OPTIRECTIMITIS

My brother introduced me to a new word yesterday, “Optirectimitis.”  Simply put, optirectimitis is a connection between your eyes and your butt and accounts for a shitty outlook.  Right off the bat, I fell in love with the word.

I’ve been fighting my shitty outlook and having survived Covid should be winning.  I’m not!  One of the benefits of my Covid infection was the effect of the steroids my doctors put me on.  For 1 week, my back felt great, my legs fatigued less, my joints moved with relative ease, my trigger finger stopped triggering and my energy level increased considerably.    

Unfortunately, I cannot take steroids long term.  Long term steroids are fraught with problems including diabetes, osteoporosis, and hypertension amongst others.  This is one of those times when life is just not fair.  Steroids giveth and taketh away.  Coming off steroids has given me optirectimitis, causing my newly minted shitty attitude.

So, what’s a guy supposed to do?  Medical marijuana seems to help both the pain of arthritis, symptoms of Parkinson’s and shitty attitudes but is illegal in North Carolina. It also seems to adversely affect memory.  Again, marijuana giveth and taketh away.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, like Aleve, help some but give me indigestion.  Exercise helps some but it is hard to get motivated to exercise due to pain.  Narcotic pain medications are completely out of the question. While they are addictive, living with chronic pain and disability is no way to live.  So, being addicted to pain relieving meds can’t be all bad, can it?  In the eyes of the law, it is bad.  Over the last few years, there has been a war on narcotics and most physicians I know are hesitant to prescribe them. Regardless, narcotics don’t agree with me, worsening my constipation and fuzzing my brain.

As you can see, there is no good solution.  So I’ll count my blessings and concentrate on what doesn’t hurt (my right big toe), watch a comedian or two and eat some junk.

Here’s your joke for the day:

A wife sent her husband a romantic text message… She wrote: “If you are sleeping, send me your dreams. If you are laughing, send me your smile. If you are eating, send me a bite. If you are drinking, send me a sip. If you are crying, send me your tears. I love you.” Her husband texted back: “I’m on the toilet, please advise.”

Please follow and like us:

I SURVIVED

It looks like I’m going to survive.  Renee and I are doing better by the day.  What remains of Covid is Renee’s exhaustion and my abnormal taste buds.  Everything taste sickly sweet and metallic.  What’s scary is the potential for long term damage which Covid is known to cause.

Last night on CNN, the journalist was interviewing individuals who clearly stated that they thought Covid was not nearly as bad as it was reported to be and that the death statistics were exaggerated for some nefarious reason.  I want to assure you that Covid is the worse viral entity I’ve ever seen.  At the onset, I was convinced that I was not going to survive.  With early intervention and the grace of God, I did.

In the 40 years since I went to medical school, I’ve seen tuberculosis, smallpox, the plague, measles, and SARs just to name a few.  They pale in comparison to Covid.  Covid is far from over!  On Facebook today, someone posted the fact that the virus does not move on its own.  People move it around!  Do not be a host.  Don’t carry Covid to your friends and family.  Buy good masks and practice social distancing.  Isolate yourself as much as possible. 

If you are exposed, quarantine is the answer.  If you have risk factors, seek early medical intervention.  My pearl of the day is Vitamin D supplementation. There is evidence that Vitamin D augmentation may help prevent or mitigate infection.  Whether you believe that Covid is part of a grand conspiracy or not, wearing a mask and taking Vitamin D are harmless and may save your life.

One last plea.  Please get vaccinated at the first possible opportunity!  Remember, the life you save may be your own.

Please follow and like us:

COVIDVILLE

If you are wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been on a trip to Covidville.  I’m sitting in my kitchen, oxygen canula in my nose, trying to recover from Covid.  Yes, Covid is real; it’s not fake news.  Despite all of my attempts to guard against infection, it found its way through my defenses.

My new doc really stepped up her game and found a hospital that would infuse the experimental monoclonal antibody serum that Trump apparently 
was given.  I had to drive 60 miles away to be treated.  The hospital staff was incredible and 5 hours later, I was on my way home.

Jeremy drove in from Atlanta and has been chief cook and bottle washer, as well as standing guard over us 24/7. I’m glad to say it looks like RENEE AND I HAVE TURNED THE CORNER.  Did I mention that Renee caught Covid as well?

If you are a doubter.  If you are so disillusioned by what’s going on in society today and don’t believe the numbers broadcast daily, then let me reassure you that Covid is very real and skilled at defeating our external safety precautions and our internal immune systems.  As knowledgeable as I am, I could not protect myself and my wife.  In retrospect, the only thing I could have done differently would have been living under a strict quarantine.   

If you get symptoms of Covid, call your doc immediately!  I still recommend wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing.  However, I would modify the social distancing rule and strive for a distance of 100 yards.  Yes, the size of a football field.  You really don’t ever want to be this sick or be fairly certain you were going to die.

(While the monoclonal antibody cocktail is experimental and comes with unknown risk, I gladly received it and got better promptly.  If there is an aftermath, I’ll deal with it.)

I’ll resume my regular blogs when I’m well.  My editor is not up to editing so please ignore any grammatical errors you may find.  There is no joke today as I’m not in a joking mood.  Music is soothing so here’s a tune for you.

Please follow and like us:

THE DOCTOR’S DOCTOR

Last week, the world lost a great man.  Dr. Jerome Perlman was my family doctor for 25 years.  He was a caring, compassionate doctor who saw me through one of the worse times in my life and set me on course and guided me through my career as a doctor. 

At the age of 13, I told Dr. Perlman that I was going to medical school and eventually become his partner.  Every step of the way, from undergrad at UVa. to medical school in Mexico, I would call Jerome and update him on my practice.  Unfortunately, his health caused him to retire young and I never got to join him.

In 1982, I was an emergency room doc at Northwest Community Hospital.  While I was a board certified family doc, my family practice residency was so bad that I abandoned family medicine for the fast paced life of an ER Doc.  It soon became apparent that 90% of what I saw in the ER really belonged in an outpatient family practice and that I really was a family practitioner at heart.

For a little over a year, I asked each patient I saw one of 10 questions designed to determine why the patient chose the ER as opposed to going to their family doc’s office.  I then opened my own office in Lake Zurich and designed it to meet the top 10 needs of the patients I had surveyed. When I opened in 1984, I realized that I had recreated Dr. Perlman’s office and practice style. 

Over my 40 year career in medicine, I treated hundreds of thousands of people, all as a result of the work of one amazing man.  Thank you, Jerome.  Rest in peace.

Please follow and like us:

YEAR END HUMOR

I want to end 2020 with a lighthearted educational piece about the aging process in men.  Ticked off Vic’s video on the aging man’s problems with elimination is full of explicatives, hysterical and, unfortunately, real.

If you are easily embarrassed by crass, vulgar language, don’t watch this video.  Gentlemen, if you want to laugh while learning the truth that nobody told you, click on the underlined segment above.

Ladies, if you want to get a better understand why the old man you married makes a mess in the bathroom, click above.

Have a Happy New Year full of happy and happy and healthy new days.  I’ll resume publishing articles on January 5th.

Please follow and like us:

Hypocrite?

I’m devastated.  An incredible young lady who I watched grow from an adolescent into adulthood and then motherhood posted a devastating thread on Facebook.  She has been fighting against cancer for a long time.  She’s shared her story with others, much I have, hoping to help others who are on a similar journey.  She’s a fighter but so is cancer.  I’m devastated, learning of how her journey is going.  I’m also amazed by her fortitude/ attitude.

Once my emotions settled down, I realized that, while updating her story, she never complained.  Reading her thread a second time was like the cold slap in the face writers use to wake their characters up!  I’ve been complaining, bemoaning my losses.  I really have no right to complain.  I’m old and have lived a full life.  I have seen my children grow up and am now watching my grandchildren flourish.  I have a loving wife of 43 years, a beautiful retirement home and walked around yesterday in a T-shirt as opposed to a winter coat.  Really, what do I to complain about?

I’m a hypocrite.  My counselor asked me what I would recommend to a patient who was in my condition.  That was a very astute question.  As a physician, I always offered advice/counseling on how to cope with the hand my patient was dealt.  While my advice was always custom built to match the patient and his/her needs, the majority of the plans had a common foundation.

Where is my blessings list?  Certainly not on my bathroom mirror where it is supposed to be. I’ve written about the blessings list many times.  It’s the weight bearing part of the foundation on which I built my patient’s treatment plan.  It’s born the weight of time, proving to be helpful to countless numbers of my patients.  Why don’t I have one?  Probably because I’ve been throwing one huge pity party for myself.

Diet and exercise are two other components that I built into every patient’s treatment plan.  Why did I quit exercising in September?  I could give you a multitude of reasons, but they would all be bullshit!  In answering my therapist’s question, I would tell my patient, if he/she could only exercise 5 minutes a day, do 5 minutes a day until he/she could do 7 minutes a day and slowly progress.  Time to get back in the gym.

That leaves diet.  I’ve taken a strong stance against radical diets.  I’ve watched my patients take off hundreds of pounds only to put back hundreds plus pounds.  The motto in the Segal household has always been, “Go big or go home.”  When it comes to diet, it should be “Go small and live to go home.”  Small changes in your diet can be maintained over long periods of time.  Radical changes tend not to last.  In my case, I’ve simply given up.  I used to tell my patients that I had double wide front doors on the office so that if I ever gave into my lust for food, I’d need to open both doors to get into the office.  I was right.  I gave in and now I’m massive and growing by the day.

So, it’s time to close down the pity party, post my Blessings List, resume exercise and develop a healthy diet.  It’s time to focus on what I can do and not what I can’t do.  If my young friend can fight the big “C” with grace and dignity, I can, too.

Yes, it’s New Year’s.  I bet you thought I was going to make a New Years resolution.  I’m not!  I’m going to make a New Day resolution each and every day I wake up.

Please follow and like us:

NEW YEAR

While I don’t understand why New Year’s Eve is such a big deal, I’ve always appreciated the magic of wishing others well. Every year at Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s, people find joy and happiness in wishing others a “happy and healthy New Year.” On the third of January, everyone goes back to their hurried lives and the kindness and joy of the season evaporates. The other New Year’s phenomenon, the New Year’s resolution, takes two weeks longer to fade away than the season’s goodwill!

Why can’t we manage to keep the season’s spirit and happiness throughout the year? If we could identify the essence of the holiday season and use it liberally throughout our lives, wouldn’t we all be happier? In looking for the key to daily happiness, I have started wishing people a “Happy and Healthy New Day!”

It’s working! The essence of the Christmas/Chanukah/New Year’s miracle is the giving spirit! Wishing people well is the key. In essence, wishing someone a “Happy and Healthy New Day” confers a blessing on them! In doing so, the person conferring the blessing gives the gift of a smile to the person receiving the gift. Might this simple salutation perpetuate the joy of the holiday season? I think so!

As to the matter of the “New Year’s resolution” that is so easily forgotten year after year, a New Day resolution has a real chance of being accomplished. Recently, I published “Tomorrow.” Many of us spend our lives living for and planning tomorrow. We put off doing today, promising ourselves that we will get it done tomorrow. Does tomorrow really exist? If we have a “New Day Resolution” every day, and when we wake up it is “Today,” then we should be able to stay resolved and finish what we promised to do.

So, resolve to enjoy each and everyday and whatever time you are blessed to be on the earth.  Work hard at being happy and bringing your happiness to others and 2020 will be a very good year.

So, each and every day, wish someone a “Happy and Healthy New Day.” Start your new day with a “New Day Resolution” to be happier and “Wellthier.” If you like this idea, first try it out and then share it with everyone you meet.

Here’s your music and a joke.

My New Year’s resolution is to see my cup half-full, preferably with rum, gin, vodka, or moonshine.

Please follow and like us:

SOLVING THE PROBLEM

Obviously, solving our healthcare woes is way beyond my pay grade; however, the exercise is mentally stimulating.  If the goal is providing healthcare for all, no matter how I redesign the healthcare system, all solutions seem to lead to socialism, an outcome that cannot be tolerated.

If you accept the premise that healthcare will be meted out based on the individual’s ability to pay for it, then other options exist.  If a minimal standard for access and care is established and provided by government clinics, then there is room for a private, pay for service, system to coexist.  Certainly, the inequality of the two systems will cause a public outcry and be advantageous to the haves, increasing the rift between the haves and the have nots.

No matter how you look at it, either system will require the elimination of third parties who siphon healthcare dollars off the top, generating massive corporate profits and sending healthcare costs soaring into the stratosphere.  As I have previously discussed, during the early years of my practice, healthcare costs were far less.  A school physical was $5. Today, an office spends more than $5 on EMR input, billing the insurer, the patient, and malpractice coverage.

The difference between the early years and today are many.  One of the major differences is who paid for the visit and who the contract was between.  In the early days, the patient was responsible for paying the bill at the time of service as the service was between the patient and the physician.  The patient then sent the receipt to his insurer who addressed the bill according to the contract the patient had with the insurance company.  The physician and insurance company were not contracted for the patient’s service. Each patient contracted for different deductibles directly with each other and the physician charged reasonable fees for his/her services for the area he/she practiced in.  The patient fought it out with the insurance company if the full cost of the service wasn’t reimbursed to the patient.  

Today the physician has the contract with the insurance company.  The insurance tells the physician how much it will pay for a service.  That doesn’t mean they are paying what it is worth or what it costs to deliver that service.  It just means that is what the insurance can get away with paying in this day of discounted fee for service medical care.  Generally, it is less than what it costs the physician to provide the service.  In addition, most policies now have very high deductibles that put more and more of the burden on the patient as out-of-pocket costs until that catastrophic limit is reached.  Thus, many office visits are effectively self-pay and this causes people to put off going to the doctor, sometimes with bad consequences. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that we are getting less coverage with far higher premiums.  You are paying more, insurance companies are paying physicians less, and the insurance executives come out smelling like a rose.

Can you fathom how expensive auto insurance would be if it covered every part on your car?  Imagine you need windshield wipers, brakes, a new transmission and tires.  You tell the auto shop, “just send the bill to Blue Cross.  They cover everything for the life of the car.”  That level of coverage would cost thousands of dollars a year.  On top of the owner’s cost of insurance, the mechanic would have to raise his fees to cover the expense of dealing with the insurer.  Rates would skyrocket.

So, maybe the answer is a two-tier system: one for the haves and one for the have nots. One government run one and one based on “major medical” insurance with, as in the old days, the patient contracting with the insurance company and directly paying the doc.  By eliminating the doc/insurance company contract, office overhead would dramatically fall and savings could be passed on to the patient. 

We accept the inequality that exists between the haves and the have nots in every other aspect of life.  A roof over your head and sustenance should be just as much a human right as healthcare; yet we accept the inequalities that exist in housing and living expenses.

Of interest is my experience with Concierge Medicine (contract between doc and patient).  Many of my Concierge patients were in the have not segment of the overall population.  They put medical care in the same category as food and scraped together enough money to pay for it. Not one patient ever expressed a regret. 

It appears that either we accept the inherent inequality of a two-tier system or accept socialism.  Neither sounds like a good choice.  What would you suggest?

Here’s your music and a joke.

If I had a dollar for every time socialism was successful, I’d have zero dollars.

Which is funny because if it did work, I’d also have zero dollars.

Please follow and like us:

HEALTHCARE 4.0

The easy work is done.  Over the last 4 articles, I’ve listed the major players in our healthcare system and reviewed some of the obvious faults with each player.  Finding fault is the easy part.  The hard part is finding solutions that correct the faults found in the system.

I’ve clearly stated that the insurance industry, as we know it today, has to go.  They skim massive amounts of healthcare dollars right to the top.  At the same time, they demand extensive and extremely costly data input, eating up more healthcare dollars at the physician, lab and hospital levels.  In the end, the insurance industry flourishes at everyone’s expense.

I’ve also stated that the EMR (electronic medical record), which serves as a glorified billing agency, has to be resurrected and utilized for its original purpose: to improve medical care by actually keeping a pertinent record of the individual’s care and making that record available to all treating entities.  We need one standardized EMR design based on scientific research, utilizing AI (artificial intelligence) to monitor care and suggest possible avenues to improve that care.

I hate to admit it but, ultimately, I THINK THE SOLUTION TO OUR HEALTHCARE PROBLEMS IS UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE (UH).  While UH is the mostly likely solution, it is full of risk.  First of all, who runs it and how is it funded?

The politicians on the left, want to build and run UH.  Unfortunately, allowing our government to run and fund UH would let the biggest serpent of all loose in the garden.  Congress is completely inept when it comes to handling money!  Just look at what’s going on today!  We are looking at a possible governmental shutdown again.  Congressmen and senators spend our money as they see fit and take no responsibility when they screw up.  Their answer to “I lost your money” is to raise taxes and do it again.  

Every year I was in practice, Medicare created new, costly regulations and reduced the amount paid for services.  Every year, in December, budget talks stalled and payments for Medicare patients were threatened or halted.  Every year, physicians nationwide are threatened with Medicare audits looking for theft and abuse.  If UH is going to have a chance, the government can’t possibly run it.

So, if the government can’t run it, who can? And how do you fund it?  While it may sound ridiculous, maybe the Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon should run it.  Running UH as a not-for-profit business may be the answer, and Amazon certainly appears to excel at the business of providing the public with what it wants.

Imagine a system where healthcare providers were paid a reasonable yearly salary commensurate with their training and with merit increases based on the quality of care they delivered.  Imagine a world where every medical procedure/medication/test had a known fixed price.  UH would run its own pharmacies and hospitals.  Imagine a world where care facilities were all built on the same, efficient platform designed to maximize care and minimize expense.  Yes, the business world is good at optimizing efficiencies to generate income.  In our world, it would optimize efficiencies to generate wellness and cover its overhead.

So, who pays for it?  I would propose that the government funds the system through a fixed tax similar to the social security tax paid today and that the government be banned from using the proceeds for any purpose other than funding UH.  In addition, a reasonable copay would be charged at every instance when a patient accesses care. Further, a “sin tax” would be levied against those individuals who persisted in doing unhealthy acts despite adequate counseling and warnings.  

Who pays for the unemployed and impoverished individuals needing healthcare?  Initially, the government would cover their needs.  Ultimately, they would be hired and trained by the UH, serving in a multitude of roles.  Their new job would not only provide them with an income, but medical care as well.

UH would not be a panacea.  It would have its own set of problems.  We’ll discuss them at a later date.

Here’s your music.  The joke of the day is the proposal above.  It will never happen; and, if it does, Congress will turn it into one more graft riddled, poorly managed governmental institution.

Please follow and like us:

ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORD

I’ve discussed the first three players in the current medical system in the last three days: patient, physician and Pharma. The fourth player is, by far, the most virulent of all the players.  Despite the fact that player number four is not even human, the almighty electronic medical record, EMR, has taken over the control of almost every aspect of the healthcare industry. 

The EMR has grown and propagated to the extent that all players in the medical game have to bow to its lust for data and control.  Much like the insurance companies slithered into our offices and hospitals, so did the serpent called EMR.

The EMR promised to improve care by making medical records more accessible, offices more efficient, billing more standardized, along with dozens of other never realized benefits.  To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a study that showed that the EMR improved any outcome or care. 

What the EMR has done is enslave your doctor, his/her staff and you.  As you know, I’ve been seeing a lot of physicians.  Before I can see any physician, I have to go online and fill in the blanks on countless forms.  I’ve filled out the same forms three times over as, despite earlier promises, EMRs don’t talk to each other. 

Physicians and their staffs spend a large part of every patient visit filling in computer templates.  Template medicine tends to train those using it to think the way the template would like you to think.  Your doctor should have an open mind, ready to explore all aspects of your health.  Instead, he/she may well be closed minded, concentrating on asking the questions needed to answer the specific questions the computer requires him/her to answer.

So, how did the EMR become so powerful?  It became powerful by wrapping itself around the financial heart of the medical complex: billing.  WHEN THE EMR BECAME RESPONSIBLE FOR BILLING AND RECEIVING MONEY DUE FOR SERVICES RENDERED, IT SPELLED THE END OF THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE AS I KNEW IT WHEN I FIRST OPENED MY OFFICE.

It was ingenious.  It was as if my free will was kidnapped and held for ransom.  Check 25 items on your practice’s EMR and you’ll get paid $37.50.  Check 30 items and get paid $60.  All of a sudden, your primary role as a physician has shifted from caring for your patient to checking boxes. The same goes for each of your staff members.  It’s even worse in the hospital.  The last newborn I attended to took 40 minutes of care in the room with the parents and their child and 60 minutes on the computer clicking all the boxes the hospital required, as well as those the insurer required.

Let me quickly mention the fifth party involved in your medical care.  The number 5 bucket holds everyone else.  The primary players in group five are the administrators.  Their job is to turn a profit, even when they work for a not-for-profit organization. I’ll never understand how not-for-profit hospital chains get away with generating huge profits.

Back to our task at hand, redesigning our healthcare system.  Just as I’ve told you that the insurers must go, the EMR must stay.  However, the EMR needs to be tamed and used to improve patient care, not to bill for it.

So, we need to eliminate insurance companies and redirect the EMR.  How do we do that?  I’m open to all suggestions. I don’t really believe that our system is fixable.  I don’t believe a better system can be designed.  Tomorrow, I’ll explore universal healthcare, a single payer system.

Here’s your music for the day and a joke.

What’s the difference between a piano and a fish? You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish.

Please follow and like us: