rural doctoring

I read Grampa’s Solo Visits this am and it makes me laugh.

Since I have been a family doctor in my town of 9000 for 22 years, the grocery store and coffee shops can be interesting. When I moved here, my daughter was two and my son was seven. We have three grocery stores. I usually go to the one 7 blocks from my house. I would see patients. My diabetics would sometimes look guilty and scurry away when they saw me. Another patient comes to peer in my cart.

“I want to know if YOU are eating healthy food.” he says.

I laugh.

“I don’t see any vegetables.” he says.

“I am in a CSA,” I say. “I get a box from the farm once a week.”

He frowns. “Do you get to choose?”

“No,” I say. “But since I hate throwing vegetables out, we eat more vegetables. Also, we eat ones that are unfamiliar. The first time I got celery root, I had to look it up. I didn’t know what it was.”

He nods. “Hmmm. Ok. We want to be sure you practice what you preach.”

I laugh again. “I sneak in to get the ice cream at midnight, ok? And where is YOUR cart?”

“My wife has it,” he says. “You don’t get to see it.”

“Ok, then. Have a great day.”

When we were first in town, occasionally someone would come start talking about their health in a store.

“I can’t discuss your health in front of my children. HIPAA.”

“Oh,” they’d say, “Uh, yeah. I should call the clinic Monday?”

“Yes, please.”

We had a coffee shop that made the best pastries that I’ve had since I was an exchange student in Denmark. I wished they’d make tiny pastries, bite size, for the diabetic folks. Those folks would slide a newspaper over their plate when I walked in with my family. They looked terribly guilty. I might nod, but I wouldn’t say anything. Sometimes they would confess at the next visit.

There are lots of jobs in small towns where people are very much public figures. Not just doctors, but the people who work for the city and the county, the ones who redo the taxes for homes, the realtors, all sorts.

After I was divorced, another doc at the hospital asks, “Dating someone new?”

I frown, “How do you know?”

She grins, “He lives on my street. I saw you.”

Dang it. The rumor mill is very very efficient and can often be fabulously wrong. That time it was correct, though I don’t think she passed it around. Other people live on the street.

A few days ago someone that looked familiar walks by me. “What are you doing with so-and-so?”

I laugh. “Rumors abound.” I say. “You would not believe the rumors!”

I took the photograph of the coyote yesterday, driving home. Stopped dead in my lane, no one else on the road. People will be stopped in the road here, talking to each other in two cars going opposite directions, or talking to a friend on foot.

Make America sick again: diabetes

The trend in diabetes treatment is clear: keep Americans sick.

The guidelines say that as soon as we diagnose type II diabetes, we should start a medicine. Usually metformin.

A recent study says that teaching patients to use a glucometer and to check home blood sugars is useless. The key word here is teach, because when I get a diabetic transferring into my clinic, the vast majority have not been taught much of anything.

What is the goal for your blood sugar? They don’t know.

What is normal fasting? What is normal after you eat? What is the difference between checking in the morning and when should you check it after a meal? What is a carbohydrate? What is basic carbohydrate counting?

I think that the real problem is that the US medical system assumes that patients are stupid and doesn’t even attempt to teach them. And patients just give up.

New patient recently, diabetes diagnosed four years ago, on metformin for two years, and has no idea what the normal ranges of fasting and postprandial (after eating) are. Has never had a glucometer.

When I have a new type II diabetic, I call them. I schedule a visit.

At the visit I draw a diagram. Normal fasting glucose is 70-100. Borderline 110 to 125. Two measurements fasting over 125 means diabetes.

After eating: normal is 70-140. Borderline 140-200. Over 200 means diabetes.

Some researchers are calling Alzheimer’s “Type IV diabetes”. The evidence is saying that a glucose over 155 causes damage: to eyes, brain, kidneys, small vessels and peripheral nerves.

Ok, so: what is the goal? To have blood sugars mostly under 155. That isn’t rocket science. People understand that.

Next I talk about carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are any food that isn’t fat or protein. Carbohydrates range from simple sugars: glucose and fructose, to long chain complicated sugars. Whole fruits and vegetables have longer chain carbohydrates, are absorbed slowly, the body breaks them down slowly and the blood sugar rises more slowly. Eat green, yellow, orange vegetables. A big apple is 30 grams of carbohydrate, a small one is 15, more or less. A tablespoon of sugar is 15 grams too. A coke has 30 grams and a Starbuck’s 12 ounce mocha has 62. DO NOT DRINK SWEETENED DRINKS THEY ARE EVIL AND TOOLS OF THE DEVIL. The evidence is saying that the fake sugars cause diabetes too.

Meals: half the small plate should be green, yellow or orange vegetables. A deck of card size “white” food: grains, potatoes, pasta, whole wheat bread, a roll, whatever. A deck of card size protein. Beans and rice, yes, but not too much rice.

For most diabetics, they get 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. A meal can have up to 30 grams of carbohydrate and the snacks, 15 grams.

Next I tell them to get a glucometer. Check with their pharmacy first. The expensive part is the testing strips, so find the cheapest brand. We have a pharmacy that will give the person a glucometer and the strips for it are around 4 for a dollar. Many machines have strips that cost over a dollar each.

I set the patient up with the diabetic educator. The insurance will usually cover classes with the educator and the nutritionist but only in the first year after diagnosis. So don’t put it off.

For type II diabetes, the insurance will usually only cover once a day glucose testing. So alternate. Test 3 days fasting. Test 1-2 hours after a meal on the other days. Test after a meal that you think is “good”. Also after a meal that you think is “bad”. I have had long term diabetics come in and say gleefully “I found a dessert that I can eat!” The numbers are not always what people expect. And there are sneaky sources of carbohydrate. Coffeemate and the coffee flavorings, oooo, those are REALLY BAD.

For most of my patients, the motivated ones, they have played with the glucometer for at least a week by the time they see the diabetic educator. I have had a person whose glucose was at 350 in the glucose testing. The diabetic educator called and scolded me for not starting metformin yet. The diabetic educator called me again a week later. “The patient brought their blood sugars down!” she said. “She’s under 200 after eating now! Maybe she doesn’t need the metformin, not yet!” Ah, that is my thought. If we don’t give people information and a tool to track themselves, then why would they bother? They eat the dessert and figure that the medicine will fix it or they can always get more medicine.

Type I diabetes has to have insulin. If a type II diabetic is out of control, high sugars, for long enough, they too will need insulin. The cells in the pancreas that make insulin are killed by prolonged high blood sugars.

I went to a lunch conference, paid for by a pharmaceutical company, at the AAFP conference in September. The drug company said start people on metformin at diagnosis and if they are not in control in 3 months, start a second medicine, the drug company’s new and improved and better and beastly expensive medicine!!!

Yeah, I don’t think so. All of my patients are smart and they all can figure it out. Some get discouraged and some are already on insulin, but they are still all smart.

Fight back against the moronization of US citizens. Keep America healthy, wealthy and wise.

Fraud in medicine: Diabetic supplies

There is a subtle ongoing fraud in diabetic supplies for diabetic patients and especially medicare patients.

The fraud is in the paperwork. An order form will arrive for me to sign for Mr. Smith. I read the fine print and it says that all of the supplies on the form will be renewed for Mr. Smith, unless something is crossed out. It lists six supplies: lancets to draw blood, strips for the glucose machine, a new glucometer, a new lancet machine and control solution to check that the machine is working correctly.

This is all good and necessary, right? Maybe.

I call Mr. Smith and say, “What do you need?”

“I just need lancets,” says Mr. Smith. “That’s what I asked the company to refill.” He is wondering why I called, because he only asked for lancets.

I cross everything out but the lancets: because that is where the fraud lies. Mr. Smith only renewed his prescription for the lancets, but the medical supply company knows exactly what interval medicare and the other insurances will pay for all of the supplies. They want me to sign a blanket order and then they will send Mr. Smith a new glucometer every time medicare allows, whether he wants and needs it or not. So if you have visited a parent or family member and wondered why they have a closet or a drawer full of some medical equipment, that is why. The doctor did not read the fine print and signed a blanket order and the patient is getting more equipment than they need or want. This is waste and it costs us all money.

Another fraud in diabetic supplies is in getting the first glucometer. I was taught to send the patient to the [diabetic educator] where they would get a “free” glucometer. However, now I tell them to check their local pharmacy instead. The “free” glucometers have the most expensive strips and lancets, and diabetics are supposed to check blood sugar at least once a day. If the strip costs one dollar, that adds up. The pharmacy often has a house brand where the strips and lancets are less expensive. I give the patient the choice. Most of them choose the house brand.

One diabetic equipment company got a hold of one of my patients and wouldn’t let go. They sent paperwork to me saying that they needed every note back to the date that I had prescribed his equipment and copies of his blood sugar records. I wrote them a letter, saying, “I am sending the notes, but I don’t photo copy the patient’s blood sugar records. You are being unreasonable. My notes contain the records I made about his blood sugars.” The company is in Florida and the patient is in Washington. The company kept demanding the notes, all the way back to the first visit, every two months. After we sent them twice, we sent a letter saying, “We already sent those twice. We’re not doing it again.” They continued to fax renewals. I talked to the patient. He wanted them gone too, because they kept calling him and wanting to send him more supplies. I called them. They did not desist. I sent them a letter and tried calling medicare fraud. The medicare fraud department said, “Call the company.” Now we just shred anything they send us, including the threatening notes saying that medicare will be after me.

The diabetic supplies aren’t terribly expensive, but when there are millions of diabetic people, this adds up. Also, most physicians are so busy that they sign papers without reading all that fine print and don’t have time to check what the patient really needs. And the companies are targeting the frail, sick and elderly, though many diabetics are otherwise healthy. I think it is a shameful scam to have a person call a company and say “I need more lancets,” and then to try to send them more of everything. Isn’t that illegal? It should be, to fill prescriptions that have not been renewed. I am tired of seeing more and more clearly how our United States medical system is a system to make money any way possible, and morals don’t matter, and it has nothing to do with people’s health.
29.1 million diabetics in the US
21.0 million diabetics diagnosed in the US

published on everything2 on November 26, 2014 and on Sermo today