Category: Healthcare In the News

What is the Coronavirus? Get Answers Here

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27 February 2020

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is an insurance free, membership based family medicine and addiction medicine clinic. Beyond Primary Care is the only Direct Care clinic serving patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County giving families and employers peace of mind with healthcare costs by providing affordable, accessible, and authentic primary care services.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I wanted to talk about the coronavirus, what it is, how is it spread, what are symptoms, and how to protect yourself.

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses represent a large group of viruses, not just one we are hearing about in the news and media lately. These Coronaviruses are categorized as “Zoonotic diseases,” meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. The Coronavirus this blog is referencing (COVID-19) initially occurred in an animal or seafood market in the city of Wuhan, China. The disease has since spread throughout China and to a number of other countries.

On the ‘skin’ of the Coronavirus are a huge number of spikes (proteins) that give it the appearance of a ‘crown.’ Crown in latin = Corona. Just like the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is the causative agent such as non life-threatening conditions like foot (plantar) warts or very dangerous conditions such as cervical cancer, there are many subtypes of Coronavirus. 

Think of subtypes like the seasoning, basil. There is cinnamon basil, Greek basil, lemon basil, well- you get the point.

Some of the subtypes cause respiratory illnesses as minor as the common cold, while others cause pneumonia. These tend to be mild. However, just like HPV, there are some types of Coronavirus that can cause severe disease, such at the China 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This new Coronavirus being spread has not been previously identified in humans.

Situation in the United States

There are 59 total cases of the China 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Eight U.S states have confirmed cases including Massachusetts, California, Washington, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Nebraska. 57 cases have been diagnosed as a result of travel or being evacuated from high-risk countries. 2 cases are believe to have spread person to person within the U.S.

Being present on public transport areas is a major risk factor for transmission. This Coronavirus appears to be spreading easily in China, but not as much in the United States.

The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) states to prepare for the ‘inevitable’ spread of the coronavirus within the United States. 

The CDC calls this Coronavirus “a serious public health concern.” 

The City of San Francisco, despite not having any confirmed cases of the Coronavirus, has declared a local emergency because it is a major travel connection hub. 

How is the Coronavirus spread?

The exact mechanism (as of publication of this blog post) has yet to be discovered. In general, it is thought respiratory droplets – such as what comes out your nose or mouth when you cough or sneeze- or objects that have been contaminated with the virus, are the source of the Coronavirus. 

How does the Coronavirus present?

A number of symptoms can present ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms typically take between 1 and 14 days to appear once the virus is contracted. Mild symptoms include fever (anything over 100.4F), cough, body aches, fatigue, sore throat, cough, and shortness of breath. Severe symptoms include pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death. 

Currently, the only means of diagnosis is testing through a technique called Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction tests that can diagnose the Coronavirus from respiratory samples. This test is currently not available at any outpatient clinics in the United States.

These tests are only at selected U.S. States and local public health laboratories, Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories, and some international laboratories. 

Protect Yourself

Currently there is no specific medication to combat the Coronavirus. Additionally, there is yet to be a vaccine- although these are in development. Treatment if someone is infected is supportive care.

A number of hygiene practices to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus include covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing (such as the vampire cough depicted above), washing your hands with soap and water frequently, and wearing masks if you could have the virus or around other people you care for who may have the virus.

Fish Antibiotics For Humans

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26 January 2020

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care is the only Direct Care clinic serving patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County giving families and employers peace of mind with healthcare costs by providing affordable, accessible, and authentic primary care services.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I wanted to talk about an actual patient of mine about to fish antibiotics for humans, the barriers of obtaining affordable medications, and how to obtain affordable medications.

My Patient’s Fish Antibiotic Story

A kind man in his 30s finds out about my clinic last month saying ‘direct primary care’ is perfect fit because even though he works full time, his employer does not offer him health insurance. He explains his employer is a contractor for a major shipping company (think top 3), but since they are contractors, they are not entitled to the same benefits.

He has been without any healthcare for the past 3 years saying “I can’t afford BlueCross.”

The newly enrolled patient says discovering Beyond Primary Care was serendipitous, because he has been experiencing left ear pain so bad for the past 2 weeks, that he was going to do something about if finally. Curious, I ask what he plan was and he replied he had been reading about ‘fish antibiotics for humans’ on the internet.

Since you don’t need a prescription for that he could avoid the healthcare costs associated with establishing care with a new physician and price of medications at a retail pharmacy.

A Dangerous Idea

Yes, so taking fish antibiotics for humans is a real thing. A quick google search turned up numerous unscientific medical survival guides. I read the reviews for aquarium antibiotics. However, taking medications that are 1) not for humans, 2) not prescribed by a licensed physician and 3) not properly dosed is incredibly dangerous. 

Misuse of any medication can cause serious illness. The medications used for many animals and vertebrates do NOT require FDA approval, so there is no regulation over the manufacturing of the medication that one would take.

I always tell my patients for any medication that they have effects, thus they may have side effects. Additionally, using antibiotics for self-diagnosed illnesses may lead to antibiotic resistance, which ultimately hurts the individual using the medication and society in the larger picture. 

Improving Affordable Healthcare and Transparency

Antibiotics are not necessarily all expensive either. Some large retail pharmacies in the state of Michigan even offer certain types of antibiotics for free (you still need a prescription from a physician). The patient did have an ear infection. Because we are a ‘Direct Primary Care’ clinic, the patient was prescribed AND dispensed the antibiotic from our office at the time of the visit.

The cost of the drug prescribed to this particular patient through Beyond Primary Care was $1.95.

Many of us are accustomed to thinking that we pay health insurance premiums to get access to a lower cost for health care medications — that being the “negotiated rate” or “contracted rate” that the insurance company and the payer agree to in contract talks. But increasingly we are hearing that insured people are paying more than uninsured people.

Additionally, evil organizations out there called Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMS- more on them on a later post) are yet another middlemen in our insane medical billing industry that can increase the prices we pay for medications.

No Quick Legislative Road

In late 2019, the current white house administration released new rules requiring hospitals to be more proactive with price transparency by publishing their charges and negotiated rates. Great right? If we go on Amazon, we can see the description, reviews, and price for everything. We expect and demand price transparency with all our other transactions. Same for healthcare now.

However, even within a few weeks of this executive order, hospital systems and insurer across the nation are suing to keep their prices a secret. The hospital systems and insurers know that if their costs become public knowledge, they stand to lose millions of dollars because people will simply shop around for the best market price, something we do for every other service.

Is there an easy solution?

In my opinion, the best advocates for patients to obtain affordable and transparent healthcare are those independent from a large hospital/health system– such as those who operate as Direct Primary Care (DPC) physicians.

Anaphylaxis and Epinephrine

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7 January 2020

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care is the only Direct Care clinic serving patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County giving families and employers peace of mind with healthcare costs by providing affordable, accessible, and authentic primary care services.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I wanted to talk about severe allergic reactions, namely anaphylaxis and epinephrine.

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe, sometimes life-threatening, allergic reaction that occurs within minutes to several hours of exposure an allergy-causing substance (allergen).

In any body allergic reaction, your immune system will respond to the presence of an allergen (whether food or environmental) by releasing histamine and other body chemicals. These chemicals cause the symptoms of allergies, in their mild form are annoying, such as the runny nose of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or the itchy rash of poison ivy. 

Unfortunately though, the symptoms can progress and be much worse and involve the entire body. Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction. In anaphylaxis, body chemicals cause serious skin symptoms, such as hives and swelling, as well as severe breathing problems, such as swelling in the throat, narrowing of the lower airways and wheezing. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening medical emergency.

The Physical Reaction

There are different shapes and forms of a severe reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis usually occur within seconds to minutes of exposure to the allergen, but symptoms can be delayed for several hours.

  • Feeling light headed, faint, difficulty breathing, couching, wheezing, weakness
  • Confusion, anxiety, panic, or a feeling of impending doom
  • Measurable symptoms such as rapid pulse or profuse sweating.
  • Itchy hives, which may blend together to form larger areas of skin swelling
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or eyes
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea
  • Paleness, bluish skin color
  • Throat swelling -like a golf ball stuck in your throat, hoarseness 

Treatment

Symptoms of anaphylaxis usually require treatment with epinephrine, by injection. People who have had anaphylaxis can carry a pre-loaded syringe containing epinephrine.

Epinephrine

You have probably heard about this drug before, but some of what you think you know may not be correct.

Epinephrine is safe, and you already have epinephrine in your body

Epinephrine is a naturally occurring hormone. At-rest plasma epinephrine levels are 0.035 ng/mL. It is the hormone that is part of our fight-or-flight response. When you are scared or excited, and also when you are exercising, your epinephrine levels surge, but even when you sleep, there is a little epinephrine circulating in your body. Levels over 10 times that amount have been measured in persons exercising, and even higher than that in people under mental stress. 

The standard adult dose of self-injecting epinephrine (0.3 mg of 1:1000 epinephrine) raises the level of epinephrine in the body from an average of 0.035 ng/mL to about 10 times that amount.  It would require more about 20 such injections to reach a toxic level.

If you were given the injection right now, all that would likely happen is that your heart rate and blood pressure would increase to a moderate degree and that you might feel slightly shaky. Epinephrine is metabolized very quickly, and you would not feel this effect for long.

You Should Not Wait to Use Your Epinephrine

You might hope the allergic reaction won’t be “that bad,” and you might be right, but it’s important to know that a delay in use of epinephrine is linked to poorer outcomes and prolonged hospitalizations.

You Should Not Be Afraid of the Epinephrine Device

The device itself might look big, but the injection needle is not. It’s just like getting a flu shot. As mentioned above, the main side effect you might experience is feeling a bit shaky after using the device.

You Should Go to the Emergency Room (ER) After Using the Epinephrine for Anaphlaxis

You may have been told that you have to go to the ER after using your epinephrine device. That’s not because of the epinephrine; it’s because the allergic reaction probably requires further monitoring. In the past, I have talked about why NOT to go to the emergency rooms. Anaphylaxis is not one of those scenarios. Many patients also need more than one dose of epinephrine for anaphylaxis or other emergency treatments; that may be due to the severity of the allergic reaction or simply because the device was not used correctly (the most common mistake is not holding the device against your thigh for the time required for the full dose of medication to be delivered). So a trip to the ER is the safest thing to do after using epinephrine.

Epinephrine Cost

You may of heard EpiPen’s manufacturer, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, had increased the price of a two-pack over several years to $600 or more—even for people with insurance. For some families—especially those who needed more than one EpiPen pack to protect their kids during severe allergy attacks—that price was still way too high. As a Direct Primary Care doctor, I have worked towards making epinephrine affordable to my patients, with a 2 pack of injectors costing less than $100. 

Medicare for All Act of 2019

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16 July 2019

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care serves patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I will not discuss my personal political views nor will I use this as a medium for healthcare horror stories, like this sad story, this sad story, or this frustrating story… because we have heard these before. In this blog I will discuss facts of what I learned from 1) attending the EMU hosted event for ‘Medicare for All,’ and 2) reading through all the pages available online regarding H.R. 1384.

Medicare for All 

I recently attended a town hall hosted at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on Saturday July 13th where Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (Michigan’s 12th District), Congresswoman Primila Jayapal (State of Washington 7th District), State Senator Jeff Irwin (Michigan’s 18th Senate District), State Representative Yousef Rabhi (Michigan’s 53rd District), State Representative Ronnie Peterson (Michigan’s 54th District), as well as Michigan Nurse Association Vice President Katie Scott were all discussing the ‘Medicare for All Act of 2019.’

They were having a discussion about H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019 which is a bill that would establish a national health insurance program to cover all U.S. residents. Currently (as of 7/15/19) the bill has 117 co-sponsors. 

Speaker Panel Talking Points

To start with the discussion at EMU, I always appreciate an elected officials time (especially on a Saturday night) to discuss what impacts our community. Yes, they did start the panel discussion late, exactly 20 minutes- much like an overfilled physicians waiting room. However, much like those doctors we want to see, we can look past that.

To briefly summarize what they discussed, I felt the panel discussion had an overall vibe of a small group rally for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ with very little substance discussed. To be fair, each speaker only had about 5 minutes. However, 5 minutes should be enough time to pitch something they want to sell. And let’s be honest, our elected officials were trying to sell this bill to the room.

Debbie Dingell

To start with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell’s talk, it was heavy on current healthcare disparity statistics in the US. She did offer some brief talking points such as “We are going to a single billing system that will eliminate a lot of costs.”

The bill claims savings of $500+ billion annually from reductions in costs of billing and administrative costs.

As you can see below of the graph of physicians and administrators from 1970 to 2009, administrative costs are having a major impact on healthcare spending. 

I am curious to see how exactly they will implement this administrative cost savings. Does this mean simply cutting back (i.e.- firing) extra staffing? Those are jobs too. Many physician offices utilize administrative staffing such as front desk receptionists, a dedicated phone staff, nurse triage staff, laboratory staff, billing staff, imaging staff, medical record staff, transcription staff, and office management. 

Primila Jayapal

Congresswoman Primila Jayapal was next. Seattle, you should be proud, you elected a great official. I would be proud to have her represent me if I were there. I was impressed because I felt she actually covered more substance in her discussion than any of the other speakers regarding the ‘Medicare for All Act.’ She states the act will have four components:

  1. Cover Everyone ( Dr. O’Boyle likes this )
  2. No copays or deductibles and be able to go to any doctor or hospital you want to.
  3. Comprehensive coverage including primary care, vision, dental, substance abuse, mental health, maternal care, and more.
  4. Control costs.

Yay! Some material I can work with. Then congresswoman Jayapal says with these ‘controlled costs’ we will pay 14% less then now. WHAT! 14% ?? So that MRI, instead of being $1,400 is now $200 less? That colonoscopy that is billed at $5,000 is now only $4,300. This cost savings is not significant nor will it move the economic needle of medical costs.

Reading through H.R. 1384, I could honestly find only one section (616): Payments for Prescription Drugs and Approved Devices and Equipment that discussed any effort to reduce healthcare expenditure.

Has she heard of Direct Primary Care (DPC)? Does she know I can get a member an MRI for $300, or a colonoscopy for $700? Direct Primary Care is moving the needle on medical cost economics by saving our patients anywhere from 50-90% off of insurance billed costs.

Jeff Irwin

Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin spoke next. Again, a good speaker. He discussed how doctors are fighting insurance companies over billing and how much a wasteful system this results in. Senator Irwin did say something I believe is important when discussing healthcare: speaking about what people value in their health and healthcare coverage. But, nothing that added any insight on the actual bill. 

Yousef Rabhi

State Representative Yousef Rabhi discussed efforts from a Michigan effort to start universal healthcare plan called ‘MiCare.’ In an acknowledgement of supporting information to Representative Rabhi, he did discuss how he plans to fund MiCare through a vote of the people in Michigan for progressive taxation. Yet, to be fair to the audience, I felt his talk was a bit of a curve ball as all other speakers were focused on the federal bill and not the state bill. 

Ronnie Peterson

State Representative Ronnie Peterson added some personal stories about his history of fighting for racial equality and now fighting for healthcare equality. Again, his talk was touching but added no material onto why or how the ‘Medicare for All Act’ would work.

Katie Scott

The last speaker was Katie Scott, the vice-president of the Michigan Nursing Association. From her talk, I was able to pick out that she was an Intensive Care Unit  (ICU) nurse. Again with the story telling theme of the night, she gave a personal narrative of high prescription drug costs and how that impacted her. 

I absolutely love what nurses do and think their roles are critical towards healthcare. However, ICU nurses and the need they fill are vastly different than what primary care doctors see and what a vast majority of people experience when we think of and utilize healthcare. 

If the elected officials pushing for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ want to be serious, they need to get feedback and collaborate with the primary care providers out there already making changes in their communities. Instead of pushing for town halls on why we need change, Direct Primary Doctors are having town halls in communities on how we are already changing healthcare to improve patient access, improve price transparency, and reduce out of pocket costs on everything from office visits, medications, imaging, speciality care, and laboratory studies.

In-House Medication Dispensary Saves Money

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10 October 2018

Did Beyond Primary Care mention that we have an in-house medication dispensary that saves money to our patients? Check out the pricing comparison of a common antibiotic, Penicillin, that is used for many ailments such as strep throat. Don’t worry if you have a penicillin allergy, we have affordable alternatives also! This can save our patients hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year. How you may ask?

 

We buy medications wholesale. We then have our drug control license, that many traditional doctor offices refuse to get either due to contractual or logistic limitations. Another advantage of enrolling with a Direct Primary Care doctor. We then of course pass the savings on to you!

 

If you want to think differently about health care come join us! Not only are we personable, we work hard to save our patient’s $$$$.

Insured but Worried about Rising Health Care Costs

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9 October 2018

At Beyond Primary Care, we hear this story a lot: “I am insured but am worried about rising health care costs.” Employees are paying more for health insurance face serious concerns about how they will pay their medical bills in the event they actually need care. For example, more and more people are enrolled in plans with high deductibles. In 2010, one in 10 workers with single-person health insurance coverage had a plan that required a deductible of $2,000 or more. By 2018, one in four did.

Traditional doctor’s offices, where charges are often opaque and disclosed only after services are rendered, leave many people apprehensive about actually using their insurance. In an August 2018 survey, 37 percent of people with employer coverage said they have received a bill for health care costs that they were NOT expecting. Either because they thought their insurance would cover it, or the insurer would foot a larger part of the bill.

Patient’s preferences- for convenience, fast but thorough service, connectivity and price transparency- are making many adults with employer-sponsored insurance turn towards a constellation of alternative services as they face rising costs. Healthy employees still need coordinated and longitudinal care, someone who knows them. A recent report in JAMA Internal Medicine found that nearly half of patients who sought treatment at an urgent care clinic for a cold, the flu, or similar respiratory ailment left with an unnecessary and potentially harmful prescription for antibiotics.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With an employer sponsored membership at Beyond Primary Care, our goal is to maximize employee health and minimize costs. Please contact us today or make an appointment to learn more about Beyond Primary Care.

Direct Primary Care is NOT Concierge Medicine

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3 October 2018

In this video I am answering a common question that I receive, so much so that I have added it to my FAQ page, and that is what are the differences between Direct Primary Care medicine and Concierge Medicine? A lot of people may unknowingly alternate between these terms, but these terms are not synonymous.

 

Direct Primary Care’s goal is to return as much value to our patients in exchange for the membership by being transparent about the true costs of services. Think Southwest Airlines,” as way of comparison. Southwest provides air travel accessible to everyone with a whole different vibe.” With Direct Primary Care, and specifically Beyond Primary Care in Ann Arbor, practices aren’t “changing the medicine, but changing the way we consume it.”

 

 

Direct Primary Care, Explained.

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2 October 2018

Hi and thank you for your interest in Direct Primary Care (DPC). Our clinic, Beyond Primary Care, is part of a doctor movement to improve access to our patients. Patients get more personalized care. Patients may also save money on insurance if they can pair their direct primary care membership with a cheaper, high-deductible policy.

 

The main reason many people cannot afford health care is because it’s too dang expensive. Most patients will seek DPC because they could not afford insurance premiums and/or out-of-pocket expenses under the current system. Watch me explain more about Direct Primary Care and how patients can save money.

 

Direct Primary Care is NOT insurance. In fact, we recommend all our patients have some type of insurance as accidents may happen. Insurance is absolutely necessary for certain types of care. Some events and conditions are inherently expensive. However, hypertension management and radiation treatment for brain cancer are radically different things. Why should we pay for them in the exact same manner? With Beyond Primary Care, I am delivering a higher level of care at a known priceIf you can not afford insurance, direct primary care is an affordable healthcare option.