Healthcare Reform is Coming

In hopes to end surprise medical billing, Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) and member Patty Murray (Washington) introduced a draft package of legislation. The draft package aims to cut healthcare costs, starting with surprise medical billing and drug prices. The lawmakers believe they can pass the bill on a bipartisan basis. Alexander thinks it can be moved through the health committee in June and have it hit the Senate floor as early as July.

“These are common sense steps we can take, and every single one of them has the objective of reducing the healthcare costs that you pay for out of your own pocket.” Alexander says he is making a move to better the lives of many families and individuals alike.

The proposal would require every practitioner at an in-network hospital to take the patient’s insurance. For providers, that would mean they can choose to join the insurance networks that cover that hospital, or they can choose to send the bill through the hospital rather than sending separate bills to the patient or insurer. The bill also calls for insurers to pay providers the median contracted rate for the same services provided in a geographic area. It also requires insurers or providers initiate an independent dispute resolution process, or arbitration, for surprise bills over $750 (surprise bills under $750, the insurer will pay the median contracted rate). If this passes, surprise billings would be a thing of the past, helping save people money and stress.

Another topic on the proposal was cutting drug costs. The proposal would change the policy to stop drug makers of brand-named drugs from manipulating the system. This could help bring new, lower costing generics or biosimilars into the market. They also want to prevent unnecessary delay of drug approvals to citizens. This also calls for the elimination for loopholes where the first generic drug being submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can block other generic drugs from being approved. The proposal calls for educating healthcare providers and patients on biological products and biosimilars (the low-cost version of biological products). This would also help generic drug and biosimilar companies speed up the drug-making process.

Senator Alexander wants to do his part in bettering America and hopefully begin to shine a light on a questionable healthcare system that causes Americans of all statuses to stress about their pocket more than their health.

The Issue of Online Medical (Mis)Information

The internet seems to be a place where people think they can diagnose themselves instead of going to a healthcare professional. The biggest issue here is that if you look up “Why does my head hurt?” on google, you can end up with an answer like, “you may have a brain tumor.” Nothing is going to stop this mass of people who use the internet. So, what should be done? More health care professionals need to establish online presence. Doing so would help create better responses and less havoc for people using the internet for medical knowledge.

The Emerald Coast Medical Association is here for both medical professionals and patients alike to make sure the correct information is available. Another good option would be to create a Q&A service. Dr. Petra Dolman, MD, hosts an hour-long Twitter chat, with guest moderators facilitating conversations ranging from how to negotiate pay, navigating residency interviews, and countering burn out, all searchable under the hashtag #womeninmedicine. Social media will help give those with unheard voices a better opportunity to help those in need.

However, since freedom of speech is a thing, anyone on the internet can get backlash, even if they are correct. For example, Dr. Monique Tello, MD, MPH spoke out in support of vaccinations; she was then targeted by “anti-vaxers” online. Her blog was overthrown with one-star reviews, but those reviews were later removed due to their invalidity. With that being said, this scares medical professionals reaching for the internet because it can be an unforgiving or uncaring place. With the next generation of doctors spending a lot of their time on social media, we can’t deny that the online platforms should be a place with easy to reach medical advice or information. With that information being well known, Universities have begun to take notice and create positions to legitimize social media. The Association for Healthcare Social Media will aim to create the best practices by which all health care professionals can be guided and protected in the emerging field.

By using social media, medical professionals can come off as more human to the public. Just like when a patient is going to see a therapist, they want someone who cares about them and has had good and bad times too. Showing more care for the patient’s emotions and wellbeing can show them that you want to help them. Revealing past experiences, giving your real opinion, voicing the option you’d take, and talking to patients so they can understand better will go a long way. Whether it be in your office or on the web, there will always be a patient looking for a medical professional to help point them in a direction so they can get better.

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Five Tips for Child Health From a Pediatrician

Making sure your child is healthy in adulthood begins when he or she is young and full of life. Kids today have created bad habits for themselves that could lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in their future. However, this can be stopped by parents who are aware of the potential disasters their kids could be facing. Parents need to be good role models and exhibit better habits. Which in return would make the children follow suit.

Adults tend to keep their bad habits from when they were little. This does not have to be the case for all children though. Those bad habits could be turned into healthy habits which would then lead to a healthier, fuller life. Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg believes these five simples steps could help keep children healthy and ready for adulthood.

Step 1: Daily exercise is needed. Let the boys and girls play a sport which they desire or let them play with friends outside. To maintain a healthy heart for children, they should be doing something active for at least an hour a day. However, kids should also do more than one thing, so they are not overusing the same muscles, so try rotating between a few different physical activities from time to time. You’ll also find that this improves the child’s mood and could create better sleeping habits.

Step 2: Eating more plant-based food and less meat packed proteins is another way to keep kids healthy. Things like fruits, vegetables, and grains should be a child’s most substantial intake; these foods give children the needed antioxidants, fibers, minerals, and vitamins. Parents should not be so worried about giving their kids the right amount of protein. Most of the time children are overeating protein during the day. Thus, an increase in plant-based food and smaller meat portions will go a long way.

Step 3: Another food-related thing to keep kids healthy is skipping desserts. Children should be full after dinner. However, if they do become more hungry try giving them fluids or maybe a small healthy snack could also do the trick.  Desserts can also be put under portion control, so kids are not eating all those bad sweets. Those same sweets could make it hard for the child sleep which would make a rough start to the child’s next morning.

Step 4: Talking to kids can help them too. Explaining the dangers and effects of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol can be daunting. However, it is very necessary to make sure they know the harms their healthy bodies could face if one horrible habit begins. Even a smoker will tell you not to smoke, which should be brought up when talking to kids because things like cancer and other disastrous diseases could ruin their lives.

Step 5: Make it known that you care about your health just as much as your child’s. Planning family physicals and staying up to date on immunization and routine lab tests will show children that you want to be healthy too. This will help with keeping you healthy and creating good habits for your children. This is also the time to ask questions and be concerned about your health. Doing that could make children follow in their caretaker’s footsteps when they become an adult and need to put their foot forward about their health.

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Should Doctors “Stay in Their Lane..”?


A recent uproar in the media was the National Rifle Association telling doctors in a tweet to “stay in their lane” when addressing the issue of gun violence. As you know, doctors see the aftermath of gun violence; you have to tell the family whether their loved one is alive or dead from this senseless act of violence. An immediate tweet back to the NRA from the Annals of Internal Medicine simply said: “Doctors are in our lane.” In addition to this, the AIM also decided to collaborate with the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) to fund new research supporting new practice recommendations.

These two tweets have sparked an uprise of tweets from doctors and nurses. These tweets show pictures from the ER where patients with gunshot wounds have come in. Most of these pictures have considerable amounts of blood and are something the general population is not used to seeing. Accompanying these tweets are hashtags like “#Thisismylane” or “#Stayinyourlane.” Amid all of this, providers and affiliate organizations have begun to present a broader definition of their lane and how gun violence fits within it.

The medical community has been known to be reluctant when sharing its opinions on gun rights. Due to the rise of high-profile mass shootings, the medical community has been changing its perspective and redefining its role in advocating for policies related to public health. Many have said doctors do have the right to advocate for stricter gun policies since they see the immediate aftermath of gun violence.

Daniel T. Wu, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory University and chief medical information officer for Grady Health System, studies violence of all kinds as a public health issue. His studies place gun violence along a broader continuum of all types of abuse. Most of these acts of violence occur invisibly to most of society, besides high-profile incidents involving firearms. Considering that doctors and nurses act as the only point of contact between many victims and any type of social support, you have a unique perspective on the breadth of the problem. The imperative to help can force doctors and nurses out of roles that were much more narrowly defined. Dr. Wu surveyed his team and found that over 90% saw the extra work of treating the patient in more than just a physical way as a core part of their job as making sure the patient is safe for the long run. New research into various areas of interface between gun violence and public health can be the next step into engaging action.

We at Emerald Coast Medical Association want to know what our members think about all of this. Do you think doctors should “stay in their lane,” or do you think that as physicians you have a right to have an input on these acts of gun violence.

Feel free to contribute to this discussion in the comments section of this blog; we appreciate every comment from our members.