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ePatient

I am Not My Condition

By | ePatient | One Comment

I’m Disabled. Who labels themselves? Feels like crap. I applied for disability. Needed a psychological evaluation. Spent an hour with a psychologist. I spent that hour telling her about the effect MS has had on my life. MS is seriously annoying…. Came out feeling terrible.  “Oh man, I’m disabled. My life has been so disrupted. I can’t do what I once did. Woe is me.” Lost my pathological optimism for a day. I’ve had to train myself over the years to feel sorry for myself. “OK 5 min, feel sorry.” Enough of that. It’s too boring. When I feel sorry for myself my symptoms are worse. Direct correlation.

Lots of people have it worse than me, much worse.   Read More

Learning What Works

Learning What Works

By | Caregiver, ePatient, Researcher | One Comment

One of my passions in life is Learning What Works for people on their health journey. As we travel, we make choices – endless choices.  Should I do A rather than B? Eat the brownie or don’t eat the brownie? Take a walk or don’t? Go to the doctor or wait until I feel worse? Fill the prescription the doctor wrote or don’t? Have surgery or wait and see? Stay home with my dad with dementia or arrange for home care? Or we make no decision at all (a decision in itself). Sometimes people search for help in making these choices. Help from professionals on their care team, from their care partner, from Dr. Google, from their mates or social network.

Learning what works is an experiment.

A person tries something – it worked or it didn’t – for them. To know it worked means that the person has an idea of what they are trying to accomplish (See my post on personal health goals). And that they think there’s a relationship between what they tried and what they accomplished (or didn’t). I have a fever, took an aspirin, and the fever dropped. I have heartburn, stopped eating chocolate, and now less heartburn. My MS symptoms are getting worse. I reduce manageable stress. My symptoms subside. What’s important in all this is that I know what I want, I try something, and I feel better or accomplish what I wanted (or didn’t). Some people, like me, have a written care plan and keep track with lists and spreadsheets. (See my post on planning personal care)  Most don’t. Read More

Checklist

Plan of Care – So Many Questions

By | Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient | No Comments

I am on a health journey, trying to meet my health goals with the support of a care team. Who’s doing what? When are they doing it? That’s my plan of care for me.

Most people don’t normally think in terms of a plan of care for themselves. Let’s peek into their minds:

Plan of Care – What’s Going on in Their Minds?

Patient: What’s wrong with me? Should I tell the doctor? What does she want me to do?  Can I afford it? Does it (will it) hurt? Can I (will I) still be able to take care of my family (go to work, go out, have fun)? What happens next? How’m I doing now? Did the med (the procedure, the diet…) work? Did it help me? What should I worry about? What should I do if it happens (again)?

Clinician: What’s on his mind? What’s wrong with him? What should I do next?  What did I prescribe before? Did he do it, did he take it? Will he tell me the truth? If he did it, did it work? What do the tests tell me? What should I prescribe next?  What are other doctors doing (ordering)? Has he been to the hospital since I saw him last?

Questions, questions, questions. So many bumps in the road and detours in the health journey. Few maps, spotty GPS at best. Read More

Health team teamwork

Health Team Relationships

By | Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient | No Comments

My primary care doc’s medical technician came in to take my vital signs, “I’m Frank. I’m new to Dr. Z’s team.” “Hi, I’m Danny,” I replied. “Dr. Z’s on my health team. Welcome to the team.” Big smile from Frank, “Hmm, I never heard that one before.”

My PCP and neurologist get a kick out of me and my engagement in my health. I get the feeling I’m unusual, but I’ve never asked. We have a relationship and a communication style that works for us. But what if it doesn’t? Read More

Byzantine Access to My Health Data Serves Whom? Not Me

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient | One Comment

I have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.  Today, I have a primary care physician in one health system, and four specialists in three other health systems (each has unique ownership, medical record, and patient portal). I use two retail pharmacies, one specialty pharmacy, and three lab services.  I also see an acupuncturist, chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapist. I use two durable medical equipment companies. These services almost exclusively communicate through me (or fax – my grandsons don’t know what a fax is). My personal team is my wife, two adult sons, their spouses, and a sister. I have to give them my sign in and password to access the portals. I use a spreadsheet, and three apps to track stuff. I don’t have the patience for the work of building my personal health record in an app. I have no idea what happens to my data in PatientsLikeMe and other businesses. I’d like to give authorization when I think it’s right and track who’s using what, but I can’t. I’m doing OK, thanks for asking. Read More

The Personal Health Journey

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient | No Comments

The metaphor, Personal Health Journey, works for me. We’re heading somewhere for health whether on purpose or not. We’re never actually there. It’s continual – until it isn’t. Sometimes we have a map, sometimes we don’t. Map or not, we’re still heading somewhere:  work, the grocery store, our in-laws, the beach. There’s always decisions to make on a journey: stop for gas, rest, sight see, go left, go right? Same with the health journey.

The journey is different if we’re well, acutely ill, chronically ill or dying. Our aspirations are different.  When we’re well we either don’t think about our health or we want to stay well. When we’re acutely ill (now we’re a patient), we want to get over it. When we’re chronically ill we want to live the best life possible. When we’re dying we want to live as long as possible or live as best as possible OR both. The journey is different, too. For the well it’s Inertia or Select Personal Health Goals-> Act and Track->Deal with symptoms when they arise. For the acutely ill it’s Symptom->Diagnosis->Treatment->Recovery->Back to Well or on to Chronically Ill (thanks to John Mitchell at Applied Marketing Science).  For the chronically ill it’s Disbelief->Grief->Get help (care and treatment)->Recalibrate->Maintain->Give back->Relapse (and back again). Read More

Personal Health Goals Revisited

By | Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient | One Comment

I’m celebrating that I’ve finally learned an effective stretch for my hamstrings. Thigh and calf Charley horses and foot cramps have disrupted my days. My low back’s been hurting for several months caused by this tightening and cramping of my quads, hamstrings, calves, and feet. It’s become hard to sit for more than 15 minutes. I bought a standing desk, next to my sitting desk. I’m paying attention to ergonomics, learning to type (I’ve always been a hunt and peck kind of guy). My chiropractor and massage therapist attribute these muscle cramps to changes in my walking caused by the MS and wearing an ankle/foot orthotic. The Charley horses are the worst. I’m learning that there’s nothing straightforward about stretching. I’ve been stretching for months with very short-term relief. All of a sudden on a road trip this week, stopping at every rest stop to stretch, it kicked in! It’s not about stretching, it’s about relaxing. Standing tall, pelvic tilt, bending at the waist, relaxing. A meditation. I can feel the hamstrings and calves responding. Exciting!  Read More

Celebrating Connection, Respect, and Help

By | Caregiver, ePatient, Family man | No Comments

I crave connection and respect. Not crave as a thirsty man crawling toward a mirage of water in the desert or a person constantly begging others to fill an overwhelming desire that can never be filled. Rather a need that sustains me and renews me.  Connection and respect fuel my inner fire so I can meet the challenges of life, continue to contribute, and have space to be curious. It helps that I’m an extrovert. Connection and respect don’t cost much day-to-day, yet they’re long term commitments and investments. Connection and respect can be tough to sustain. I get crabby and self-centered, especially when I or someone I care for is sick or stressed. Then being an extrovert doesn’t help. Yet banking the investment of connection and respect pays dividends.

I’m impressed with how difficult it is to ask for help. We have as much difficulty responding to offers to help as asking for help. When our boy, Mike, was dying, people came out of the woodwork, offering to help. How to respond? How awkward! We had to add it to our weekly family care management meetings. What do we need? What do we say?  Well, we didn’t think we needed much that those offering help could do. So we said that we needed food, companionship, transportation. We always needed a laugh and prayers. Caring helped. Read More

What Keeps You Up at Night?

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient | No Comments

I’m not a complainer or worrier-at least not often or for long. Comparatively, I have little to complain or worry about. Yet, this week I struggle with pneumonia, try to regain strength, not hurt myself coughing and not being a jerk or a burden. I’m also turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare. I keep dwelling on the amount of effort it takes to be or support someone who is sick. What is that effort? I’ve come up with six questions anyone who is worrying asks themselves. You’ll see in the pie chart below that I’ve arbitrarily assigned a percentage to how much I think most people worry about each question. (No science here, no evidence, just my thoughts)

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$35 or $30,000 (I think) for a lifesaving drug

By | Advocate, ePatient, Leader | No Comments

Who benefits from the murkiness of finding the prices of prescription drugs? Clearly not patients and caregivers.

Today, I’m taking two potentially lifesaving drugs – azithromycin and rituximab.

According to GoodRx.com, azithromycin, prescribed for my pneumonia, has a cash price of $35 with a $10 copay cost to me.  Took me 10 seconds to find this.

I’ve spent more than four hours and I still don’t know how much the rituximab, a chemotherapy infusion for my multiple sclerosis, costs or will cost me. I’m turning 65 next week and I need to select a Medicare Advantage Plan. I spoke with several insurance companies. None can (or will) tell me the cost of Rituximab to them or to me. They differ whether it’s a formulary drug (covered at all). They differ whether they consider it a drug covered under Medicare Part D (see below) or an infusion, covered under Medicare Part B. If Part B it may be included in my premium.

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