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Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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I’d like to take a moment to thank readers for their continued attention to this blog and this site. The Women’s March drove home the point of how important it is for all of us to be aware, and for us to make our voices heard. The beginning is simple: learning what is going on. 

Policy

Up to date policy includes one Alex Azar, who will be the new HHS ( Health and Human Services) secretary. As such he will be in charge of health policy in the nation. He has vowed to consider the interests of both parties. 

The legislature is gearing up to vote on a 20 week abortion ban. I’m not sure how much effect this will have since most elective abortions are far earlier than this. Since Roe versus Wade was based 45 years ago, making abortion legal, approximately, twelve hundred restrictive state laws have been passed. 

The Trump administration is crafting a program called “ Conscience Rights” which would allow a health care provide to deny a patient care based on their beliefs. This care would obviously include controversial procedures like abortions and assisted suicide, but would also extend to providing contraception and sterilization. Numerous physician groups including ACOG have raised substantial objections. I would not like to see health care devolve this way. I already know physicians who disapprove of people who get abortions, and physicians who disapprove of people who don’t practice birth control to have large families “ as many as God will give”, or people who drink, or people who smoke, or people who get fat or get sexually transmitted infections. Is there no end to our judgmental mentality ? I though we were in this to teach, comfort and cure. 

Utah is where I went to medical school. It is also the center of governance for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormon Church. In general I found the people there an attractive mix of family oriented, strictly religious, and yet interested in and respectful of science and the diverging views of others. So in this progressive atmosphere it comes as no surprise to me that a Republican legislator Representative Ray Ward, has proposed HB 12, which will enable Utah Medicaid to provide birth control, which it currently does not. He is proposing this to save money by decreasing unplanned pregnancies, abortions and reducing all costs associated with those. Brilliant ! 

Texas lost $35 million in federal funds which it voted to exclude Planned Parenthood from the recipients list. It basically lost $35 million worth of care to Texas women. Could this be related to the astounding increase in Texas Maternal Mortality ? Now Texas legislators are trying to get that money back. They are proposing their own program which will still exclude Planned Parenthood; They are calling it Healthy Texas Women. If they get their money back for their new program, there is concern that other states will similarly overhaul how federal money is delivered to women’s health clinics. 

Meanwhile, nationwide, women continue to flock to clinic to obtain long acting IUDs ( intrauterine devices) to give them birth control in case the contraceptive mandate of  Affordable Care Act is revoked. 

The Trump administration is trying to find more ways to “ excuse” people from the mandatory requirement to have health insurance, the so called “ individual Mandate” part of the ACA ( Affordable Care Act).  For all the world, you would think they want fewer people insured. Oh wait ! They do want fewer people using federally sponsored health insurance plans, since those cost the government money which they would prefer to keep for items on their own agenda. They justify this stating consumers should have freedom of choice, meaning the freedom to save for health care expenditures, as if that is common practice, or you could reasonably expect to do it for a large 5 figure expenditure. Last year, there were 3.2 million more people uninsured compared to the year before. Most of this is reckoned to be people who simply chose not to pay for health care. I cannot understand why it is not simply like car insurance. If you are on the road, you must have insurance. If you do not, and something happens, you will cost others a great deal of money and yourself a great deal of trouble. The same is true if people are too irresponsible to obtain health insurance. 

Medical News

Hip fractures among women are on the rise. This new study shows what I have considered inevitable. The women of the Diet Coke, Tab and too much coffee age are upon us. Many were smokers, and few drank milk, let alone ate leafy greens. No wonder bones are breaking. Here in Montana, where winter is 9 months long and there are 3 months of bad sledding, vitamin D deficiency is rampant. Vitamin D is crucial to bone metabolism and is manufactured in the skin by sunlight. Pacific Northwesterners and many of us in the Rocky Mountains inland should consider getting checked and supplemented. 

Breastfeeding may protect against type two diabetes in women. The longer the breastfeeding, the greater the reduction in risk. We have always advised that breastfeeding helps moms lose unwanted weight, and of course that in and of itself lowers risk for diabetes. 

Placental insufficiency is just what it sounds like it is. All placentas are not created equal. Placentas deliver oxygen and nutrients to a growing baby. However, various medical conditions or just bad luck will result in a poorly functioning placenta. Just about any pregnancy complication such as high blood pressure, poor nutrition, or smoking will result a placenta of  poor quality and a higher risk of complications for baby. The worst complication is of course stillbirth. A new study has suggested that nearly a quarter of stillbirths could be preventable. Placental insufficiency is usually the culprit, and with standard prenatal care it is not hard to diagnose. When we identify the problem, we increase the surveillance with monitoring and Ultrasound. Any problems with access to good prenatal care will interfere with identifying and treating complications that lead to stillbirth. 

Texas continues to be in the news as researchers and policy people probe the appalling maternal mortality figures. As of this writing we know that many factors are to blame including access to prenatal care, prevalence of black women in the data set, especially those who are underserved, or who have hypertension. Most interesting to me is the contribution of stress from chronic societal discrimination. 

The spotlight is now on my state, Montana. In the case of 14 child deaths in Montana this year, 3/4 of them took place when an infant slept in the same bed as a mother who was using drugs. Our hospital has addressed this by have an active department of Social Services, an Addiction Specialty service, and the Baby Box program. This is modeled after a common European practice wherein a family with a newborn is sent home with a baby box full of safe supplies. The box itself is made to evidence based standards, having a flat firm mattress , a fitted sheet, and no covers. Baby is kept warm in a sleep sack, a kind of gown in which they cannot get tangled or suffocate. In Finland, for example this has been done for over 75 years with good results. Some say it has helped Finland achieve one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. The Baby Box program also includes extensive education about safe separate sleeping practices, but it remains challenging to change people’s behavior of keeping baby with them in the bed. 

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22751415

A County Attorney in Big Horn County, Montana has announced a crackdown on pregnancy women who use drugs or alcohol. That office plan to seek civil restraining orders and even incarceration to meet their goals. ACOG has come out against this, indicating it basically keeps high risk women away from prenatal care. Handmaid’s Tale, much ? 

When medicine and policy collide: More women received indicated mammograms when Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, banned copays. If that does not tell you copays are a barrier to screening, I don’t know what does. 

Women skip mammograms for money. But, a new study says women skip paps for embarrassment. Young women in particular could identify embarrassment due to body shape, shape of vulva, or smell. We need to do more to help women and girls feel comfortable in their own bodies. 

A new study reveals that increased long use of oral contraceptive pills confers better and better protection agains endometrial (uterine) and ovary cancer. It also confirms that long term use does not seem to affect risk of colon or breast cancer. You may have in the past heard other studies which have contradicted this. The good news is that our methodologies improve and computing power increases every year, making the quality of our data better and better as time goes by. 

Not-so-fun-fact: New research incites that a women's risk of dying from childbirth is 14 times higher than her risk of dying from an abortion. 

Finishing today in the SUPER COOL department, we have two entries. 

First, those Scandinavians are once again on the forefront of progressive perinatal care, this time using the power of probiotics. A new study shows probiotics consumed in pregnancy lowers the risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth. These Scandinavian countries provide comprehensive prenatal care and keep thorough databases on all patients, enabling them to glean meaningful information of good quality. More research is needed on how to implement this finding. 

Lastly, Apple has roiled out a new feature in the Health App enabling users, meaning patients, to control and transfer their own medical records. Twelve large medical institutions have begun beta testing. This is great for patient empowerment. It is also partakes of the open data movement, which says that in an ideal world, data should be fully shared, without fear of discrimination. When patient and research data can be shared, we can expect a great acceleration of medical progress on the topics which matter most. 

 

Stay tuned until next week, for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Happy new year ! Hopefully this year we will benefit from the upheaval of 2017. Many of us became more political. The issues about which we care came into distinct focus. Perhaps we clarified our priorities. Hopefully health and quality time are high on your list. 

In that spirit, I am going to try to streamline what I hope has already been a streamlined blogging format, and go to what could perhaps be called “ bullet blogging”. Perhaps you have heard of “ bullet Journalling”  or “dot journalling”? I had been doing it for some time without realizing it. Instead of journaling in full sentences and paragraphs, I journal in bullet lists, small graphics and graphs. It is fun, fast, and lets me indulge my visual nature. 

If you have been into any Michaels, Joannes or any other craft store lately, you may have seen prominent displays showing fancy little bound or three ring journals, sticker sets, small format markers, washi tape, and specialized fill pages - all for such enhanced journaling. There are also many cool online resources for bullet journalling. 

I am an incredibly digital oriented person, and so it may seem a surprise that I would be interested in such analog things. I believe that for every person’s life or work management system, there is a particular optimal balance between digital and analog. Everyone one needs a little paper. In my office, I have suggested that my employees keep “ one notebook to rule them all”. Instead of a proliferation of sticky notes and other scraps to get mangled or lost, the one notebook, complete with dates and legible writing, held everything. I gave them some beautiful starter notebooks, and they took it from there. They seem to enjoy it. One co-worker in particular has made hers into what I would call an art form. That is the idea ! It is to take some joy and satisfaction in even the smallest things, like note taking and scratch calculations at work.

And so it has occurred to me to try “ bullet blogging”. It is my hope it will be faster, simpler and easier on the eyes. I’m going to give it a go. 

Policy News 

Via CMS( Center for Medicaid Services) : 

  • 8.7 million signed up for Obamacare, federal health insurance made possible by the Affordable Care Act, likely underestimated 
  • 95% of last years level, despite half the signup period and deep cuts to advertising
  • Final figures due out in March

 

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS ? 

Employees of the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) and other federally funded health and science organizations were “discouraged" from using seven words in budget reports: 

  • Vulnerable

  • Entitlement

  • Diversity

  • Transgender

  • Fetus

  • Evidence-based

  • Science-based

#RESIST 

Two separate letters have been issued from > 300 public health organizations urging the HHS ( Health and Human services) to ignore this. The second letter included signatures from

ACOG ( American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)

AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) 

APHA ( American Public Health Association) 

 

Blocking the blockers 

  • Last week  Federal Judge in Northern CA blocked the Trump administration’s loophole which let’s objecting employers out of providing insurance with contraception to employees. 
  • The Justice Department is “ evaluating” LOL. 
  • Comment: No one ever has, because of Obamacare, made anyone else use contraception. 
  • Fact: Contraception reduces teen pregnancy and abortion. ALOT. 

 

Kick the can

GOP has kicked the real budget and real health care bill into January. Stay tuned. 

 

Medical News

 

ACOG President-Elect Lisa Hollier, MD MPH, Houston, Texas, brings a new clear focus: the rising maternal mortality in America. 

  • Missouri ranks high is maternal mortality, in the worst ten. 
  • Oregon is creating a special commission on rising maternal mortality.
  • One in four pregnancies in central Oregon are drug affected. 
  • Mississippi has the highest rate of preterm birth, which is high cost in both human and financial terms. The CEO of Magnolia Health in Mississippi is taking aim at this problem. 
  • Infant mortality in Kansas is about three times higher for black babies than it is for all babies. 
  • Dr. Hollier's own state of Texas takes the cake, with the highest maternal mortality this side of the third world. 

 

STUDIES: 

 

Study: Breast pain is not a symptoms of breast cancer. Neither lack of pain nor lack or palpable lumps means lack of breast cancer. Upshot: Get your mammograms ! 

Study: Cervical Pessary may be of use in preventing preterm birth. 

Study: at home STI ( sexually transmitted infection) test kits may increase detection rates. 

Study: Post menopausal Estrogen therapy may protect against some forms of memory loss. 

Study: Income and weight are inversely related for women. This is not true for men. Contemplate. 

FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) plans to increase regulation of homeopathic remedies. Because there are no real studies on these. Contemplate. 

Marijuana update 

  • Mj use in pregnancy has increased in CA from 4 to 7%. In pregnant teens it has increased from 10 to 19%. 
  • ACOG recommends discontinuation of MJ for those who are or who are contemplating pregnancy. For reasons, see HERE: Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation 
  • It's clear that we as a nation do not value science. Do we value drug induced relaxation over clear thinking or the cognitive development of our children ? Very little contemplation needed. 

Male Contraceptives ? 

NIH ( National Institute of Health) and the Population Council are sponsoring a clinical trial of a hormonal male contraceptive gel. Don’t expect it on the shelves for at least 5 years. I wonder how the GOP will attempt to regulate male methods of contraception. 

It’s best if you follow up on these leads to put together your view of women’s health care in this country. What I have given you should contain enough key words so you can google your way to the source material. Remember to seek out reputable sources like the NIH, the CDC, ACOG, AAP, APHA, or major academic medical centers like Mayo Clinic or Stanford.

2018 is a new year, and a new approach is needed to ensure the best for women’s health care. Get involved. 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology

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I spent this week at Stanford MedX Conference. This conference covers some of my fondest professional interests. In particular, we covered various themes of technology in medicine, such as the use of devices and apps for patients to use to follow chronic disease conditions like diabetes. We covered the increasingly important role of apps in research. 

We explored the phenomenon of peer to peer connections among patients and discussed how it is especially helpful with rare or undiagnosed conditions. 

Another prominent theme at the conference was design in health care. We heard lectures and  participated in workshops in human centered design, or more particularly patient centered design. We used design thinking to create maps of the patient experience, then took that information forward to inform features as disparate as language used in phone notifications, seating in exam rooms, and interior decor. 

One theme of the conference was “everyone included”. I already knew this meant the voices of all genders. I also learned it meant all those in health care, not just patients and caregivers. Namely, it also included family members, medical researchers, device makers and all those who design and evaluate the health care experience. 

The genius of the conference in my mind was that it brought together those who were traditionally separate. In my two years of attending the conference it became readily apparent that fantastic synergies were possible by bringing together people from these varied  backgrounds. Patients, physicians, scientists, designers and computer scientists, sat around around common tables to learn methods to solve vexing problems in health care. And yes, we were given large sheets of paper, colored markers and sticky notes. 

But... the people ! This was the best part of all. I am here to report that there are plenty of good and brilliant people in the world with the ability to conceive of solutions to serious problems. At this conference, they came in all shape, sizes, ages, nationalities and genders. You could not pick them out at a grocery store. But if they had a conversation at your dinner table, you would quickly learn how special they were.  

On to policy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) continues to predict a 15 percent rise in premiums for policies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They have reported that this will likely be the case due to uncertainty over the Federal government’s willingness to pay subsidies to defray the cost of health care. Also likely contributing might be reduced  number of enrollees now that the individual mandate is not being enforced. 

GOP Senators have pared their efforts down to a one point bill. This final attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare basically takes Medicaid expansion money and shifts it to block grants administered by States. 

At the same time, Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed a near opposite. He has proposed retooling Medicare in the image of Obamacare and providing it to everyone. This is the so called “Medicare for all” proposal. While this has no likelihood of passing this Congress, it is espoused by most of the potential upcoming Democratic candidates for President. The rationale here is that such a plan would save money in the long run. The reasons for this being conceivable have been discussed before and elsewhere. In a nutshell, it has to do with people’s willingness to keep up on their prevention, screening, contraception and prenatal care, thus avoiding costlier more severe phenomena. 

The Senate Finance Committee has obtained an easy bipartisan agreement to refund CHIP, the children's health insurance program,

In another strikingly bipartisan move, Congress has rejected deep cuts to the National Institute of Health. Indeed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have defied the Commander in Chief and increased spending on biomedical research. 

In medical news, HPV vaccination rates continue to be sub par. However new data shows that vaccinations that have been given may be conferring a herd immunity as HPV infections have decreased 32% between 2009 and 2014. 

Vaping is viewed as a safe alternative to smoking in pregnancy. There is NO data to support this. In fact, newer data show an association between maternal vaping and asthma in the offspring.

Marijuana is viewed as safe in pregnancy. However, it is associated with learning difficulties in grade school  offspring. The State of Nevada is beginning a program to educate about this. 

In concerning but unsurprising News, pregnant women’s exposure to pesticides appears to be associated with premature delivery and low birth weight. 

 A recent study shows a faint correlation between two flu shots in row and miscarriage. Ever hear of signal to noise ratio ? This is probably noise. ACOG continues to reiterate the real demonstrated need for flu vaccine in pregnancy. 

Belly fat; it’s always the last weight to come off. However, it is well worth the effort. We’ve known for some time that belly fat was associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease. However, new research indicates that central obesity is associated with increased rates of several cancers. Moreover, in the case of breast cancer, it is more closely associated with higher risk forms of hormone receptor negative cancer. 

As data science improves, so do our results. New research published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical  Association, constitutes the largest longest and best designed trials on the safety of postmenopausl a hormone replacement therapy. Happily, it does not increase the risk of premature death. This is medicine’s way of saying that the therapy is safe. 

 

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned next week for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Medical Monday Postponed

 Gentle  readers,

I must once again ask your forbearance for a small delay in the publication of Medical Monday. I began preparing for a weekend without my family as they departed on white water trip. I have had big plans for all the things that I could get done without them here, including some exhaustive computer maintenance that is been overdue.

 I'm the sort of person who makes somewhat optimistic lists. Nonetheless, I was determined to get my computer maintenance done, as I was covetous of the increased speed it would hopefully confer.  So I did the first thing that one should do when performing computer maintenance. I backed up. Yes, I back up to the cloud; I use iCloud since everything I do is part of the Apple universe. However I thought it prudent to back up the entire hard drive to another physical hard drive as well. 

I have a habit  of filling up rather large hard drives and so I should not have been surprised when my physical back up took all night Friday and half of the day on Saturday. From there I could go on to diagnostics.

Since I gotten a new larger terabyte hard drive I realized I to had re-create what is called an Edrive as a bootable entity on the main hard drive itself.  This is because the computer cannot properly do diagnostics on itself unless it is booted off something else. So after creating the Edrive using my diagnostic software Tech Tool Pro I rebooted to the Edrive and set about doing diagnostics.  I chose the whole suite of tests, thinking it would perhaps take four hours. I began the diagnostics Saturday afternoon and now I see very late on Sunday night that they are still working away. 

 And while right now I am OK with dictating you this quick note on my iPad, I will wait to do Medical Monday since, trust me, I personally have to have three big screens open to do the homework to write Medical Monday, checking sources and whatnot. 

So let this be a lesson to all of you. Keep up on your computer maintenance. It's really not very hard, it really is not. Basically you obtain appropriate software for your operating system and version, and you follow the instructions. If you use the Macintosh operating system I can unreservedly recommend the TechTool pro software which you can buy at microtek.com.  Since I don't use Windows I'm not familiar with the best choices but I know there are several easily obtained pieces of software and many choices out there even some of which are good and free available on the Internet. However, always read their documentation and read the reviews from independent sites before buying or installing. And by all means, back up your machine before doing anything. In fact, back up two different ways,  once physically and once to the cloud. 

Let's hope my diagnostics are done by tomorrow. 

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Wellness Wednesday: Travel Insights

I am in black and with me is Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH of drkyrabobinet.com

I am in black and with me is Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH of drkyrabobinet.com

Although travel is often arduous, it has the capability to be really invigorating. Travel is meant to refresh both the body and the spirit. 

I travel seldom. Often, when I do, it is for a specific reason such as a conference. Nonetheless, it gives me perspective on the destination and on home. I also learn things about myself. Here is a sampling of my insights from a recent trip to Stanford Medx. 

  • I worry before a trip and invariably come to find that my worries were largely unfounded.
  • Every time I travel, especially the day I’m supposed to depart, I'm reluctant to leave home and have strong feelings of missing home. However, by the time I change planes, I am very glad I went and I get excited for the destination. Toward the end of the trip, I'm anxious to depart, and love arriving at home.
  • I romanticize my destinations yet ultimately find that they, like all places, have advantages and disadvantages.
  • I sleep more when I am not at home since I do not engage in the endless list of things to do at home.
  • I feel better when I sleep more as many people have told me I would.
  • I am becoming increasingly selective about what I eat.  I am therefore becoming more careful about bringing food, especially snack foods, with me.
  • I am more determined than before about finding new ways to keep up on my workout while I travel.
  • I drink more and hydrate better when I am away and I feel better because of it.
  • I am still reserved at the beginning of a big interactive conference. I then realize partway through the conference that there is no reason not to approach anybody, including the main speaker, that I find interesting. When I do approach people with reasonable points or questions, they are uniformly receptive and share generously.
  • I never bring enough business cards. And in a related vein, my business cards are boring. I need some new ones.
  • I sometimes get the “ I am not worthy“ feeing when I meet people of towering brilliance and accomplishment. It does not take me too long to realize that this is a waste of energy. However, it still happens. Thankfully, this feeling does not paralyze me, and it makes me want to do more. These negative feelings are eclipsed by my gratefulness at getting to meet such people.
  • I am afraid of “ losing” the cool people I meet on my trips, so I have become more thorough about getting their complete contact information, often including pictures. The funny thing is, everyone else seems to be doing the same thing.
  • I used to disdain Twitter, but now I get it. I don’t know if this was one of the original intended uses, but I quickly learned to do as others were doing and tweet out key points from the lectures, including helpful hashtags and relevant twitter handles. The twitter stream from the sometimes concurrent presentations in one conference could thus be shared by all who were interested, regardless of what presentation they attended or, regardless of whether they were present at the conference at all. I was enthralled by the idea that we were creating a crowdsourced collective impression of the conference available live in the twitter sphere.
  • When I travel to places where I have lived before, I feel a pleasant sense of continuity from past to the present. I also get a sense of longevity, as though life is reasonably long, and that you are free to do many different things over the decades.


Traveling inspires me to do more and be more. It makes me appreciate both home and the destination better. If I go back in time by going back to a place I’ve lived before, I gain understanding and compassion for my younger self.

Traveling can be expensive and challenging to arrange. However, I believe that it is worth it.

 

Here are some older posts I wrote about travel: 

Travel Wellness

Travel Food

The Structure of Travel

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Stanford Medx 

I just knocked something off my bucket list. 

Stanford Medx is a multi-day conference on innovation in health care. The conference is akin to it’s older and more popular cousins TEDx and TED, programs which are available online to everyone and which deal with topics in technology, entertainment and design, really all the big issues. 

Medx brings together people interested in moving medicine to a new and better place. It’s themes are people, technology and design. I would like to share with you some of the material that I encountered and the people that I met, together with a few images. 

On Wednesday my first day, I travelled. It is always an entertaining shock to change biomes so quickly, going from the alpine to the sonoran in little more than a couple hours. From cool pine I went to warm eucalyptus. After getting settled, I attended presentations and a workshop at the D school - The Design School on the Stanford Campus. There I met designers, architects and medical people all coming together to make buildings, objects, and even procedures which would make getting medical care more effective and pleasant for patients and caregivers. I met a women who is involved in renovating the Women’s and Children’s hospital at Stanford, just as I am at my hospital. I also met the grandson of Charles and Ray Eames who reviewed principles of design though a survey of his grandparents’ work. I also met the mother of an unexpectedly premature baby who had struggled with expressing colostrum. She had, as a result, developed a clever and inexpensive device to modify existing pumps to make them more effective. We expect its use to become widespread. 

Day two was a workshop on shared decision making. This was meant to be decision making between anyone and anyone else: doctor-patient, doctor-nurse, and family member to family member. Shared decision making was a key theme which dovetailed into one of the main themes of the conference, EVERYONE INCLUDED.

Decisions from the top down can be problematic, and partake of hierarchy. Hierarchy for its own sake is to be banished from medicine. Effective communication, and therefore better results, satisfaction and even safety grow out of shared decision making. This was amply explained an demonstrated across all the varied content of the conference.

Communication needs more than clarity. To be optimal, it is two way, and involves empathy. EMPATHY was another key theme echoed over and over again. As physicians, engineers and designers, we must employ empathy in all our thinking. We need to ask the patients and the users for input at all stages of development. Such a process creates more user satisfaction and better results. 

On day two, we partnered up. Our group was composed of the professionals I mentioned, but also of special “ e-patient scholars”. These were medically sophisticated patients with serious chronic medical conditions who could speak to us about their long experience in the medical system. They were there to help us see through their eyes. I was paired with an older woman in a wheelchair with end stage MS and lupus. Since I have lupus we exchanged notes about that. But it was her MS that was making the critical problems. She spoke about her end of life plan. Even so, she was as pleasant and sparkling as a person could be.

On days three four and five we had presentations from morning until evening, often rapid fire. That is when the conference really took on a life of its own. The conference designers were smart. They had substantial breaks every hour or two, and provided food, and tables, and encouraged everyone to live tweet the conference. The session to break ratio was optimally dialed for stimulation and interaction. All the speakers made themselves accessible, so not only did you hear these phenomenal stories, you met the phenomenal people. Bread was broken and contact information was exchanged. 

Key themes were as follows: 

  • open medical data, especially genetic data
  • open research data 
  • the quantified self 
  • gamification of healthy lifestyle goals
  • getting patients, doctors and researchers together, often through the internet
  • patient education, often self education, through apps and the internet
  • collaborative and integrative medicine
  • collaborative end of life planning

A lot of this came together under the topic of PRECISION MEDICINE. This means care tailored to one's precise condition, down to the genes if possible. It also means giving exactly the right amount of medical care, not too much, and not too little. It also means care tailored precisely to the patient’s wishes. Finally it means oversight so that care dollars are used optimally. 

By far the most stunning presentation was that of Dr. Lucy Kalanithi, the widow of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, Stanford neurosurgeon who wrote “ When Breath Becomes Air”. Her presentation detailed the reality of love and connection despite suffering and death in a way that I have never imagined. Her presentation had more power than any I have ever heard. I recommend the book. 

Besides being stunned, I was also charmed. I got to meet so many delightful people who were also talented beyond measure. The same people were uniformly willing to share their insight and experience. Noteworthy among these was Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, Seattle Mama Doc. She is a Pediatrician, mom, and writer extraordinaire. Check out her website, blog, and book " Mama Doc Medicine".

It was also great to meet Dr. Kyra Bobinet, who shares my interest in helping patients realize their goals in fitness, nutrition and health in general. She told me that everything she knows is in her book, " Well Designed Life". I didn't believe her but I can't wait to read it. 

Medicine is moving forward folks, and you will want to come with it. Medicine needs your input to be what it needs to be. Monitor yourself. Get your health data. Try to connect with your caregivers. Tell your story. Listen and see an alternative point of view. Have a discussion.  This is the basis of the future of medicine, medicine 2.0. 

Not nearly everything from the conference is uploaded, but a Stanford MEdx youtube channel exists. Check out the link below and I know you will be inspired. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK1chhgXNHf7iB5mlqzXODA



 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Sleep Hygiene with Sketches

It is summer in the far north and the days are long...so long they stretch into the night. Farmers work until 11 pm and dinner is at about 9pm in broad daylight. Then the evening comes, and by 11 pm you feel the evening is just getting started. A movie is chosen and whoops, you are up way too late, especially since the sun comes blazing in shortly after 5:30am. 

So I though I would take this opportunity to share with you some sketches I did for my wellness reminder cards that pertained to the importance of good sleep hygiene. Each card will hopefully remind the user of a key principle, with the image on one side, and the reminder on the other. 

1. Adequate Restorative Sleep 

With few exceptions, adults need 7-8 hours of sleep. You should wake, almost spontaneously, and feel rested. That is the meaning of restorative sleep. 

 

 

2. Consistent Wake Time

Having a consistent wake time actually helps you fall asleep properly at bedtime. 

 

 

 

 

3. Consistent Sleep Time

Once you get in a routine, you will start to get sleepy at the right time. 

 

 

 

 

4. Correct Sleep Environment

The room should be dark, quiet and cool, without electronics or snoring people. 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Medical Evaluation of Necessary

Most major hospitals have a Sleep Center or Department of Sleep Medicine. There is now the recognition that sleep health underscores all health. Rigorous studies can be done to assess sleep problems, and treatments are available. 

 

 

To learn more see our webpage on sleep HERE

Next week on wellness Wednesday we will continue with more wellness reminders. 

Nighty Night !

 

 

Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Pope Francis has done something unprecedented. On Thursday the pontiff has suggested that women threatened with the Zika Virus may use contraception. This historic and, dare I say inspired move has given me great hope. The Roman Catholic church has had a longstanding ban on contraception. However, the Zika virus scourge traveling though south and central America, with its devastating effects on the unborn, has caused him to announce this exception. Pope Francis has made it clear that the exemption is “ rare and specific”. This announcement is likely to have a profound and widespread impact particularly on poor Latin American countries where the dictates of the church are absolute and where Zika virus is the most prevalent.

It is becoming better and better established that Zika, virus infection, especially early in pregnancy, is associated with the development of microcephaly. Microcephaly refers to small head, but it also entails a small dysfunctional brain. Researchers are now becoming concerned that normal appearing, non- microcephalic babies of mothers who had Zika during their pregnancies may have more cognitive and mental heath problems as they age. The potential social effects of this are enormous. 

Links between Zika infection and post infection paralysis, aka Guillaine Barre, are becoming stronger. Of course this will potentially affect men as well as women. The exact incidence of Guillane Barre after Zika infection is as yet, unknown. 

In other news, new research indicated that babies should get vitamin D supplementation whether or not they are breastfeeding and are eating solid foods. Breastfed children need 400 IU Vitamin D daily, even if they are also receiving formula. 

ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) continues to push for contraception as a quality measure. This means it is a feature of medical care and insurance coverage that is routinely assessed. The ACA ( Affordable Care Act) requires all insurance plans to cover all FDA approved contraception, but this has not yet been fully implemented. 

For about 25 years “steroids” have been used in mothers under 34 weeks to accelerate the lung maturity of their growing unborn baby. This is done if an early delivery is suspected to occur. However new research in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates there may be benefit to giving steroids through 36 weeks. 

The CDC just released a report indicating that 1/3 of adults are getting insufficient sleep. Less than 7 hours of sleep is associated with increased chance of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and all- cause mortality and “ frequent mental distress”. 

So to prevent these things, I should go to sleep soon. However, I will leave you with this: My patients often bring me things from far flung places since they know I do not get out much. Tomorrow, when I sit down at my desk, I will see one gift that is more special now than it was before: a souvenir photo of Pope Francis and a miniature rosary from Rome, where one of my Catholic patients heard him speak. To this Jewish girl, Pope Francis is a hero, a real “mensch ". 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Structure Sunday: The Structure of Your Home Office

Today's women have to do it all. Homemakers and professionals alike need a home office to do all that they need to do. Here are my tips for what goes into a home office, and what should take place there. 

I have also included some great resources about home offices. 

 

Three setups tailored to your budget:

The Essentials:

  • A place to write and store your life management things. 
  • Day runner with addresses, calendar, and notes or smartphone with same features. 
  • Backup for your smartphone if you have one. ( ? cloud) 
  • Writing implements, pens, pencils, highlighters, markers 
  • Spiral notebook to centralize and keep notes ( instead of sticky notes everywhere)
  • A few sticky notes even so 
  • Filing box and files 

Nice to have: 

  • Laptop with internet access 
  • Software 
  • Spreadsheet like Excel for Windows or Numbers for Apple  
  • Word processor like Word for Window
  • Photo storage and processing software. 
  • Bulletin or marker board for ideas, art and planning 
  • Bookshelves 
  • File cabinet 
  • A decent camera

Deluxe: 

  • Printer/fax/scanner
  • Nice speakers
  • Nice headphones 
  • IOS device like ipad 
  • an extra monitor 
  • A good camera

 

Ideas for your home office schedule

 

At the beginning of your day...

  • Leave your home office alone. Get your health related things done first, like working out, bathing, and eating a healthy breakfast. 

 

 In your home office work time… 

  • Check your email twice per day. Don’t do it reflexively. 
  • Leave social media closed until tasks are finished. 
  • Add every new contact into your address book AS THEY COME IN.
  • Keep a spread sheet of your budget. 
  • Use accounting software like Mint, which is free, ibank, which is cheap, or Quicken, to keep your bank, loan and credit card accounts in order. 
  • Set up bills to pay automatically or put reminder notices in your calendar program. 
  • Store your photos digitally, and backup those and your other documents two ways, the cloud, and a cheap external hard drive. 
  • Work on your projects in sessions about 45-90 minutes long. Then get up and stretch and drink some fluids. 
  • Develop a system of file keeping. You may like Evernote which is free. You can organize anything into albums. In side the albums are notes where you can put text, documents, picture, sound, movies, links, or anything. 

 

At the end of the day

  • Review your calendar and plans for the next day. 
  • Chart any nutrition or fitness data that you are working with on a daily basis. Make sure the method is simple and fast. 

At the end of the week

  • Review your calendar and plans for the next week. 

 

Home offices can be a lot of fun. They are ground zero for domestic creativity. Think recipes, projects with kids, projects for the house, tracking that workout and budgeting for that vacation. Knowledge is power and organization will put it to work. 

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Structure Sunday: The Structure of Your Media Consumption

IMG_0083.jpg

Omigosh I must be so easily amused. I have flown planes, climbed mountains, and swam with sea lions, but today, I got the biggest rush from organizing cookbooks in their new shelves. I just adore their beautiful pages full of recipes like magic spells waiting to be cast. A beautiful recipe transforms you as you make it, and your family as they see what has been prepared for them. 

I am reading a riveting book right now. It is called Seveneves. I found myself reading it at a stop light. Not good. I chose it based on the genre, sci fi, but also because of the reviews on Amazon, and finally because of what I was able to learn about the author, for instance that he double majored in Physics and Geography. I learned all this on the internet.

Seveneves: A Novel
$21.00
By Neal Stephenson

 

 I did all that research because I wasn't going to devote several hours of my life to something less than totally worthwhile. You see, I get absorbed in my books, fiction and non-fiction alike. They transport me. I don't hear things around me when I am reading. If something is going to affect me like this, it better be quality and it better have redeeming value. I want to finish the book a better person. 

I feel the same way about film, but there are far fewer good films than there are good books. Still, the depths of Netflix and Apple TV are unplumbed, and I look forward to it whenever I have time to dive deep. I don't know if my approach is correct; I save film like candy or ice cream, and cannot watch it until I eat all my vegetables, i.e. work, housekeeping, bills, and exercise. 

Music, however, is like water to me. I have to have it all the time. Patients know it plays all day long in all our clinic rooms, and we try to make it wonderful. We try to make people enjoy their time with us. I want to turn more people on to fine music.

I believe music puts you in touch with yourself. If a song makes you melancholy and wistful, it is touching something within. You may gain from this awareness, and perhaps be able to give the issue more attention. Likewise, if you hear something that makes you feel like dancing, it's because that dance is already in you; the song merely helps release it. 

When I was growing up, all this was so expensive. Books were bought in bookstores, and records required expensive equipment to play well. Regarding films, well, you had to make arrangements to go to a theater, providing you were old enough. But nowadays, the widespread availability of all this media is astonishing. I believe it is world changing. 

I have a great personal interest in the lives of those with low income and high aspirations. I respect these people. I want to understand how they can realize their dreams. I think one big piece of this puzzle is widespread high quality media: books, film, and music. These are not just      niceties in life. They nurture the soul and enlighten the mind. 

Media like music, film and books are not about living vicariously or being passive. They are about learning and getting inspired to go out and live life to the fullest. That is why I think everyone should have access to all the good stuff all of the time. 

So I wondered how much it would cost to have unlimited access to all this media all the time. Here is a rough calculation: 

 

  • Amazon Prime costs $99 per year. You get access to 41,000 movies and TV episodes, and 350,000 Kindle books. Of course the Kindle app is free for any platform. Just be aware these are like Netflix titles, not necessarily the hot new releases, but still very good. 
  • Netflix has a somewhat different set of movies, all for $7.99 per month,  all released several months after they hit theaters. 
  • Apple Music, is $9.99 per person  or $14.99 per family per month. For this you may stream the entire Apple music catalog. Or, you could get Pandora with ads, for free, or without ads, for $4.99 per month. 
  • Let's say you actually want to buy a few physical books because, like me, you think cookbooks should be physical, or because you want to have a paper book to pass around, then you must budget a few dollars for that. Let's say you, like me, buy used books on Amazon, and you decide your budget is one book per month, at $5 per book used, plus $3.99 per book shipping.

If you have a smartphone and internet already, then we can ignore those costs. If we say, for purposes of argument that you "want it all" , the tally is as follows: 

Amazon Prime = $99/yr

Netflix annually = $95.88/yr

Apple Music for one = $119.88/yr

Paper books one year, as detailed above = $107.88

Total = $422.64 per year or $35.22 per month. Aren't numbers interesting ? 

Let's say you are really on a tight budget. You pick only Amazon Prime for Kindle books and streaming video, together with free Pandora for music. Your cost is only $99/year or $8.32 per month. Honestly, that is two lattes. What an amazing time we live in. 

 

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
$21.78
By Deb Perelman

Wellness Wednesday: Quantify Yourself

I have always said that knowledge is power. This is especially true in this digital age since we have access to so much searchable knowledge. I have also always said that one of our primary goals in our medical practice is to empower women to take charge of their own health.  It is therefore natural that I am very interested in helping women to empower themselves through the use of technology.

It turns out that one of the most powerful things we can do to take control of and change our own behaviors is to observe, record and track them. This habit is called quantification. People who do this regularly as a part of their self improvement are participating in the "quantified self’ movement. Livescience.com defines the quantified self movement as a “movement which aims to measure all aspects of our daily lives with the help with technology.” 

Quantifying ones habits such as hours of sleep, minutes of exercise, or calories eaten, does not necessarily need to be done with a high tech device. It can be done with paper and pencil. However, since smart phones are nearly ubiquitous, these records are most often kept on these small powerful personal devices.  Of course there is a proliferation of different apps for this, one for every topic and several for many parameters. Not only is there a proliferation of different software apps to help with quantification, there is a proliferation of different hardware such the Apple watch and the FitBit. 

If the patient and I decide to follow some detail of her health such as her blood sugar, we begin some sort of record keeping. The patient makes the measurements, records them and naturally evaluates them herself as she goes through the week. This alone often results in substantial improvement in her numbers, since she can begin to discern patterns and the reasons behind them. Taking measures to push the data toward better performance is gratifying day by day. It becomes like a game that the patient is determined to win. This is called ”gamification" and it too, it is powerful in behavior change.

When the patient comes in to review her data, she can get even more benefit when we analyze her data together. If we add another layer such as her diet, and superimpose it graphically on the blood sugars in her records, we can see a cause and effect relationship between what she eats and her blood sugars over time. Sometimes a third layer of data such as activity can be added into her records and we can use this variable to improve her blood sugar control even more. 

This kind of record keeping puts the facts and the control in the hands of the patient. It is much more effective than a doctor simply telling her to eat better and exercise more. It has been my consistent observation that all sorts of patients have success with this type of approach. Moreover, in reading about this "quantified self movement" it seems apparent that this technique can be used for many types of conditions, like weight, exercise, autoimmune activity, sleep problems and even mood disorders. It can also be used for broader issues of life performance, in relationships and on the job. 

I hope this introduction into the quantified self movement has inspired you to learn more. Here are some fun references which makes for very interesting reading.

The Quantified Self, a TED talk by Gary Wolf

The Quantified Self at Livescience.com

The Beginners Guide to Quantified Self, at Technori

Why You Should be tracking Your Habits ( and how to do it well) at Lifehacker.com

The Quantified Self: How Cold Hard Data Improves Lives, at Bloomberg.com

The Data Driven Life, at the New York Times 

How Self-Tracking Apps Exclude Women, at The Atlantic

Structure Sunday: The Structure of a Website and ….YOU

Just last week Google lowered the boom and decreed that sites that are not mobile friendly will suffer in search rankings. At first I felt a little threatened, but after a little research, I have discovered that it is all about….YOU! Yes you. As they say in TRON, “I fight for the users.”. 

I love nothing better than to come into a patient’s room and see her on a smartphone. Do you realize any garden variety smart phone of the present day is literally powerful enough to have run the entire Apollo space program that landed a man on the moon? A smartphone is a very powerful computer and almost every girl and woman I know has one, even the ones of modest means. It is fantastic. Not only do I remember the Apollo missions, but I remember the days when women did not touch technology, not even stereo components. 

Technology is empowering. Information is empowering and the whole world of information is at your fingertips. Patients read about diagnoses, medications, and communicate with others who share their experience. So it is with great satisfaction as I watch my patients as they not only use technology, but make it. I have in my practice graphic designers, filmmakers, website designers, software engineers and IT administrators. I do believe it is technology combined with the goodwill of people, that will solve many of the world’s problems and inequities. As a force in neutralizing gender inequalities, technology is formidable. 

In blogging, and in making this website, I have wanted to provide easy access to what I would like my patients to know. My education has made me  familiar with the best sources of medical knowledge, i.e. institutions like the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). It has enabled me to tell the legitimate from the bogus. So I feel obliged and enthusiastic to give you all key to all the doors that lead to the best paths to all this valuable information. I want to make it easy, and I want to make it fun. Additionally, I want to make it beautiful. Perhaps this last goal is a universal desire for website designers of all genders, but I think a beautiful website is more welcoming to women. 

And that user experience, in short, is what Google’s directives have been all about. I see from my website analytics that over 50% of you view the site on mobile devices. Had I looked to author my site looked on mobile? Not enough! The main page was cluttered, the font was too small, links were too small to push and you had to scroll way too much. All this gave me a very bad mobile rating on Google. Plus, page loading times were a bit long, and I admit, that is because of the higher definition photos that I chose to upload. This was all a very unpleasant but useful revelation. I felt bad but grateful for all of you devoted readers on mobile who slogged through all of that. 

I read a great deal in Google’s website design and mobile responsive design guidelines. At their heart, the recommendations are meant to enable you, the user, to see the site clearly, and to get the information you want as conveniently as possible. It is all about enhancing the user experience. I spent this weekend changing things around, using fewer main pages, and tucking more within them, so now you will do more clicking and less scrolling. And I promise, if you have a little wait for a photo, it will be a good one. More mobile friendly changes are coming next week. I fight for the users! Those of you who really want to get your geek on can learn the origin of the phrase in this clip from the movie TRON Legacy. 

Structure Sunday: Understanding the structure of my blog !

This evening 's blog is participatory. I will direct you to a survey link here. I has to do with the type, number and timing of my blog posts for you. Personally I think surveys are fun, especially when I can see the final results. I like to see how my preferences compare with others. 

There are so many important and fascinating topics on which I might write, that our blog would lose all structure. So since I am interested in what interests you, I am putting this out there to make it easy for you to give feedback and suggestions. 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XNRRQXQ