Patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

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No Magic Bullets for the 'War on Cancer'

Kenny Lin | June 30, 2011

Nearly forty years ago, President Richard Nixon famously declared a "War on Cancer" by signing the National Cancer Act of 1971. Like the Manhattan Project, the Apollo program that was then landing men on the Moon, and the ongoing (and eventually successful) World Health Organization-led initiative to eradicate smallpox from the face of the Earth, the "War on Cancer" was envisioned as a massive, all-out research and treatment effort. We would bomb cancer in submission with powerful regimens of chemotherapy, experts promised, or, failing that, we would invest in early detection of cancers so that they could be more easily cured at earlier stages.

Shared Decision Making in the News

Jessie Gruman | June 29, 2011

Media coverage of the challenges we face in making good treatment decisions often focuses on and sensationalizes medical errors, catastrophes and risks. So it was great to see this impressive TV news clip circulated by Gary Schwitzer of in his blog last week.

1st Person: You Can Do This

First Person | June 29, 2011

With over 60 You Can Do This videos collected so far, diabetic Kim Vlasnik of Texting My Pancreas uses YouTube to encourage and support people with diabetes.

The Conversation Continues: Patient Portals and the Digital Divide

CFAH Staff | June 27, 2011

New research on use of Kaiser Permanente's patient portal points to a widening digital divide for populations with limited education, health literacy or for certain ethnic/minority groups.

Don Berwick and Patient Centered Care

Elaine Schattner | June 23, 2011

Berwick now heads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. When he spoke in April, on transparency and how we might simultaneously cut costs and improve care, I thought his talk was pretty good. This morning, through Twitter, I came upon a short clip from a Berlin conference in 2009. Here, he tackles the meaning of patient-centered care. It's near-perfect.

The Conversation Continues: Vitamins and Supplements

CFAH Staff | June 23, 2011

The WSJ Health Journal looks at the pros and cons of taking a multivitamin.

Should Doctors Protect Us from Data about Medical Risks?

Jessie Gruman | June 22, 2011

Sara had a pain in her side that she attributed to using a new ab machine at the gym. But over the next couple days, the pain increased and made her short of breath. On the third day, she consulted her primary care doctor, who examined her and found nothing untoward. But he recommended that she go to the Emergency Department to get the pain checked out. At the ED, she had a blood test and a chest x-ray, which were both normal. 'Do you want a CT scan?' she was asked by an ED physician. She replied, 'Well I've already been here almost three hours. I might as well.'

Turning 65: Making the Choice

Trudy Lieberman | June 21, 2011

Even though I have written about Medicare for many years, it wasn't until I actually went through the process of selecting an option to cover Medicare's gaps that I realized seniors have an extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, task. You can't make a perfect decision because so much depends on your future medical needs and no one can predict those with certainty.

Conversation Continues: Young Adults and The Affordable Care Act

CFAH Staff | June 17, 2011

Sara Collins of the Commonwealth Fund and veteran health care journalist Trudy Lieberman look at how the Affordable Care Act is and is not helping young adults stay covered.

Can EHR's Make Disparities Disappear?

Chris Gibbons | June 16, 2011

The answer is a definite "maybe", but making it happen will require a whole new way of thinking about Electronic Health Records.

Inside Health Care: Watchful Waiting

CFAH Staff | June 16, 2011

Watchful waiting is more than 'doing nothing.' We've collected recent blogs on prostate cancer & watchful waiting from Laura Newman at Patient POV, the NYTimes New Old Age blog, and Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.

Check-In-The-Box Medicine: Can the Blunt Instrument of Policy Shape Our Communication with Clinicians?

Jessie Gruman | June 15, 2011

I sat in a dingy pharmacy near the Seattle airport over the holidays, waiting for an emergency prescription. For over two hours I watched a slow-moving line of people sign a book, pay and receive their prescription(s). The cashier told each customer picking up more than one prescription or a child's prescription to wait on the side.

The Conversation Continues: What to Say to Someone Who Is Ill

CFAH Staff | June 14, 2011

In The New York Times This Life column, 'You Look Great and Other Lies', Bruce Feiler shares what he learned after his diagnosis and treatment for bone cancer. Bruce describes the gestures and words that are helpful and offers cautions about what not to say/do when someone you care about is ill.

Thoughts on Life, Death and Facebook

Kate Lorig | June 14, 2011

For more than three weeks I have been hanging around the ICU. Lara, my friend and colleague, is poised between life and death, having rejected her five-year-old transplanted lungs. She awaits the gift of a chance for life from another donor. Lara wants so much to live. During her last conversation with me before being placed on a ventilator, she talked about her fear. Now breathing and most everything else is done for her. Drugs keep her oblivious to the suspense.

What's Expected of You at Your Doctor's Office?

Stephen Wilkins | June 14, 2011

When you or I visit an accountant, a lawyer or car mechanic, we know what our role is and have a pretty clear understanding of what the ' expert' is supposed to do. But when it comes to a trip to the doctor these days the roles and responsibilities of patients and physicians have become blurred and unpredictable'and the patient seems to generally be on the losing end.

Patient Perspectives: Life with Chronic Illness

CFAH Staff | June 13, 2011

This week's roundup includes patients discussing their experiences with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Guest Blog: Making Hard Decisions Easier

Amy Berman | June 13, 2011

Shortly after I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer a scan showed a hot spot on my lower spine. Was it the spread of cancer? My oncologist scheduled a bone biopsy at my hospital, Maimonides Medical Center, in order for us to find out.

Guest Blog: A Day in the Life of a Super Hero

Lindsey Hoggle | June 10, 2011

Greg Mortenson, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller, Three Cups of Tea'One Man's Mission to Promote Peace'One School at a Time, is one of the latest fallen, or at the very least, stumbling heroes. Recent controversies have threatened his life's work to build schools in war torn communities like Iraq and Afghanistan. Mortenson has been commended by the likes of Tom Brokaw and Bill Clinton.

Guest Blog: Confused about Post-Operative Confusion

Nora OBrien Suric | June 9, 2011

Several months ago my 80-year-old father had triple bypass surgery. As any family member would be, my father's wife, my siblings, and I were both worried and hopeful. We were told that the surgeon was the best and my father was in good hands. Afterwards, we were told that the surgery went well. However, one of the night nurses in the coronary care unit reported that my father took a swing at one of the doctors.

Guest Blog: Care That Helps People Make Plans 'In Their Own Way'

Emily Gibson | June 9, 2011

Sixty-five years ago, Dr. Emily Gibson's grandmother never asked and was never told what was wrong with her when she was terminally ill. Gibson recognizes the change from 'the patient doesn't need to know and the doctor knows better' philosophy to one of a partnership between a clinician and patient, which is how she practices medicine in Northwest Washington state.

Appointment in Samarra*: Our Lives of Watchful Waiting

Jessie Gruman | June 8, 2011

Watchful waiting has become a way of life for many of us. Last week Sam had his first six-month scan following treatment for esophageal cancer. It showed that that the original cancer had not recurred and that the tumors behind his eyes and the hot spots on his kidneys and liver hadn't grown. Sam and his wife, Sonia, are celebrating for a few days before they return to worrying, checking for symptoms and counting the days until the next scan.

Conversation Continues: Hospital Discharge Without a Net

CFAH Staff | June 7, 2011

In The Wall Street Journal's Informed Patient column, Laura Landro notes various efforts hospitals are taking to prevent re-admissions, including Boston University Medical Center's use of a virtual nurse named Louise.

Turning 65: Finding a Medicare Advantage Plan

Trudy Lieberman | June 6, 2011

Ah, those Medicare Advantage (MA) plans! The government can't seem to decide if it loves or hates them. On the one hand, when I tried to learn about my options, there was much more MA plan information available from the government than for traditional Medigap policies. So it seemed like I was being encouraged to select an MA plan.

1st Person: Cancer Diagnosis Can't Squash His Spirit

First Person | June 6, 2011

Twelve years ago, Syd Ball's local urologist told him that prostate-removal surgery and radiation therapy were his only options to treat his early stage prostate cancer. After a second opinion from a urologic oncologist at Johns Hopkins University, Syd participated in active surveillance to avoid the serious side effects associated with treating prostate cancer.

1st Person: After Years of Treatment, a Time to Wait

First Person | June 6, 2011

For many freshmen, the first year of college is devoted to classes, work and socializing, with little thought given to health or longevity. But for Nikkie Hartmann, a Chicago-based public relations professional, the start of her college career also marked the start of 14 years of dealing with cancer.

Prepared Patient: Watchful Waiting: When Treatment Can Wait

Health Behavior News Service | June 6, 2011

In today's fast-paced world, waiting ' whether it's at the doctor's office, in line at the grocery store or for an Internet connection ' is rarely considered a good thing. But when it comes to certain medical conditions, delaying treatment while regularly monitoring the progress of disease ' a strategy doctors refer to as 'watchful waiting,' active surveillance or expectant management ' may benefit some patients more than a rush to pharmaceutical or surgical options.

Inside Health Care: Show Me the Evidence

CFAH Staff | June 2, 2011

Being actively engaged in your health care means understanding how the care you are receiving will benefit you. We expect the care we receive and the health advice we are offered to be evidence based, using the best research available. Journalists, a researcher, and a doctor call attention to common practices where evidence is lacking.

Why Angry Birds Gets More Play Than Health Apps

Jessie Gruman | June 1, 2011

I have been musing about why, despite our fascination with gadgets and timesaving devices, so few of us use the apps and tools that have been developed to help us take care of ourselves.