February 2006

      This blog will endeavor to open up for discussion 2 primary issues facing consumers (patients) serviced by the broken US medical system: I. How to maximize your medical advice within the limited time given to patients by doctors, and II. How to reform the existing US medical system so that quality medical care is available to everyone at a price that is affordable.

              I. Maximizing Your Medical Advice

                 You make an appointment with your doctor and wait to be called. Finally when you are called, the doctor spends 10 minutes with you examining and explaining your ailment and your treatment. You say you understand but do you? You fill the prescription but don’t know what the medicine does or the side effects. Your doctor simply does not have the time to explain all you need to know to determine if the medicine is appropriate. By appropriate, I mean every medicine has side effects. You as the patient have to be in charge of your own body and make informed decisions regarding your care. Most doctors are caring professionals but cannot spend the time to push you up the learning curve.

This blog will attempt to give straight forward advice and knowledge to help educate you when seeing your doctor. You are not competing with your doctor but rather becoming an educated consumer of medical care who makes your doctor’s advice more meaningful.  For example, you should know that if you have a virus, antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections. You should ask, is the infection viral or bacterial? When the doctor gives you the answer that it is a viral infection you will know antibiotics will not be prescribed because they will only work on bacterial infections.

I am attending a series of lectures at a leading medical school and will report on this blog what I have learned so that we can together be better informed consumers of medical services.

          II. Reforming US Medical System

              I will comment frequently about the weaknesses of the US medical system and how to reform it.

The major problem with our medical system is the cost explosion. Only people who are employed and have access to a large medical pool can afford medical insurance. Employers subsidize their employees’ cost to make employee premiums reasonable. However, employer provided healthcare is a historical accident. During WWII, wages were frozen by price controls. Raises could not be given so benefits such as free medical insurance was provided instead. Today, medical insurance is very expensive even to the employed with healthcare benefits. No other western country provides healthcare the way it is paid for in the US. For a working family with no employer subsidized healthcare, the cost is prohibitive. For example, Aetna’s individual POS policy for southern NY is $9,696 for an individual per year and $28,840 for a family per year. This is not affordable healthcare.

The costs are continuing to rise at a rate far in excess of the inflation rate and by the year 2015, $1 in every $5 spent in the US will be spent on healthcare. Reform is long overdue. Politicians will only move on healthcare issues if there is a groundswell from the electorate. I will be posting ideas for reform on this blog. 

Lastly, if quality medical care is a citizen’s right just like the right to vote, then the US Government and state government must be major players in the medical reform movement. If quality medical care is merely a privilege not a right, then the private sector restrained only by market forces will continue to maximize profits. Unless demand decreases (which is not likely with the aging of the baby boomers) medical costs will continue to sap the economic strength of this country. Since most states prohibit a hospital to refuse to treat a patient without medical insurance, it seems clear that this country has determined quality medical care to be a right not merely a privilege. I will post my ideas for reform on this blog.


One of the ways to learn enough to ask the right questions is to have an opportunity to interact with eminent physicians and scientists in an informal atmosphere that centers on specific diagnoses and treatments, delving beneath the surface and exploring the physiology of health and disease.

Fall 2005 was on The World’s Most Complex Computer: A Look Inside the Human Brain.

The weekly classes were:

– Why Is This Organ Different From All Others? An Introduction to the Workings of the Human Brain.

– Brain Cancer: State-of-the-Art Treatments

– Pinched Nerves and Other Pains in the Back

– Brain Attack: Causes, Prevention and Care of Stroke

– It Really Is Brain Surgery: A Look at Some of the Newest Approaches to Brain Surgery

Spring 2006 delves into biomedical science topics heard about in the news, helps us understand the scientific process and develops a way to critically analyze science and medical news.  I’ll be blogging after the following 2 hour sessions:

3/21/06 – Microbe Hunters: Preparing for a Possible Pandemic;

3/28/06 – From 9/11 to Katrina: Understanding the Impact of Environmental Disasters on Health;

4/4/06 – Perfect Fit: The Future of Personalized Medicine;

4/11/06 – The Promise of Gene and Cell Therapies: A Look Beyond the Hype and Controversy;

4/25/06 – The Biography of A Medical Breakthrough: Tale of One Discovery from Concept to FDA Approval.