Navigating the Health Care System

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June 11 2013 20130611

Not Just the Baby Blues: Screening Can Help Address Postpartum Depression

If you know someone who's expecting a baby this summer, you have plenty of company. More babies are born in July, August, and September than in any other months of the year, according to 2010 Federal data [PDF File]. A new baby brings joy and excitement. But for some women, it can also bring on the start of serious depression. Known as postpartum depression, this condition often starts shortly after a woman gives birth, but it can also begin up to a year later. Signs of postpartum depression... Read more

May 10 2013 20130510

Hopeful Signs on a Long Road to a Better Health System

If you've ever thought that your experience with the health care system–good or bad–is very different from someone else's, you're not alone.A new set of reports from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) show that the goal of safe, high-quality care is not within reach for all Americans. The 2012 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report were released this month.Based on data collected from 2002 to 2009, the reports... Read more

April 9 2013 20130409

Health Law at Three Years Highlights Coverage, Cost, and Quality Improvements

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law 3 years ago, many Americans paid attention to popular features like letting young adults stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26 or closing the "donut hole" gap for Medicare prescription drugs.These portions of the health care law help a lot of people.As of December 2011, 3.1 million more young adults had health insurance coverage as a direct result of the law, according to a national survey from the U.S. Department of... Read more

March 5 2013 20130305

New Primary Care Focus Helps Patients Take Better Care of Themselves

Starting new behaviors to improve our health can be a challenge. Too often, our health care system doesn't help us learn the skills we need to stay healthy.Take the example of Alex, a 60-year-old man who just learned he has Type 2 diabetes.He must watch his diet and get regular exercise. He will need to visit his doctor to prevent problems with his eyes, feet, and kidneys, which can be affected by this disease. Alex will also need to check his blood sugar levels and he may need daily pills... Read more

February 5 2013 20130205

New Tools Help Health Providers Reduce Patients' Risk of Falls

For older adults, falls are serious, whether they take place in the home or in a health care setting.More than one-third of adults over age 65 fall each year. Falls can cause bone fractures, disability, and even death. Among people 75 and older, falls are far more likely to cause admissions into a long-term care facility than for adults 10 years younger, Federal data show.An estimated 500,000 falls  happen each year in U.S. hospitals, causing 150,000 injuries. Patients have a higher risk... Read more

January 8 2013 20130108

Make Good on Your Resolution To Quit Smoking

For people who smoke cigarettes, the New Year is a popular time to try to quit.And it's no wonder why.Tobacco use kills about 443,000 people in the United States each year or about 1 in 5 deaths annually. It is the Number One cause of preventable deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health and for the health of your loved ones. Within just 12 hours of your last cigarette, the carbon monoxide levels... Read more


December 14 2012 20121214

Resources to Help You Stay Healthy in the New Year

As the New Year gets closer, it's a good time to think about how to stay healthy in 2013.One important way to do that is by getting regular medical checkups.  Depending on your age and health needs, these visits may include certain types of preventive and screening tests.If Medicare covers you or a family member, you may have already taken advantage of some of the new benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  These benefits include a "Welcome to Medicare"... Read more

November 9 2012 20121109

Tool Helps Hospital Staff Improve Communications for Patients with Limited English Skills

If you're sick or need emergency care, being unable to communicate effectively can be a serious, even life-threatening, situation.Take the tragic case of Willie Ramirez, a healthy, Spanish-speaking 18 year old who developed a sudden and intense headache.Willie, in a coma, was taken to a hospital. His Spanish-speaking family members told the emergency room doctor that they thought he was “intoxicado.” Among Cubans, that word can mean a person feels ill because of something they... Read more

October 2 2012 20121002

Teamwork a Key Feature of Patient Safety Improvement Program

If you're a football fan like I am, you know that teams win or lose depending on teamwork. A good team may have a quarterback who can throw an accurate pass. But a great team also has players who can protect the quarterback and catch those passes. In short, when teams work together, everyone can do their best job. Today, this approach is catching on in health care in a big way. Doctors, nurses, and other staff have always depended on each other to provide high-quality care to patients. Now... Read more

September 4 2012 20120904

Helping You Avoid Return Trips to the Hospital

If you or a loved one has ever been in the hospital for a serious condition, the last thing you want is a fast return trip.But that's what happens to 1 in 5 patients covered by Medicare, the health insurance program for people 65 and older, a major study found. Hospital readmissions within 30 days are costly for Medicare and for patients. These readmissions total about $17 billion each year. Being readmitted to the hospital can also slow down a patient's ability to recover or cause new... Read more

August 7 2012 20120807

Get Up-to-Date on Shots Before Summer Ends

For many children, August marks the end of summer vacation and the return to school. For parents, it's a good time to make sure their children are up to date on vaccines—or shots—that prevent serious diseases.Because these diseases can easily spread to others, vaccines protect the health of others in your family, in your child's school or day care, and in your community.We need to do a better job making sure very young children get the shots they need, recent data from the... Read more

July 10 2012 20120710

Revealing Medical Errors Helps Chicago Hospitals Build a Safer Health System 2012

A preventable medical error happened when Michelle Malizzo Ballog had surgery in 2008. Worse, it was followed by tragedy her death at age 39. When her family tried to find out what happened, officials at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago didn't dodge questions or have the family talk to the hospital's lawyers, according to the Chicago Tribune. Instead, the officials looked into their hunch that a fatal error occurred during Ms. Ballog's surgery. When they confirmed that... Read more

February 7 2012 20120207

Million Hearts Campaign Aims to Lower Risk, Improve Care

With Valentine's Day around the corner, hearts shapes are everywhere - on cards, candy, and clothing. But every day of the year, your heart plays a big role in your health and well-being. And conditions or habits that harm our hearts, like high blood pressure or smoking, put our hearts at risk. The risk is serious. Heart disease and strokes kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and cost $445 billion each year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). People with... Read more


February 1 2011 20110201

Focus on Heart Health

February is a time when love is in the air. It is also American Heart Month. While you're thinking of hearts this Valentine's Day, do yourself—and your loved ones—a favor: focus on your own heart.Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Nearly 2,400 Americans die each day from it. About one in three Americans has one or more kinds of heart disease.One common type is coronary artery disease. This occurs when the arteries that bring blood to your heart muscle become... Read more

January 4 2011 20110104

Your Options for Treating Rotator Cuff Tears

It's a fact of life: as we get older, we're more likely to get hurt when we exercise or take on certain everyday tasks. Routine activities like playing tennis or placing items on shelves can result in a common problem—the rotator cuff injury.Tears in the rotator cuff are not a huge health setback. But they can limit movement and cause serious pain. There are several ways to treat rotator cuff tears, including surgery and non-surgical treatments. You'll want to understand your... Read more


February 2 2010 20100202

Comparing Diabetes Drugs

We all like having choices. But sometimes, choices can be overwhelming. Marketing research shows that when faced with many choices, people can become frustrated or indecisive.Choices can be confusing in health care, too—especially when it comes to choosing a treatment for an illness like diabetes. But when it comes to your health, you don't want to put off making important decisions.That's why my agency, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), develops... Read more

January 5 2010 20100105

Comparing Medical Treatments for Antidepressants

About one in every six adults experiences depression at some point in his or her life. The good news is that depression can be treated to give you a better quality of life. But finding the right treatment that fits your needs can sometimes be tricky.The most common treatments are antidepressant drugs, counseling, or a combination of the two. If you or a loved one is prescribed a drug to treat depression, you'll want to understand its benefits and side effects because certain treatments work... Read more


January 21 2009 20090121

New Hope for Chronic Disease Management

Reforming our health care system, including better prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, will get a lot of attention from the Obama administration and the Congress.This makes a lot of sense. Chronic diseases are illnesses that don't generally go away once you get them, and, in many cases, can't be cured. They include diseases such as heart failure, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes and respiratory disease, and are among the most costly and common of all health conditions... Read more

January 6 2009 20090106

Ready to Lose Weight in the New Year? Experts Offer Guidance for Adults and Children

After too many holiday treats and too little exercise, it's no wonder many of us have made resolutions to take better care of ourselves in the new year.A few extra pounds can be lost as the holiday season winds down and we get back to our regular schedule. But for people who are either overweight or obese, getting to a healthy weight—and staying there—requires major lifestyle changes. For some, it may even involve surgery.Being overweight is defined as having a body mass index,... Read more


February 5 2008 20080205

Asking Questions About Medical Tests

A registered nurse in her mid-40s, Nancy Keelan was concerned that her heavy, irregular bleeding could be something more serious than the start of menopause. But her doctor did not agree and told her on several occasions not to worry.Three years later, at age 46, Keelan discovered she had advanced endometrial and ovarian cancer.Today, she speaks to women's groups and advises them not to wait to see their doctors if they develop new, unusual symptoms, according to a recent CNN news report.... Read more

January 16 2008 20080116

What to Ask Before Surgery

If you are facing surgery, you are not alone. Every year, more than 15 million Americans have surgery.Popular TV shows would have you believe that surgery is always an immediate, life-or-death matter. In reality, most operations are not emergencies.This means you have time to learn about the surgery your doctor has recommended so you understand what's involved and feel comfortable that it's the best treatment. It also means you have time to find the right surgeon and hospital and to ask... Read more

January 2 2008 20080102

Tips for Taking Medicines Safely

If your doctor wrote you a prescription for the pain reliever Darvon, would you know if you received Diovan, a medicine for high blood pressure, by mistake? Unless you're a health professional or you carefully read both the doctor's prescription and your medicine bottle at the drug store, chances are you would not know you got the wrong medicine. Many medicines have names that look or sound alike. To limit the risk of confusing two drugs, hospitals and health care organizations have developed... Read more