Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Doctors must wrestle with ethical dilemma presented by unnecessary testing

May 18, 2014

Tags: unnecessary medical tests and procedures, ABIM Foundation, Choosing Wisely, investigation momentum, defensive medicine

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 05/18/14

It's often said "life is a test" that reveals how a person reacts to the various situations they encounter. That view holds that our character and convictions are being tested constantly by the trials and tribulations in our daily lives. In this light, we're also offered ongoing opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. Therefore,for many adherents of this perspective, understanding life as one long test also means that nothing in one's life is insignificant.

I was thinking about this philosophical sensibility while reading the results of a new nationwide survey that explored the views of 600 doctors on ordering tests and procedures for patients. Released May 1 by the ABIM Foundation, they seem to suggest that life as a patient may also entail being tested a lot -- but often with medical tests and procedures that are insignificant to their health. (more…)

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Last Week's Health Bytes_MERS, Dirty Money, and All Hail to Massachusetts!

May 12, 2014

Tags: MERS, first US case of MERS, dirty money, Massachusetts death rate, health insurance and longevity

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 05/11/14

All hail to Massachusetts!
In its official (if perhaps somewhat thudding) state song, Massachusetts has long hailed itself both as "the home of the bean and cod" and "the land of opportunity in the good old USA, where men live long and prosper."

Yet it wasn't until last week that we could so confidently believe its latter claim. That's when a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine provided convincing evidence that fewer people were dying in Massachusetts. Indeed, researchers reported a 2.9 percent drop in the state's overall death rate during the first four years of its mandatory health coverage law that was passed in 2006 under then-Gov. Mitt Romney. (more…)

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Impoverished thinking about health care and poverty

May 4, 2014

Tags: poverty, healthcare, insurance, National Quality Forum, Obamacare, Affordable Care Act

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First published in print: 05/04/2014

Two weeks ago, my friend finally saw a doctor for diagnosis and treatment of her fever and shortness of breath. Concerned she had pneumonia, I'd been prodding her for days to seek medical attention.

But she was uninsured, impoverished and unwilling to accept my help. She instead planned to "hold out" until obtaining health insurance through her state's insurance exchange program that operated in concert with the Affordable Care Act.

Although given no guarantee that her application was accepted, she expected to receive coverage by May.

Unfortunately, her illness didn't wait that long. It swiftly worsened, and she finally broke down -- almost literally -- and sought medical care.

There's not enough space in this column to contain my rage over my friend's subsequent fate and that so many other Americans have likewise suffered because they couldn't pay for basic health care.

Now, as millions of such Americans await their first opportunity to be insured under the ACA, my rage focuses on anyone standing in their way. (more…)

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