease with disparities
There’s good news, too, in treatment of diabetes

Why caregivers deserve a special Valentine

The silent crisis in health: caregiving
Taking better care of our caregivers
High-tech holds caregiving promise
In exurbia, even greater woes

In 2017, ditch the drama: Get healthier with common sense and moderation

Don’t go diet crazy. Eat healthfully
Get up and move to boost well-being
These vices aren’t nice for your 2017 health
Give a boost to your well-being in these ways

2016

Give a lasting holiday gift of health: Volunteer for a medical research study

Clinical trials can benefit volunteers
Risks? Informed consent is critical
How do I sign up?
Improving a key component
of modern health care

Has Big Sugar become a public health menace?

Evidence grows of sugar’s harms
Have Big Sugar, Big Soda taken a page from Big Tobacco’s ugly playbook?
The battle against harmful sugar
Sugars differ; does this affect health?
Are we better off with artificial sweeteners?

App-solutely not: beware of hype in smart phone health apps

For the record, health apps can be useful
Digital diagnoses? Professionals still matter
Guard your health data by
protecting apps, devices
MDs, nurses tap apps, too

The cancer quandary: improving outcomes as costs explode

The rising price tag for cancer care
Billionaires as cancer philanthropists
Hope, support, and survivorship
Resources on cancer finances
Why you need a med buddy

Coping with calamitous news reports

Tumultuous times can take a health toll
The grownup Rx for horrible headlines
Help kids  put crises in context
Control what you can: make a disaster plan
Why ‘resilience’ matters

Lose the guilt. Take the vacation. It’s good for you.

Show this to your boss: Summer vacations really are good for you
Nurturing your mind on vacation
Be sun-smart, heat-healthy
Stay water wise

More Drivers Testing Positive for Marijuana, But …

Marijuana and Driving
OK, So What’s “Under the Influence”?
What’s Next?

Listen up to Protect Your Hearing 

Dealing with tots’ ear infections
Turn down the sound, turn up the healthy lifestyle
Sound ways for seniors to stay tuned in
On balance, the ears matter
Why do people jam sticks in their ears?

How to be a smart consumer of health news

The Skeptic’s Approach
Digging Deeper
Credible Voices

Sexual health for Valentines

Challenges to reproductive health
Healthy enough for sex
HIV-AIDS: a scourge persists

Healthier (and happier) eating in 2016

Simpler, common sense eating
Clean and easy
A sprinkling of science for tastier home cooking

2015

For the holidays, share a great gift for health: Quality time for friends and loved ones

Families, kids feel the sting of shortfalls in parents’ time
Timely support, especially for caregiving
Finding time for friends, ourselves

A burning health zombie: Why do we smoke still, and now vape?

Still Deadly After All These Years
How We Can Help Our Teens
Resolved: Quit Smoking

The Older, Sometimes Better Brain (Part Two)

What’s Bad for Your Brain
And the Good News Is…
Coping Strategies

The Older, Sometimes Better Brain

Cognition: What’s Happening Here?
Exercise
Intellectual Engagement
Diet
Sleep

The Non-Exerciser’s Guide to the Why, How and What of Better Health

Good for the Body, Good for the Brain
Know the Rules, Then Apply Them
Cardio Exercise
Strength Exercise
Just Go Out and Play
Getting Started
Is a Fitbit For You?

You Can Eat This… But Why Would You?

Exposing Bad Food Advice, and Looking at What’s Good For You
Not as Advertised
Junk in, Junk (or worse) Out
To Feel Well, Eat Well

Looking Ahead: Preparing for Long- Term Care 

Demographics=Destiny
The High Cost of Care
Make Planning a Priority
Shopping for Long Term Care
Buyer Beware

Managing Chronic Pain: It’s Complicated

A Cautionary Tale
Takes One to Know One
Treatment With Drugs
Treatment With Exercise
Treatment with Modalities
Treatment With Injections
Quality Control for Pain Relief Can Save Lives

Secure Health Records: A Matter of Privacy and Safety

What’s at Risk
Who’s Peeking Into your File
Quality Control is Lacking
How to Protect your Health Information

Standing Tall Against a Fall  

Aging and Accidents
Heading for a Fall
Prevent Falls by Minding Your Meds
Prevent Falls by Exercising
Prevent Falls by Smart Home Design
Prevent Falls by Eating Well
A Sense of Control

When the Doctor Doesn’t Know What’s Wrong

There’s Science, and There’s Bias
How Doctors Think
Bending the Bias Your Way
Getting the Doctor on Your Side
Doctor, Heal Thyself

New Years Renewal  

Eight Ways to Better Health

2014

Play it Safe 

How to Choose the Right Toys

Welcome to Medicare

How to Make the Most of Turning 65

Dying in America 

Plan Early for End of Life
Advance Planning
Medicine Is Not Magic
Medicine as Part of the Problem
Design Your Plan of Action
The Four Big Questions

Becoming a Smarter Buyer of Prescription Drugs  

Understanding Your Medicine
Getting the Right Generic Drug
Shortages Are Common, and Expensive
Insurance Coverage Issues
Best Tips for Cutting Drug Costs

When Your Health Insurer Denies a Claim, Do You Have to Roll Over?  

One Consumer’s Story
Why Were You Denied?
Preparing for a Successful Appeal
Getting Help
Persistent Consumer Wins Big

Young Athletes and Hot Weather: Reducing the Risks of Playing Sports

Stopped Heart
Heat Stroke
How to Chill the Risks of Hot Weather

New Ways to Find the Best Doctor 

New Ways to Track Treatment Patterns
Tapping Your Own Network
Casting a Wider Net
The Path to Health and Happiness

Saturated Fat: The Good, the Bad and the In-Between 

Three Kind of Dietary Fat
The New Study About Saturated Fat
Figuring Out Your Fat Formula

The Struggle to Sleep 

The Mystery of Sleep
Yes, You Need to Sleep
Why We Don’t Sleep Enough
How to Have Sweet Dreams

Primer on Weight-Loss Surgery

The Weighty Facts
The Procedure
Side Effects and Risks
Homework You Need to Do
Surgery Is Only the First Step
Recent Health Care News You Should Know About

How to Prevent Injury and Stay Out of the Emergency Room 

An Ounce of Prevention
Dos and Don’ts of Emergency Care
Safety First, Safety Last
Recent Health Care News You Should Know About

You Can Do This Now: Simple Steps to More Healthful Living in 2014  

A Short List of Essential Tips to Better Health
Olive Oil and Nuts Daily
The Mediterranean Diet
Strength Training, Why and How
Wash Your Hands
An Ally and Companion at Every Health Care Encounter

2013

Should a Statin Drug Be in Your Medicine Cabinet?

Who Takes Statins and Why
Evidence Tells the Truth
The Risk Calculator
Statin Side Effects
What Should You Do?

The More Weight-Loss Treatments Change, the More They Stay the Same 

The Size of the Problem
Searching for No-Fat Mr. Goodbar
A Prescription for Doctors
A Prescription for Patients

Suicide: Hard Facts, Eternal Mysteries 

Risk Factors and Warning Signs
How to Help
Protective Measures
Helping Survivors

Back Pain: Good and Bad Paths to Relief

The Facts About Drug Therapy
Spinal Injections Don’t Measure Up
Surgery as a Last Resort
Watchful Waiting Can Be Your Friend

The Dicey Connection between Hospital Ratings and Superior Patient Care 

Everyone Has an Agenda
How Executive Pay Skews Some Ratings

Navigating Through Medical Treatment Conflicts of Interest

Is There a Problem? Let Us Count the Ways
A Growing Awareness
Getting Objective Information

What Women (and Men) Need to Know about the BRCA Test for Cancer Risk

Who Needs to Worry and Why
What BRCA Is, and How Testing Is Done
Targeted Testing Is Most Accurate

When Hospital Errors Follow You home

What Survivors of Patient Harm Can Expect
How a Hospital Error Hurts the Emotion Healing Process
Postscript from Patrick Malone: Learn More About Your Rights and How to Reduce the Harms of Medical Errors

The Truth Will Out: Gaps in the Science of Nontraditional Medicine

A Prescient Warning about the Shortage of Critical Thinking
Science is the Tortoise…
… Alternative Medicine is the Hare
When Nontraditional Medicine Does Not Put Safety First

Conventional and Alternative Medicine: A Delicate Co-Existence

Defining the Terms and Surveying the Field of Nontraditional Medicine
Why People Turn to CAM
Does This Stuff Ever Work?

Nurse Practitioners as Primary Care Providers

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
An Expanding Role
Considering Cost
With Change Comes Resistance
Focus on the Patient

Deep Thoughts for the New Year: Ethical Quandaries of Medical Advances  

Six Troubling Issues in Medical Technical Advances

2012

Traveling for Major Medical Care at Someone Else’s Expense: Is This the Future?  

How the Medical Vacation Came to Be
Who Pays?
Not Everyone Qualifies
How to Be a Smart Surgical Traveler

Why Reading Your Medical Records Can Improve Your Health
Following the Plan
Too Much Information? Not to Worry
How to Obtain and Understand Your Medical Records

Learning Your Own DNA Sequence: The Promise and Peril of Genetic Testing

So What Exactly Is DNA?
What DNA Testing Is Currently Possible
The Pharmacogenomic Promise
The TMI Problem with DNA Testing
The Bottom Line: Advice for Sensible DNA Testing

You Can Go Home Again (from the Hospital), but There’s a Lot You Need to Know First 

Essential Questions to Ask to Know if You’re Ready to Go Home
Make Sure You Get Results of Late Tests
Key Things to Watch Out for Once You’re Home
What if You Want Out Now, and Caregivers Disagree?

Eat, Drink and Be Wary: The Truth about Diet Supplements and Sports Drinks

Diet Supplements: Not a Fruit, Not a Vegetable, Not Worth Taking
Sports Drinks: Many Claims, Little Evidence of Benefit
Better Habits Beat Supplements in the Goal of Improving Health

What’s Wrong with the Pregnancy Health Care Assembly Line

Ten Overused Baby Delivery Technologies
How to Improve Your Odds of a Safe, Natural Childbirth

How Good is Health Care Delivered in Retail Stores?

Why We Need Retail Clinics
The Cost Advantage of Knowing the Price Up Front
Coordinating Care: The Key Quality Issue
Making the Most of Retail Health Care

The Unknowable Cost of Medical Care

The Costs of Care Then Versus Now
How Hard It Is to Get Basic Cost Numbers
What You Can Do to Check Out Costs

A Healthy Heart: Unlocking the Key to Long Life

A Maintenance Plan for the Heart
Heart Risk Factors You May Not Know

Revisiting Cancer Screening — the Colonoscopy Conundrum

Colonoscopy Saves Lives but Only If You Get One
Another Reasonable Option for Colon Cancer Screening

When a Leader Becomes a Follower: Health Care Lessons from a Symphony Conductor

The Importance of Being There
A Cancer Journey’s Lessons for the Rest of Us

New Year’s Tuneup: A Health Care Newsletter

Vaccines: Life-Long Preventive Care
Screening and Prevention Tests that Work

2011

Saying No to Your Doctor: Sometimes Wrong but Always Right 

Refusing Health Care Is OK, as Long as You Have the Facts
Sorting Your Options for Colon Cancer Screening

The Second Opinion: Trust but Verify

Why We Hesitate to Get a Second Opinion
Seven Ways Second Opinions Improve Our Health Care
Making the Second Opinion More Productive

The One Medical Statistic You Need to Know 

“Number Needed to Treat:” The Simple Way to Understand What Works
How to Find the Number Needed to Treat for Just About Any Condition
Some Eye-Popping NNT Numbers for Breast Cancer Screening

Those TV New Doctors: Good Advisors or Fear Mongerers?

TV Doctors Pump Calcium Heart Screening Test, but Leave Out the Other Side
Following the Money Trail When TV Doctors Push the C-Reactive Protein Test
What Neutral Experts Say about the New Heart Screening Tests, and Some Simple Advice for You

Helping Your Doctor Make the Right Diagnosis

How Bringing an Ally to the Doctor’s Office Can Help You Get Better Care
Switching Doctors When You Need to
More Reading on Getting the Right Diagnosis

Finding the Right Hospital for You 

The Volume Rule – and an Important Refinement
Two Appeals Court Decisions Worth Knowing About: Report from the Malpractice Trenches

Rules of Thumb for Better Health Care: When Instinct Can Guide You in the Right Direction 

Rule One: Avoid Superior Doctors
A Rule of Thumb for Scheduling Surgery
Open House This Week at Our New Office

Talking to Your Doctor When You Can’t Speak 

Some Eye-Opening Numbers about Your Odds of Landing in an ICU
The Health Care Power of Attorney
The Living Will — and Some Questions to Think About

When a Conversation Can Save a Life

A quick introduction to “informed consent”
Talking to Your Surgeon: What You Need to Ask
Myth versus Reality in Medical Decision-Making

Essential Tips for Doing Your Own Health Care Research

WebMD: Another Hype Alert
Top Sources for Reliable Health Care Information on the Internet
One Click to a Healthy Diet

Separating Fact from Hype in Health Care Advice 

A quick reality check: Reviewing medical journalism and rating its accuracy
Overrated Medications: A Family Doctor Speaks Out
Look for this “Miranda Warning” on so-called health products

2010

Protecting a Loved One in the Hospital

Step One: Have Someone in the Hospital Room at All Times
Two potentially deadly but preventable harms: Falls and bed sores
Next newsletter: More Preventable harms: Wrong medicine, infections, blood clots.

The Joys of Being a Health Care Skeptic (One of a Series)

Medical Research: A Play in Five Acts
The True Numbers for Breast Cancer
A Chart of Death Trends
Most Research Findings Are Wrong

Your First Step to the Best Medical Care (One of a Series)

Why Getting & Reading Your Medical Records Can Save a Life
Resources for Getting Your Records
Cracking the Code: Here’s How

Colon Cancer: How to Save Your Life by Finding the Right Doctor to Do Your Screening Exam (One of a series: Becoming a Smarter Consumer of Health Care in 2010)

Two Questions You Must Ask to Get a Competent Colon Cancer Screening Test
How Often Do Patients Get an Inadequate Colonoscopy?

Preventative Care: What Works? What Do I need to Stay Healthy? (One of a series: Becoming a Smarter Consumer of Health Care in 2010)

The Shingles Vaccine: A Small Hassle Now to Prevent Much Misery Later
What Every Adult American Needs: A Simple List of Preventive Medical Care that Works
Not on the List: The Executive Physical or Expensive Scans

When Less is More for Treating Back Pain and Heart Disease (One of a series: Becoming a Smarter Consumer of Health Care in 2010)  

Simple Is Best for Most Back Surgeries
Many Unneeded Heart Stents
A Postscript: People Like Us

Understanding Numbers in Medicine: Easier than You Might Think, and More Important Too 

Count the Patients If You Want to Know the Real Scoop
How to Read Numbers: The Tamoxifen story
A New Approach: The “Drug Facts” Box

How do You Find the Best, Safest Hospital?

How to look for the Right Hospital
Check Out What Other Patients Have Said on the Medicare Website
More Resources

The Dilemma of Modern Medical Care: More is Not Always Better

Lessons from Heart Attack
Removal of a Healthy Breast
Cancer Screening

Experience Counts: What you need to know before choosing a surgeon

Practice Makes Perfect: Essential Knowledge for Anyone Facing Surgery or Any Medical Procedure
Finding the Answers on Your Surgeon’s Experience
Your Legal Right to Know Your Surgeon’s Experience

A New Start for 2010: Becoming a Smarter Consumer of Health Care 

Conflicts of Interest: Why Should Patients Care?
The First Step: It Gets Easier