Author: Mike

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Opioids: 3 Things Clinicians Can Do to Improve Patient Safety and the Quality of Patient Care

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder & Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Our Opioid Dichotomy

Opioids are something we love and hate, all at the same time. On the one hand, they are a great pain reliever and are often used to provide analgesia and supplement sedation during general anesthesia or monitored anesthesia care. On the other hand, opioids can be addictive and too much opioids can lead to opioid overdose and death. Justine Igwe (Nursing Student in Nigeria at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus) recently wrote about opioids’ pain relief vs. addiction/overdose dichomotomy:

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Nurses are a Cornerstone to Patient Safety

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder & Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Our healthcare system is not safe without nurses.

The COVID pandemic underscored the need for nurses. Reporting for the Kaiser Family Foundation, Nancy Ochieng, Priya Chidambaram, and MaryBeth Musumeci write:

The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing facility residents and staff has brought increased attention to long-standing workforce issues that can affect care quality and safety, such as staffing shortages and high turnover rates. 

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How Family Caregivers Can Help Healthcare Professionals Provide Better Care

By John Schall, CEO of Caregiver Action Network, and Joy Yoo (Data Analyst, Houston Methodist Research Institute; Researcher, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

The Key Role of Family Caregivers in Delivering Healthcare

Family caregivers have become an essential key to providing patient care. As Richard Adler & Rajiv Mehta of the National Alliance for Caregiving write:

Millions of Americans are currently providing care for a family member, friend, or neighbor, typically because of illness, injury, or frailty. Their efforts range from providing emotional support and helping with routine household tasks to providing care 24×7 and carrying out complex medical procedures. Though those receiving care are of all ages, the amount of caregiving will certainly rise as our population ages.

Many of the functions that caregivers play are similar to those provided by nurses. It is therefore essential that healthcare professionals work collaboratively with caregivers to ensure that their patients are receiving the optimal care.

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How is Patient Safety After COVID? Putting 2022 in Perspective

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder & Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Beyond COVID is a Trifecta of Respiratory Viruses 

Just when I thought that we could all let down our guard when out in public, a trifecta of respiratory viruses has descended upon us – COVID, flu, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Reports CNN:

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Has WellCare Put Profits Before Patients?

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder & Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety) 

This is the question that I recently asked myself – “Has WellCare Put Profits Before Patients?”

In a letter to Ken Yamaguchi, MD, MBA (Executive Vice President, Chief Medical Officer WellCare Prescription Insurance, Inc.), the Partnership to Advance Cardiovascular Health (together with a coalition of concerned organizations, including the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety) ask Dr. Yamaguchi about a pricing decision WellCare made for seniors that will increase the price of a drug by five times what they had previously paid:

recent formulary change that will drastically increase the price of apixaban for Medicare Part D WellCare participants. By placing apixaban on a higher formulary tier, medically fragile seniors will pay five times as much for their life-saving direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC).

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The Need for Better Opioid Management

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder & Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Opioids Can be Deadly

To say that opioids can kill is perhaps to overstate the obvious. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths involving any opioid have steadily risen from 2010 to the present:

“Opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady in 2018 with 46,802 deaths. This was followed by a significant increase through 2020 to 68,630 overdose deaths.”  

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Pain Relief vs. Addiction and Overdose: Four Steps to Maintain an Appropriate Equilibrium

By Justina Igwe (Nursing Student in Nigeria at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus)

 OPIOIDS AS EFFECTIVE PAIN RELIEF

Opioids have been one of the world’s most effective pain relievers since Friedrich Serturner of Germany extracted an opioid analgesic from opium in 1803. Extracted from opium papaver (Papaver Somiferus) a species of flowering plant that grows in all temperate regions of the world with its origin being Asia Minor, Opioids are largely used in healthcare facilities to relieve patients suffering from both acute and chronic pain.

THE EUPHORIC PROPERTIES OF OPIOIDS

When consumed, opioids activate the release of endorphins (the feel-good neurotransmitters) which suppresses the perception of pain and intensify the feelings of pleasure, creating a temporary yet powerful sense of well-being.

However, when the dose wears off, the patient feels depressed and wants another dose which will make them feel that sense of well-being again. (This is actually the first point toward potential addiction).

Opioids have now become a substance of concern as the world is fighting to strike a balance between their use as pain relievers and euphoriants necessitating abuse. Tragically, the CDC estimates that about one million people have died of drug overdose since 1999, of which 82.3% were opioid-involved overdose deaths involving a synthetic opioid.

As expected, reducing the burden of suffering from pain and reducing opioid addiction and overdose deaths pose a major public health challenge.

Below are four steps that can be taken to achieve that balance:

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Myths Can Kill You: Know These Six Myths About Atrial Fibrillation

By Trudie Lobban MBE, FRCP (Founder & CEO, Arrhythmia Alliance & AF Association) and Michael Wong, JD (Founder & Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Arrhythmia is when the heart rhythm is too slow, too fast, or beating in an irregular manner. The most common arrhythmia is Atrial Fibrillation (AF/AFib) symptoms may include – heart palpitations, fluttering in the chest, pounding heart, irregular heart rhythm or no symptoms at all. Some describe it like a bag of worms in their chest or banging of drums.  If left undiagnosed and without anticoagulation therapy, it can lead to an AF-related stroke and even death.

Anticoagulation therapy helps to reduce blood clots forming in the chambers of the heart due to the irregular rhythm and traveling to the brain causing an AF-related stroke.

Treatments for AF exist to treat the symptoms from drugs to devices or ablation.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 1 million people in the United States will have AFib in 2030.
  • In 2019, AFib was mentioned on 183,321 death certificates and was the underlying cause of death in 26,535 of those deaths

Tragically, misconceptions or myths about AF may prevent people with AF from seeking medical care. Knowing these eight myths about AF can save your life or the life of a loved one and can certainly reduce the risk of an AF-related stroke.

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Better Asthma Control Starts with Correct Inhaler Use

Better Asthma Control Starts with Correct Inhaler Use

By Sara Malik (asthma patient studying to go to medical school)

After getting diagnosed with severe asthma at the tender age of three, friends and family often reassured my parents that I would “eventually grow out of it” and that it was probably just “seasonal allergies.” Yes, it is true that seasonal changes can trigger asthma and that many people may outgrow this condition once they reach or pass adolescence. However, it is crucial to recognize that once an individual has developed a sensitive respiratory tract, their airways remain susceptible to asthma triggers for life.

The World Health Organization defines asthma as a long-term disease in which the “air passages in the lungs become narrow due to inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the small airways.” Asthma is a chronic disease that I have never grown out of it, and at this point, I do not know if I ever will. But, I now recognize this is okay because I have learned to accept this reality. I instead direct my energy toward finding ways to achieve and maintain my definition of a “normal” lifestyle. As a patient dealing with this condition for nearly two decades, I have learned a lot about my body and mind, which have played a significant role in helping me control my asthma.

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