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Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

"Today IS the day before" -- National Preparedness Month

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 09/29/2012

I have a friend who is always preparing for "the worst." He owns every imaginable kind of insurance policy for himself and his beloved cat. I could live several years off the disaster provisions he has stored in his Chevy's trunk ... or his garden shed ... or his hallway closet ...

September is his favorite month because he gets to celebrate two favored occasions: "National Preparedness Month" and "International Talk Like a Pirate Day." He recently asked me (again) whether I had gotten my act together (finally) and prepared a "landlubber's survival kit for the next merciless squall." Yarrgh.
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Nation needs to talk wisely and calmly about health care costs

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 09/15/2012

Years ago while hurriedly shopping at my local Safeway, I turned my cart into the bread aisle and nearly ran over one of my patients. Relieved that I had not injured him, I immediately pulled back and tried to escape his notice. While I generally enjoyed running into patients (without injurious instruments) in public, I had an appointment to make within the hour and could not afford a lengthy conversation.

Still, I had noticed that my patient held within his hands the same coupon circular I held in mine. Like me, he was selecting food purchases by price and special discount. Weeks earlier, that same man had been in my medical office, strong-arming me for an expensive antibiotic -- all the while I explained that it would provide no benefit for his mild cold. But he had read about the drug in a magazine ad, and, by all accounts, the antibiotic possessed amazing supra-human powers. It was a sniffle-buster, a mucus-vaporizer, a death-avenger; ostensibly, it could bring about world peace and ... well, cure the common cold.

At no point during our office encounter was the subject of cost brought up. My patient's insurance company would pay the bill, so perhaps it did not concern him. To me, it was important to base my refusal to prescribe the drug on "cold" medical facts -- not on a price tag. On clinically sound, scientifically-based reasoning that acknowledged both the uselessness and the potential harms of using bacterial antibiotics for a common cold.

But should I have raised the topic of wasteful spending with my fellow coupon-clipper? Should I have asked him to consider the consequences of resource utilization on a useless treatment that would only profit the drugmaker? That would help abet the escalating costs of health care and insurance premiums?  Read More 

The buzz about mosquitoes and our West Nile virus outbreak

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First published in print: 09/02/2012

Delivering biting public viewpoints can sometimes sting -- always a risk when writing an opinion column. Still, I assume that risk and straightaway proclaim: I hate mosquitoes.

I know some readers will oppose my view. But I'll bet that, unlike me, they don't transmute into one huge welt, from head to toe, after a single stinging encounter with a mosquito. That they've never slapped themselves unconscious trying to kill a maniacally buzzing mosquito circling their ears. That perhaps they're behind in their reading, lacking updated news about West Nile virus in recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We currently face an outbreak of mosquito-borne WNV infection in the U.S.  Read More