Linkworthy 3.1: Friday the 13th

A roundup of some noteworthy reading encountered on the web in recent weeks:

- I can’t believe I missed this story last month, but here it is, from the Wall Street Journal: The Battle of the Office Candy Jar. Summed up in three words: Proximity + temptation = ruination. My favorite quote from the article: “Even for a person with the greatest resolve, every time they look at a candy dish they say, ‘Do I want that Hershey’s Kiss or don’t I? At the 24th time, maybe I’m kind of hungry, and I just got this terrible email, and my boss is complaining – and gradually my resolve is worn down.”

I hope my newsroom colleague who brought in the leftover Peeps and jellybeans after Easter is reading this.

- Speaking of food, The Atlantic published an article today that takes an interesting look at supermarket design and its influence on what, and how much, we buy – and whether stores can be redesigned to help consumers make different purchasing choices. It may smack of social engineering but it seems to be backed up by some intriguing research.

- Engaging the Patient is hosting a series of guest blogs during Patient Experience Month that explores the line between rhetoric vs. action. Is health care truly becoming patient-centered, or is “patient-centered” just a buzzword?

When it comes to the things that patients care about and that deeply affect their lives, health care often seems to be missing the mark, observes Alexandra Drane, president and co-founder of Eliza, a patient engagement firm.

Dr. Davis Liu wonders: Do patients even want to become empowered? “They simply want to have convenient and personalized care, whether in office, telephone, video or email,” he writes.

Other installments in the series address the current state of patient engagement and the role of health care executives in fostering patient engagement.

- For some serious reading, check out “Neglected to Death,” a series reported in the Miami Herald that uncovers violations and abuses in Florida’s assisted living facilities. Although it focuses on the worst of the worst rather than facilities that are well-run, it’s a cautionary reminder for families to do their research before choosing an assisted living home and to remain informed and vigilant about their loved one’s care.

- Several new entries have been posted in an ongoing series at the Cost of Care blog, exploring some of the difficulties patients encounter in trying to manage the cost of their health care. The entries were submitted last year as part of a national essay contest and include the story of a knee surgery patient who ran into a brick wall while trying to get an estimate of what the procedure would cost, a student who received an unexpected bill, and a man who was both uninsured and catastrophically ill.

- HUMS, or High Utilizers of Medical Services, aren’t always well understood. Indeed, they’re often blamed and criticized for abusing the health care system. The reality, however, is that there’s more to this subgroup of patients than meets the eye. They’re often mentally ill, addicted and/or homeless, and existing public health safety nets fail them all too frequently.

Dr. R. Jan Gurley, who writes about urban health, describes an effort in San Francisco to identify these individuals and the challenges of providing care that’s less costly and more effective. It’s daunting but it’s not an issue that cities can afford to ignore, she writes: “The big question is what we all, collectively, are going to do to address their suffering and premature death – and their inefficient and costly use of safety-net services.”

- Here’s an initiative I can get behind: The Society for Participatory Medicine has embarked on a glossary project to compile the many abbreviations and acronyms used in health care and help the consumer decode them.

An example from a typical medical chart:

CC: SOB

HPI: This is a 52-year-old black female with a long history of CAD and COPD who presents wit SOB of several days’ duration. She has had some DOE but no chest pain or diaphoresis. She has had an MI in the past with CABG in 1999 of 4 occluded vessels.

Although patients are often encouraged to obtain copies of their medical record, one can’t help wondering how much good this will do if they don’t understand the alphabet soup.

The SPM has created an online form (linked above) allowing people to submit abbreviations, acronyms and an explanation of each. The information will be compiled into a glossary that can be used by patients to help decipher and better understand the technicalese in their medical record.

If this is a project you can help with, check it out and consider adding your own entry or two. This is one of those cases in which the more entries, the better.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons