Cloudy with a chance of hope

This is for the Daily Prompts: hopeful and year.

I took this from the beach with my zoom lens: fog, clouds, lowering, indistinct. My daughter left for college in September and is home now…. well, sort of, except she is off with friends all over the place, including right now.

It’s been a cloudy and hopeful period, since September. It is the first time in 24 years that I have not had children or teens at home, and the first time in 28 years that I have lived nearly alone…just the cat. The cat is not happy with then young adults leaving. She blames me.

I am worried about the US Medical system, the corporate takeover where more and more physicians are employed and then have no connection to how their patients are billed. They also take no responsibility for people going bankrupt over medical bills. We physicians are as responsible for the mess of US Health Care as the patients are, as Congress is, for letting 1300 insurance companies use 500 billion dollars on administrative costs….And people say I don’t trust government healthcare….but don’t take away my mother’s medicare, the VA benefits, medicaid for the disabled and very poor or the healthcare for our active duty. And yet I see for profit companies like triwest: the government contracts my local VA care to them and I fought Triwest for a year to get them to pay me for my Veterans Choice patients. And they won’t pay me for the time we spent fighting to get paid, nor the interest for waiting on a payment for an entire year. Guess who got that money? The For Profit Contractor Corporation: Triwest. And Noridian, the local medicare contractor, held my payments for 6 months. They said my paperwork was wrong….turned out it had been wrong for six years but they frankly didn’t care until they were getting audited. So who paid the price? I did and you did. In rising costs and confusion and physicians quitting. Again, I did not see a penny for the time on the phone, for the time spent trying to ask Noridian why, after 6 years of payments, they were refusing my renewal…..and meanwhile I saw my patients and went further into debt. And do you think the bank corporation wrote off their profits? No, you laugh at that…..

But, you say, where is the hope? The hope is that I think we are at the point where enough physicians are quitting outright, enough Veterans Choice patients are calling their Congress People, the patients refuse to be patient any longer….and I am seeing more people fight for a single payer system, for a system where the money does not go to profit and administration while people die waiting for prior authorization and insurance corporations change the rules every week and refuse and refuse and refuse care…..I think people: patients and physicians: will wake up and change the system.

And that, Mr. Trump, is what I would do to make the US great again….

 

 

 

 

 

Far from the maddening crowd

For the Daily Prompt: maddening.

The early morning is my time to write and think and be quiet. And the other time is outside walking with my camera.

The medical money machine in the US grinds people up, grinds doctors up, doesn’t care, and makes money. Sometimes it is so maddening….

Pick a plan right for you…..

We are in open enrollment for health insurance in the US. Meaning that they all are going up in cost and they are cancelling plans and offering new ones. And advertising: pick a plan right for you!

What the hell does that mean?

It means that all of the plans exclude things. Oh, well, aromatherapy…. that’s what you are thinking if you are not a US citizen. Of course the plan doesn’t cover aromatherapy or crystal healing or fringe treatments….

Well, no. I had to choose between two plans when my daughter was 17, that is, two years ago. I could choose the one that covered cancer OR the one that covered pregnancy. Uh, yes, that is correct. One EXCLUDED pregnancy healthcare and the other EXCLUDED cancer healthcare. For me and my children.

Which would you choose?

My mother died of cancer at 61 and my sister at 49. My daughter was not dating yet. Observing.

So we picked cancer.

I photographed the crows out on a walk the other day… how many does it take to make a murder?

 

 

Random confuse the engine search

A friend and I are using Facebook to message this am and she says she hates that Facebook is mining for advertising all the time. I said we should do a random confuse the engine search every day. Something silly! I searched enamel zebra hamsters first…. And it’s fun to watch the internet try!

What silly search would you use to confuse the big data mining on the internet? Go wild! Confuse your feed!

out of minutes

I just read your email

my phone was out of minutes

the internet was down

I was really busy working

I didn’t hear the phone

I forgot I turned it down

 

and you are out of minutes

 

The photograph is from 2007. The dunes collapse, sometimes whole sections with trees. It’s not a safe space to play.
I am choosing this for the Daily Prompt: flames.

Veteran

My clinic has gotten three calls in the last week to take more rural Veteran’s Choice patients. One was too far away on Whidby Island. Apparently few providers will work with Veteran’s Choice: but I understand that too, because it took me a full year to get the contractor for the insurance, Triwest, to start paying me. And it took me hours, hours that I could spend doing medicine, instead of fighting with a corrupt for profit corporation.

And I am glad that I won that round.

I took the photograph at our Rhody Parade, in 2006.

Update on marijuana 2016

I attended the Swedish Hospital Update on Chronic Pain in Seattle two weeks ago on the stormy Friday. The power went out and we were without slides from about noon on.

The first two hours and three lectures were about marijuana. Including medical marijuana and one speaker for and one against. So here are some of my notes.

In 1960 and 1970, the marijuana had about 4% THC. Now some strains have 30% THC, so long term there is no data about what 30% THC will do to a person rather than 4%. THC in strains ranges from 0% to 30% and CBD from 0 to 3.5%. However, those two are not the only active ingredients, so to speak. 537 constituents have been identified that work at the cannabinoid receptor…. that is impressive. I think it might take a while to sort out what they do.

At any rate, we don’t know what smoking 30% THC will do, because it’s new. 4% had pretty minimal psychotropic effects. 30% has a lot more. The average now is 12%. Hashish is closer to 66% and hash oil 81% THC. A patient recently told me that she fainted within the last year. She got butter from the fridge at a friend’s and buttered her toast. Turned out it was THC infused butter and she was taken by surprise on a walk 30-60 minutes later. Luckily someone was with her and she was not hurt.

Recent data is showing that there is not much tolerance smoking 12% THC regularly. However, higher doses show tolerance in about 2 weeks in a study of HIV patients with dronabinol, which is 40% THC. Another study of multiple sclerosis patients with 15/15% CBD:THC reduced pain, reduced spasticity and did not show tolerance.

There is anecdotal evidence about seizures, but no study yet. There is some evidence that CBD reduces THC induced paranoia and/or hallucinations. THC side effects from dronabinol include drowsiness, unsteady gait, delusions, hallucinations, mood change and confusion.

The growers are being very creative in names and marketing. This is re recreational pot.
There are hundreds of names and hundreds of varieties and they make interesting claims as to effects. For example:

AK47 with 36.6% THC and 0.3% CBD ….. creative, euphoric and hungry
sage with 27.5% THC and 0.7% CBD ….. attentive
flow with 23.2 % THC and 0.6% CBD ….. happy, relaxed, alert
Super Sour Diesel 22.7 % THC and 0.8% CBD ….. attentive, giggly, hungry
707 Headband with 22.1% THC and 0.7% CBD ….. euphoric, lazy, inspired

How amazing the difference less than a percent of THC makes… oh, wait. There aren’t clinical trials on this, hon, this is MARKETING.

Onset for oral is 30-90 minutes
peak in 2-4 hours
half life 8-12 hours but sometimes 20 hours

sublingual tincture
onset 30-45 minutes
peak 60 minutes
half life 3-5 hours

Smoked onset quicker and I did not get those numbers.

The emergency rooms in Colorado saw lots of people who were “trying it” but if they had only tried smoking marijuana in the 1970s, a strain with a much higher percentage made many people sick or hallucinate or frightened. The gummi bears look just like the ones for kids, so kids got sick. More sick people with edibles, as some eat too much.

People using THC before age 25 who have risk factors for schizophrenia are more likely to develop it. Family history, other hallucinatory drugs, mental health problems. The age 21 limit should be taken very seriously.

In Arizona re medical marijuana, 90% of the prescriptions were from only 24 physicians. In Colorado, 94% of the patients applying for medical marijuana did so for “severe pain”. Two of my friends in their early 20s  got medical marijuana permits in California for “back pain”, um, ok, hooey. Some people DO have severe chronic pain….

The history of medical marijuana is that Eli Lilly produced a medical version from 1850-1940 for pain. It was removed in 1942. In 1970 it became a schedule one, that is, illegal, drug. There are a few randomized clinical trials for pain, the best ones with high CBD/low THC treatments. Marijuana smoke alone has not been proven to cause lung cancer, but combined with tobacco or other smoke, the evidence is that it is synergistic and makes things worse faster. Dependence can occur, an increase in antisocial personality disorders and there is a withdrawal syndrome for dependent folks. For the small number of people I have had working hard to stop, sleep is the most difficult issue. Anxiety as well.

If people state that they use pot a small amount a couple of times a week, their urine sample should clear after a week. If it’s not clear they 1. couldn’t stop and/or 2. were using quite a bit more.

As far as Washington state law, it was described as a mess. Physicians can’t prescribe, they can only “attest” that the person has a problem treatable by medical marijuana. To attest, the physician has to sign a document saying that they are sure that not only has the patient READ the law chapter 69.51A RCW but also “understands the requirements of being a patient”. There are 24 sections. The physician doing this part of the talk said that he would only prescribe to non-driving MS patients in wheelchairs. Because he finds it hard to read the law himself, so the signing that the patient has read and understood it…. well, the driving legality issue is huge. And the provider, including NDs (naturopaths) and ODs (Doctor of Optometry) in Washington can attest. They are then immune in Washington but not at the federal level.

Every marijuana store is legally obliged to have a medical marijuana consultant present at all times that they are open. The medical marijuana consultant has 20 hours of training to get certified. Patients that are certified with an attestation can grow 6 to 15 plants but ONLY after they have been entered into a database which includes the person who signed the attestation and a photo of the patient. If they grow without being entered, they are breaking the law.

Use of THC long term, the risk of addiction is 25-50%. 17% of the addicted folks started during adolescence. Addiction is currently estimated at 9% of people who have tried it overall. About 30% of users have “problem use” and starting before age 18 increases the problem use 4-7 times. The DSM-V has diagnostic criteria for “marijuana overuse syndrome”, including not being able to stop even though the person wants to. Risk factors for addiction and problem use include early use, family history, PTSD (especially sexual abuse), bipolar diagnosis, ADHD, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder. Mediating factors include parental disapproval, parental supervision, academic competence, higher perceived risk and availability.

And am I attesting? No. My MS patients get the attestation from the neurologist if they want it….

Medical marijuana consultant training: http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Marijuana/MedicalMarijuana/RulesinProgress/MedicalMarijuanaConsultantCertification
Washington State Medical Marijuana attestation form: http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/630123.pdf
WA law: http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=69.51A
And pain clinics getting closed down: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/pain-patients-scramble-for-care-after-clinic-crackdown/

The tree trunk is a bonsai from the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland. I like the thorns…..

All of my patients are smart

I am a rural family practice doctor for over twenty five years and all of my patients are smart.

All of my patients are complicated.

I don’t mean that they all have degrees or PhDs or are intellectuals. I mean that they are smart in all sorts of ways.

I was talking to the UW Pain and Addiction Telemedicine Team four years ago. I said that when I had a new chronic pain patient who is angry about the law in Washington, I would give them the link to the law: http://www.doh.wa.gov/ForPublicHealthandHealthcareProviders/HealthcareProfessionsandFacilities/PainManagement.

“You give them the link?” said one of the faculty. “But they can’t understand that.”

“Why not?” I replied. “I did.”

This was met with silence. My attitude is, well, I am a physician. I am not a lawyer. Yet I have to follow the pain law. Actually we all have to follow all the laws in our country. We say ignorance of the law is no excuse. Yet then the attitude of the pain specialists at UW was that the law is too confusing for my rural patients.

I think UW is wrong and I think that it is disrespectful to patients. Treat them as adults. Treat them as smart. Treat them as if they can understand and you will get respect back. And if they trust you they will then tell you when they do not understand or need something translated from medicalese to english.

I worked with a patient who works every day. She is in a wheelchair, a motorized one. She has cerebral palsy and can’t talk much. And she is smart too.

This election is about the United States population being smart. They know something is very wrong and they want it fixed. I think that Citizens United needs to be taken down. Corporations are not people, unless the CEO can be the physical representation of the corporation and go to jail when the corporation lies and steals. Wells Fargo, I am talking to you. I am taking my money to another bank. Pay reparations. The United States population is sick and tired of the rich getting richer and corporations stealing from people for profit. Democrats and republicans are sick and tired of it. We are not going to take it any more. If you have gotten rich from corporate underhand theft, lies and confusing regular people, give the money back. Because you can buy an island, but if the United States population rises up to hunt for you, there is no where in the world you can hide.

It is time for corporations to give the United States population the government back. Or we will take it. Because every patient I have ever taken care of in over twenty five years is smart. That is not to say we don’t all do stupid things. And some people won’t change. But in the end, everyone can learn and everyone can change.

I took the photograph in Larrabee State Park in September. This tree is down: but it is not a nurse log yet. It is not dead. The roots are still providing nourishment and it is sprouting branches all along the downed trunk.

 

Playing Poker with Putin

People keep saying, “I don’t TRUST Hilary Clinton.”

And they say, “Her smile is not sincere.”

I am confused and dumbfounded. Uh, I thought that is the POINT of politics. NAME A POLITICIAN YOU TRUST.

I DON’T TRUST ANY POLITICIAN.

So here is a game: Playing Poker with Putin.

This requires three people, of any sex.

Player 1 is Hilary Clinton.
Player 2 is Donald Trump.
Player 3 is the moderator who in this case happens to be Mr. Putin.

NOW. The moderator begins to ask questions. Every time the moderator asks Hilary a question, Donald interrupts. Donald, you can be as foul and rude as you want, though you should not swear, because you are on national television. You can talk about “lady parts” and the size of your hands. And all the rest of it.

Putin: go for the jugular on everyone.

Hilary: you have to smile. The entire time. You cannot object to being interrupted, because that is bitchy if you are a girl and manly if you are a man. You cannot show anger. You cannot show any emotion at all except a totally sincere smile no matter what the two men say and no matter how many times you are interrupted.

If the person playing Hilary loses her temper she (or he if a guy is playing the part) loses. Then Donald and Putin have to stage a mock battle throwing pillows at each other and insulting each other’s wives. At the top of their lungs. Be as mean as possible. Then Donald will turn the country into a dictatorship because “I have to be equal to Putin.”

So….my definition of politician is someone who can keep their head no matter how nasty the conversation gets. No matter how many lies are told. No matter how many insults are given. And you do the best you can in office to represent the entire country and for the good of the world.

Play on, Hilary. You win Best Politician Ever in my book.

Slow medicine

I am practicing slow medicine, just like the slow food movement.

It took a year to set up my clinic, because I wanted time with people more than anything. And how could I do that?

Low overhead, of course. The lower the expenses, the more time I would have with patients.

I did math and based it on medicare. I estimated what medicare would pay. I dropped obstetrics, can’t afford the malpractice and anyhow, the hospital was hostile by then. That cuts malpractice by two thirds. And I chose not to have a nurse, because people are the most expensive thing. Just me and a receptionist. And a biller once a week and a computer expert who rescues us when we kill another printer or need new and bigger computer brains for ICD 10.

My estimates were on target except that it took three times as long to build up patient numbers as I thought. Ah. Oops. I was advised to borrow twice what I thought I needed and that was good advice, because I had not counted on my sister dying or my father dying or me getting sick for a while…. but so far the clinic remains open.

Slow medicine. I schedule an hour with a new medicare patient or anyone new and complicated. People who say they aren’t complicated are lying, but we schedule 45 minutes for them. And for the really complicated, we have 45 minutes for follow ups. Most visits are 25 minutes: the only visit that is less is to take out stitches.

What does slow medicine allow? In the end it allows people to speak about things that they don’t know they need to talk about. A friend dying. Fears about a grandchild. Family fighting. The dying polar bears. The environment. This difficult election. And sometimes I think that freedom to speak about anything is the most theraputic part of the visit.

I had one woman last year who established care. Complicated. I think she was in her 70s. And the medical system had made mistakes and hurt her. Delayed diagnosis, delayed care. But she was laughing by the end of the visit. She stood in the hall and said, “This is the first time I can remember laughing in a doctor’s office. This is the first time in years that I can remember leaving with hope. And you haven’t DONE anything!”

….anything, except give time and listen.