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How Short Are Your Doctor Visits? — March 2017

How Short Are Your Doctor Visits? — March 2017


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Getting the Most Out of Your Appointments

Depending upon which source you read, the average length of time a doctor spends with each patient ranges from 5 minutes to 23 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to discuss your health history, medications, symptoms and concerns — much less talk about complicated information or a new serious condition. So how can you get what you need — and deserve —during each doctor visit? All arrows point first to having a primary care provider (PCP) with whom you develop a trusting relationship.

Primary Care Primer

Primary care providers are your first line of defense. Their focus is on you as a whole person, that is, all aspects of your physical and emotional health. Their care is comprehensive, from the first point of contact for undiagnosed conditions and preventive screening to managing an ongoing illness and overseeing medications. S/he may refer you to a specialist if needed, but PCPs are essential for coordinating care across all healthcare services. You receive more consistent care with a PCP who gets to know your health issues and personal values over the long term.

PCPs can be internal medicine doctors, pediatricians or family care practitioners. Internists care for adults, pediatricians see children, and family care doctors work with both adults and children. PCPs often have physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) working in their practices as part of their primary care team. PAs and NPs can diagnose and treat illnesses as well as prescribe medications. Some people prefer seeing PAs or NPs because they often spend more time with patients.

If you don’t already have a PCP, now is a good time to find one. Look for someone who listens carefully to you, someone with whom you feel comfortable. After all, you will be sharing many personal details with this person. Developing a relationship with a PCP is the first step towards getting the most out of your healthcare appointments. That’s because you are seeing someone who has begun to know your whole story. You won’t have to start from square one every visit.

Questions to Ask Before Any Test, Treatment or Procedure

  1. How will this test or procedure help? What are the potential results and how will they affect the next steps?
  2. What are the risks and side effects?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What if I choose to wait or choose not to have the test?
  5. How much does it cost, and does insurance usually cover it?

Short Appointments

There are many reasons why appointments with providers can be short and feel rushed. According to a report from the Medical Group Managements Association, PCPs care for an average of 2,184 patients. Some experts say having 1,800 patients would allow providers more time with each patient. With economic pressures from insurance companies to provide less costly care coupled with heavy clerical requirements to document the care they provide, many providers feel pressure to spend less time with patients.

Given that your provider may be running late from previous patients, has many more patients to see, and will likely spend many hours, after hours, on documentation, going to appointments prepared will help you get the most out of them.

HINT: When scheduling appointments, ask for the first morning slot or the first one after lunch. While not guaranteed, wait time is usually the shortest at these times, and your provider may be less rushed too.

If you are seeing your provider for a routine, preventive check-up or for managing stable, long-term conditions, here are ways to prepare:

  • Complete any required forms, especially your health history which may take some time. Offices often have online access to forms that can be printed or will mail you hard copies.
  • Have a complete list of all your medications, vitamins and nutritional supplements. Include dosages and the schedule for when you take them. As a KnovaSolutions member, you can use the member portal to update and print your medication/supplement list.
  • Keep a notebook to track your medical history. Record appointment dates and notes about each visit, medications and dates/reasons for changes, surgeries, and other important medical events. This provides a handy resource for completing health history forms and discussion during visits. It’s never too late to start a notebook!
  • In your medical notebook, make a list of questions you want to ask your provider. If you’ve done a medication review with a KnovaSolutions pharmacist, include any questions about medications. Write your provider’s answers in the notebook. Ask him/her to spell, or write for you, any terms you don’t know.
  • Plan to honestly discuss your health. This is not the time to hide embarrassing details about your health history or personal lifestyle. Your provider needs full information to best take care of you. Remember, providers take patient confidentiality seriously.

If you are seeing your provider for an urgent heath situation, it is helpful to take these additional steps:

  • Keep a list of symptoms you have, when they started, what actions/situations cause them to worsen or improve, how they’ve changed. These details can help your provider with diagnoses and treatment.
  • Ask someone to go with you as your second pair of ears. Going to the doctor can give people the “white coat jitters.” Plus, it can be difficult to take in complex medical information, especially if you are not feeling well or are hearing difficult news. A friend or relative can listen and take notes for you so you have something to refer to later.

KnovaSolutions Newsletters on Related Topics

Have a Primary Care Provider? Know Why a PCP is Your Best Bet

What Did Your Doctor Say? Absorbing Complex Medical Information

Wasteful Medical Spending. Is There Anything You Can Do?

When Is It Necessary? Reducing Medical Testing, Risks and Expense

Another way to prepare for visits is to discuss your concerns with your KnovaSolutions nurse who can help you with medical terminology and identify questions. Call us at 800/355-0885, M-F, 8 am-5 pm.

Click here to view/download the full newsletter.

We encourage you to leave a comment or question below and a KnovaSolutions nurse or pharmacist will reply.

The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider.  If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.

 


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Medication Errors at Home  — February 2017

Medication Errors at Home — February 2017


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How to Reduce Risk and Prevent Mistakes

Prescription and over-the-counter medications provide major health improvements for people, but they also pose potential risks. Adverse drug events — harm as a result of exposure to a medication — are associated with hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits and hospitalizations each year.

Home medication errors happen all too often. In a study at the New York University School of Medicine-Bellevue Hospital, it was found that one out of five parents who measured liquid medication for their children gave them twice the directed dose. Also, nearly all the parents measured the dose incorrectly to some degree.

Confusing ear drops and eye drops, chewing non-chewable pills, and splitting pills not designed to be split are other types of errors that happen at home.

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Wasteful Medical Spending — January 2017

Wasteful Medical Spending — January 2017


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Is There Anything You Can Do?

It is widely documented that the U.S. spends more on healthcare per person than any other country, yet much research shows that Americans are not healthier as a result. Wasteful spending accounts for 30 percent of the $3.2 trillion spent on healthcare each year. That’s $9.6 billion of waste per year! While this may seem like a challenge too large, there are ways to do your part to reduce wasteful spending.

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All in a Night’s Sleep — December 2016


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Recognizing and Treating Insomnia

Does it take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep? Do you wake more than 3 times a night? Do you get less than 6 hours of sleep? If you answered yes to these questions, you may suffer from insomnia.

Having trouble sleeping can happen to anyone but it is more common among women, middle-aged or older adults, shift workers, and those with medical conditions.

Insomnia can be acute or chronic. Lasting up to a month, acute insomnia is usually related to a stressful situation, such as an upcoming presentation or the start of a new job. Once the presentation has been given and the new job becomes more familiar, the insomnia often resolves. Chronic insomnia, occurring more than 3 nights a week for at least 3 months, can be caused by:

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Prediabetes Diagnosis is a ‘Gift’ — November 2016


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Taking Measures to Reduce Risk for Diabetes

More than 29 million Americans live with diabetes — a serious condition in which blood glucose (sugar in the blood) builds to dangerously high levels. What’s more, another 86 million live with prediabetes, that is, have strong risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. The Center for Disease Control states that 90% of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it!

“A diagnosis of prediabetes is a gift and a wake-up call,” says Marilyn Novosel, MPH, RN, CDE, the Certified Diabetes Educator for KnovaSolutions. “Learning that you have risk factors for developing diabetes is an opportunity to do something about it sooner rather than later.” She adds that making lifestyle changes can slow the progress, reduce the possibility of long-term complications, and for some, return blood sugar levels to normal.
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Flu Season Starts Now — October 2016


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Who Should Have Flu and Pneumonia Shots?

Getting the flu can leave you feeling lousy and unable to attend school or work for as long as 2 weeks, and longer if complications develop. Further, having the flu can put you at higher risk for developing pneumonia and other serious conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), getting the flu shot is “the first and best way to protect yourself and your family.”

The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu. In 2010, the CDC recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot every year unless they have a severe, life-threatening allergy to the flu vaccine or its ingredients. People who should talk with their provider before getting the flu shot include those:
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Proton Pump Inhibitors — September 2016


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Understand the Potential Risk of Long-Term Use

Stomach acids work miracles to digest the foods we eat. But when there is too much acid, and in the wrong place, it can cause heartburn and reflux (when acid moves from the stomach back up the esophagus). It can also contribute to the development of ulcers (holes in the protective lining of the stomach, small intestine or esophagus). These conditions can cause very uncomfortable burning sensations in the chest, stomach, and even, throat. Fortunately, a variety of treatment options — over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications and lifestyle changes — can offer relief.

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Does Alcohol Trigger AFib? — August 2016


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Atrial Fibrillation: A Growing Concern

Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) is sometimes called the quivering heart. It is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia. Fibrillation refers to the heart contracting very fast and irregularly.

To understand AF, it helps to think of the heart as the body’s electrical system. Each time our heart beats, an electrical signal is sent from the top of the heart to the bottom, causing it to contract and pump blood to the lungs and the rest of the body.

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Activity and Fitness Trackers: Studies Show They Get People Moving — July 2016

Activity and Fitness Trackers: Studies Show They Get People Moving — July 2016


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Have you noticed people wearing stylish wrist ware or other devices, and talking about how many steps they’ve taken? Activity and fitness trackers like FitBit, Garmin, Mi Band, Jawbones and pedometers represent a burgeoning business projected to reach $19 billion by 2018. These devices are used to monitor and measure physical activity, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. A review of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that use of a pedometer — a device that records steps taken and distance —is associated with significant increases in physical activity and decreases in body mass index and blood pressure.

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Avoiding the Bulge After 50 — June 2016


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How to Maintain a Healthy Weight

As we age, it becomes harder to drop pounds and maintain a healthy weight. That’s because our metabolism slows down, we burn fewer calories and we lose lean muscle mass. It can be discouraging and for some, dangerous. But there are ways to maintain a healthy weight after 50, and it’s never too soon — or too late — to start.

Our metabolism slows as we age due to falling hormone levels. As testosterone levels drop, men tend to add body fat to their abdominal area. As estrogen levels fall, women often see a shifting of weight from their hips and buttocks to their mid-section. Our bodies also begin losing lean muscle mass starting around age 30, which may be a result of less active lifestyles. Being less active usually leads to burning fewer calories, and that often increases weight and fat mass, and decreases muscle mass.

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New CDC Guidelines for Opioid Use — May 2016

New CDC Guidelines for Opioid Use — May 2016


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Safe Use Saves Lives and Reduces Complications

Opioids, or narcotic medications, are powerful pain killers. They can be an appropriate and effective part of managing pain, but the overuse and misuse of these prescription drugs has become a public health crisis. Since 1999, the use of opioids has quadrupled and more than 165,000 people have died from their use. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 40 Americans die from opioid overdoses every day. To improve the safety of opioids, the CDC released new guidelines in March for how these medications should be prescribed.

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Telehealth: Remote Healthcare — April 2016

Telehealth: Remote Healthcare — April 2016


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Transforming Modern Medical Care

While healthcare has traditionally been delivered in a doctor’s office, hospital or outpatient clinic, technology continues to transform modern medical care. Telehealth is a broad term to describe remote healthcare services using video-conferencing equipment, mobile devices, internet access, remote monitoring devices and other tools. Telehealth promises to increase the contact between a patient and his or her providers, especially for those who live in rural areas or for whom travel to a medical facility is difficult (or even for busy working parents).

Because it can save travel time and expense for providers and patients, telehealth can improve the chances that people will receive preventive care and better management of chronic conditions. Telehealth can facilitate specialist consultations, whether the provider is across the state or across the world.

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The Shingles Vaccine: Your Risk for Shingles As You Age — March 2016

The Shingles Vaccine: Your Risk for Shingles As You Age — March 2016


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Shingles is a viral infection caused by varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone who has had chicken pox can get shingles since the virus stays inactive in the body’s nerve tissue and can re-emerge later. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 1 million Americans get shingles each year, and that half of all shingles cases occur in people 60 years or older.

While anyone with a history of chickenpox can get shingles (even children), it is most common among people over 50 and those with weakened immune systems due to cancer, HIV/AIDS and other conditions. Taking certain medications, such as chemotherapy for cancer, steroids, and those drugs used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, can increase the risk of developing shingles. Asthma is under study as a potential risk factor for developing shingles.

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Screening for Cancer. Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening — February 2016

Screening for Cancer. Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening — February 2016


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Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates there will be nearly 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses, and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths, in 2016. While there are several risk factors for cancer you can’t control (gender, race, age, family history), there are lifestyle actions that have been associated with the prevention of cancer. Experts recommend living a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, eating a well-balanced diet (more vegetables, fruits and whole grains/less processed food and red meat), protecting against sunburn, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy work/family balance, and having preventive screening tests that are right for you. Identifying cancer at its earlier stages increases the possibility of successful treatment.

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Know Your Out-of-Pocket Costs — January 2016

Know Your Out-of-Pocket Costs — January 2016


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Know Your Out-of-Pocket Costs
With Your High-Deductible Health Plan.

A growing number of people are covered by high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). As the name implies, these plans have higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans in exchange for lower monthly premiums. HDHPs are designed to make health insurance more affordable and to provide for coverage for catastrophic illness. The deductible amount specified by the insurance plan is the amount that the insured person must pay out-of-pocket until eligible healthcare expenses are covered in a given year.

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The Problem With Antibiotics — December 2015

The Problem With Antibiotics — December 2015


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Too Much of a Good Thing Puts Us at Risk

When penicillin, the first antibiotic, was introduced in the 1940s, it began an important era of treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of illness and reducing serious complications. Penicillin and the many other antibiotics that have been developed since have played a very important public health role throughout the world. They have successfully treated all kinds of infections caused by bacteria, such as urinary tract infections, strep throat, pneumonia, some types of ear infections, scarlet fever, Lyme disease, and skin infections.
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Special Edition: All About Health Scores — November 2015

Special Edition: All About Health Scores — November 2015


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Your KnovaSolutions Health Score

What it is and how you can use it.

We’re all defined by numbers. Social Security number, age, height, weight, bank account, credit score. As a KnovaSolutions member, you also have a health score.

What’s that good for? Well, just as you can clean up your credit score to improve your finances, you can also work on the things that go into your health score and blaze a trail to better health.

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Living With Chronic Pain: A Focus on Inflammatory and Compressive Pain — November 2015

Living With Chronic Pain: A Focus on Inflammatory and Compressive Pain — November 2015


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Chronic Pain Series

This is the last in a three-part series on chronic pain. Click here to see the first part, Chronic Pain: An Overview.  Click here for part two, Two Types of Chronic Pain: Neuropathic and Musculoskeletal Examined.

 

Millions grapple with chronic pain every day. While everyone’s pain is unique, chronic pain sufferers agree that it can affect your ability to sleep, work, perform routine activities, and enjoy life. Developing a pain management strategy often involves a process of trial and error, starting with understanding the type and source of the pain. This month KnovaSolutions focuses on inflammatory and compressive pain.
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Two Types of Chronic Pain: Neuropathic and Musculoskeletal Examined–October 2015

Two Types of Chronic Pain: Neuropathic and Musculoskeletal Examined–October 2015


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Chronic Pain Series

This is the second in a three-part series on chronic pain. Click here to see the first part, Chronic Pain: An Overview. Click here for November’s focus on inflammatory pain and mechanical/compressive pain.

If you have chronic pain, you’ve probably scored it from 1 to 10 on the happy-sad face continuum. Is your pain mild, moderate or excruciating? Is it inconvenient or incapacitating? While not all pain can be cured, most pain can be managed so it interferes less with daily life. Read on to learn more about neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain.

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Chronic Pain: An Overview–September 2015

Chronic Pain: An Overview–September 2015


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A Growing Public Health Concern

Chronic pain affects 100 million Americans according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). That’s more than those with diabetes (25.8 million), heart disease (16.3 million), stroke (7 million) and cancer (11.9 million) combined.

Experiencing pain can take a toll on everyday life. The AAPM reports that about four in 10 Americans have pain that interferes with their mood, activities, sleep, ability to work or enjoyment of life.

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Text Neck… Cell Phone Elbow – Our Gadgets are Causing Repetitive Injuries — August 2015

Text Neck… Cell Phone Elbow – Our Gadgets are Causing Repetitive Injuries — August 2015


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Text neck, cell phone elbow and texting thumb are repetitive strain injuries that didn’t exist a decade ago. Widespread use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have connected us globally but increased use has people complaining of strain and pain.

Text (or tech) neck refers to the strain on the neck and shoulder muscles as people tip their chin down to view their mobile devices. Looking down for long periods of time changes the natural curvature of the spine, pulling the neck out of alignment with the rest of the body. Cleveland Clinic pain specialist Robert Bolash MD explained that three things happen when you drop your head: Your neck moves forward, your shoulders round forward or lift toward your ears, and your neck and shoulder muscles tighten.  The neck is designed to support the weight of the head (10-12 pounds) when held upright. Dr. Bolash said, “For every inch you drop your head forward, you double the load on those muscles.” In a recent study published in Surgical Technology International, Kenneth K Hansraj MD calculated the alarming weights our neck muscles bear at various angles (see left).

This can cause neck, shoulder, back and arm pain, as well as headaches. While neck pain is fairly common among people as they age, adolescents who spend many hours texting or playing games on hand-held devices are joining the ranks of those complaining of such pain.

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Options for Hepatitis C Sufferers: New Treatments Offer High Cure Rate–July 2015

Options for Hepatitis C Sufferers: New Treatments Offer High Cure Rate–July 2015


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Chronic hepatitis C has devastating health implications for sufferers, and society at large. An estimated 3.2 million Americans are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), the vast majority of whom are baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965).

The older treatments for hepatitis C virus (HCV) had about a 40 percent cure rate and a list of side effects (flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue, depression and low white blood cell counts) that sufferers deemed worse than the disease. As a result, treatment was often not completed and therefore the disease went untreated, putting others at risk.

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Growing Evidence of Abuse Among Commonly Prescribed Medications — June 2015

Growing Evidence of Abuse Among Commonly Prescribed Medications — June 2015


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The potential for abuse of controlled medications like opioid pain reliever OxyContin and the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder drug Ritalin has long been established. But now there is growing evidence that other prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications not typically associated with misuse are being abused. About 6.3 million Americans admit to non-medical use of prescription drugs according the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Sitting is the New Smoking: Time to Change It Up for Better Health — May 2015

Sitting is the New Smoking: Time to Change It Up for Better Health — May 2015


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A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in January revealed that prolonged sitting increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death, even for people who exercise regularly.

Say what? If you aren’t active, you probably know that you’d be healthier if you were, but what if you already exercise? Yes, it’s true. The above risks are 30 percent less for people who exercise than for non-active people, but they still exist if the rest of the day is spent sitting. Being chronically inactive—sitting at work, driving/riding in a vehicle, TV watching, other screen time—is the culprit.

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