Saturday, January 13, 2018

Are tens of thousands of California kids about to lose their health care? – Orange County Register

Pathetic, shameful and a disgrace !  One of the key measures of a society is how children are treated and more important protected. A key measure is infant mortality rates, vaccination rates and other metrics.  It is well known that the United States is not in the top ranking of chldren's survival rates.

There are numerous governmental agencies that compile this information, to include:

Global Health Observatory (GHO) data


The federal government funds the Children's Health Insurance Program, which is set to expire in September 2019 unless you act now.


Are tens of thousands of California kids about to lose their health care? – Orange County Register

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Supplement That May Block The Toxic Effects of Alcohol

If true and verified and credible it adds much to the alcoholism preferred pattern of practice 

I am Dr George Lundberg, and this is At Large at Medscape. September is "be kind to addicts" month (officially National Recovery Month). How can we help?
Of every 100 Americans who drink (140 million), about 12 (16 million) are considered in need of treatment for an alcohol use disorder, and eight will become chemically dependent on alcohol.[1] Of that eight, one will become addicted very early, even after the first drunken episode. The problem is, we do not yet have a way to predict who that one person will be.
Prevention is always the best answer to addiction. Do not drink. If you do drink, do not ignore the warning signs of becoming a problem drinker.
Let me ask you: How is your blood acetaldehyde today; or, more relevant, how was it late last night? You don't know? Why am I not surprised? Most people don't even think about acetaldehyde.
Ethyl alcohol is metabolized to acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver. Acetaldehyde is metabolized to acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenase and then to carbon dioxide and water. Depending on the alcohol dose, some of the acetaldehyde may escape hepatic metabolism and enter the general blood circulation.
Acetaldehyde is a close cousin to my old pathology lab friend formaldehyde. We use it to pickle surgical and autopsy tissues for preservation. Both are known carcinogens. Our body's defense mechanism against excess acetaldehyde is the amino acid l-cysteine and glutathione. These molecules, similarly to thiamine, contain a sulfhydryl group that is chemically active against aldehydes.
Unless you are one of those people (typically East Asian) who are genetically deficient in aldehyde dehydrogenase or are taking disulfiram, you can metabolize roughly one stiff drink per hour. If you drink more than that, depending on body weight, gastric contents, and the efficiency of your metabolic alcohol breakdown, acetaldehyde will build up because aldehyde dehydrogenase capability can be overwhelmed.
If you quit drinking at 11:00 PM, then around about 1:00 AM, your acetaldehyde level may be elevated and you may feel symptoms of acetaldehyde toxicity, including skin flushing, tachycardia, palpitations, anxiety, nausea, thirst, chest pain, and vertigo. Of course, you are trying to "sleep it off," so you may not feel toxic until the next morning when that dreaded hangover appears.

Metabolizing Alcohol

My friends in the nutritional supplement community tell me that you can enhance the metabolism of blood alcohol to acetate, carbon dioxide, and water and minimize the acetaldehyde molecular logjam by taking oral supplements. L-cysteine, vitamin C, and vitamin B1 are purported to help. At supplement doses, they are cheap and harmless at worst. At best: Goodbye, acetaldehyde toxicity; hello, restful sleep. About 200 mg of L-cysteine per ounce of alcohol consumed is sufficient to block a major portion of the toxic effect of acetaldehyde. But because alcohol is absorbed and metabolized rapidly, it may be necessary to take L-cysteine before and concurrently with consumption to maintain protection. Also, an excess of vitamin C (perhaps 600 mg) can help keep the L-cysteine in its reduced state and "on the job" against acetaldehyde. Experts recommend these doses (with or without extra B1): one round before drinking, one with each additional drink, and one when finished.
Some say that this regimen works very well. Do not ask me for a list of published randomized, double-blind clinical trials. Not yet, at least. Research funding into "harm reduction" from addicting substances has not enjoyed favored status in research priorities.
Unfortunately, this concoction may have little effect on next-day hangovers, the causes of which are complex and resistant to prevention—except, obviously, by not drinking too much, which is, of course, the best answer to alcohol anyway.
With drug users, be redemptive, not punitive.
That is my opinion. I am Dr George Lundberg, and this is At Large at Medscape.A Supplement That May Block The Toxic Effects of Alcohol

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A 2017 New Year’s wish list for healthcare | Suneel Dhand

My New Year’s Wish List
1. Healthcare information technology
2. Patient safety and healthcare quality
3. Patient satisfaction and improving the hospital experience
4. Direction of healthcare consolidation and private doctors

5. Healthcare costs

None of the above categories are exclusive, nor independent of the others.

Dr Suneel Dhand elaborates in the following video



Suneel Dhand is a physician, author and speaker. He is co-founder at DocsDox and founder at DocSpeak Communications. Learn more about him here.






A 2017 New Year’s wish list for healthcare | Suneel Dhand

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

State air board has urged a 500-foot buffer zone but now emphasizes design rather than distance.

Regulators shift focus on housing by freeways

State air board has urged a 500-foot buffer zone but now emphasizes design rather than distance.
By Tony Barboza and David Zahniser


Twelve years ago, California air quality officials delivered a warning to cities and counties: Avoid putting new homes in high-pollution zones within 500 feet of freeways.
That advice, which relied on years of research linking traffic pollution to asthma, heart attacks and other health problems, was aimed at keeping “children and other vulnerable populations out of harm’s way,” according to the state Air Resources Board’s 2005 handbook .

But earlier this year, the air board shifted its stance. It issued a newadvisory that emphasizes design rather than distance, recommending anti-pollution features such as air filters, sound walls and thick vegetation as “promising strategies” to reduce the health risks from freeways.

With those measures, communities can build “while simultaneously reducing exposure to traffic-related pollution,” the air board said.

In making that change, air regulators acknowledged a stark reality: Despite health risks, cities desperate for more housing at a time of soaring rents keep approving homes near traffic pollution. The Times reported earlier this year that residential development along freeways has surged in the decade since the air board issued its warning.

Business leaders and housing advocates have cheered the pivot by the air board, contending limits on home building near freeways will worsen an affordability crisis. The new advisory has also been embraced by state planning officials, who say urban development near transit is essential to fighting climate change by reducing reliance on cars.

But some worry that amid a push to build homes, the air-quality agency has muddied what had been a clear, if controversial, health warning.

Scott Fruin, professor of preventive medicine at USC, said the air board’s latest document presents best-case scenarios and overstates the extent to which air filters and other anti-pollution measures protect residents. By recommending those steps, he said, state regulators “may give the false impression that it is now OK to put schools and residences close to freeways.”

“The best current strategy to reduce near-freeway exposure is not to put schools and residences there in the first place,” said Fruin, who previously worked at the Air Resources Board. “Even with the best reduction measures available, air pollution in these locations will remain unhealthy.”
Air board officials said they prepared the advisory to give policymakers the latest, scientifically based options to reduce pollution exposure at a time when the state is encouraging home construction near transit lines that are often next to freeways and other high-traffic corridors.

Those projects are challenging in cities like Los Angeles, “where freeways and major thoroughfares abound,” air board spokesman Stanley Young said. “In responding to that reality, we felt it was important to give planners and developers information on how to mitigate the impacts,” he added.
Kurt Karperos, a deputy executive officer for the air board, said the April advisory does not change the agency’s 2005 recommendation to avoid siting homes within 500 feet of freeways. “That’s a very basic health position that the agency has taken and we still stand by.”

In recent years, Karperos said, some have suggested the agency replace its recommendation for a 500-foot buffer, since vehicles have become less polluting over the last decade. “We disagreed.”
Still, one official in Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration reached a different conclusion, saying the 2005 recommendation “was replaced” by this year’s advisory on air filters, sound walls and other anti-pollution strategies.



Ken Alex, who directs the governor’s Office of Planning and Research, pointed to the April advisory as he defended the state’s decision to finance affordable housing next to freeways. The air board’s position is “much more nuanced than ‘don’t build’ ” within 500 feet, said Alex, whose agency is responsible for long-range policies on how California grows and develops.

State air regulators say their 2005 guidelines have not, in fact, been replaced.
Air Resources Board officials said they decided to supplement them in light of new science on freeway pollution and the effectiveness of air filters and other measures. Regulators drafted a report — an appendix to be considered in addition to the 2005 guidelines — and presented it to the air board in January 2016.

At that meeting, air board chair Mary Nichols acknowledged that the push for dense urban development, which can reduce driving and overall emissions, also can “result in increased exposures for people who live or go to school and spend any time outdoors in areas near roadways.”
“Trying to optimize both of these strategies has proven to be somewhat controversial and an interesting challenge,” Nichols said at the meeting.

The final document, published in April, was an advisory. Air quality officials do not have the power to regulate land use. The document said research shows “the public health, climate, financial, and other benefits of compact, infill development along transportation corridors” and found alternatives to distance-based guidelines “that can protect public health while not dictating development patterns.”
Among the suggestions in the report: Lower speed limits to 55 mph or less and install roundabouts to reduce vehicle emissions. Design city streets with parks, bike lanes, wider sidewalks and buildings with “varying shapes and heights” to disperse traffic pollutants.

The Air Resources Board’s influence has grown considerably over the last decade as its core mission — protecting people from pollution — has expanded to include efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions. That shift has sparked criticism from some environmentalists, who contend that the board has made tackling health threats from local pollution secondary to the global fight against climate change.

The new focus on anti-pollution design puts the air board in closer alignment with the city of Los Angeles, which has adopted stronger filtration requirements but has not imposed limits on how close homes can be built to freeways. That emphasis also drew praise from housing advocates and developers, who viewed the 2005 guidelines skeptically.

Freeway sound barriers






Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, said the air board’s latest advisory “just shows that the original policy was unrealistic to begin with.”

Alan Greenlee, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Non-Profit Housing, said he is happy the state “seems to have moved in the direction of allowing building where previously they weren’t interested.” With filters and other anti-pollution measures, developers “can house people affordably and healthfully in areas where the government says there are air quality issues.”
Some environmentalists view things differently.

Multi-function walls: Solar, sound and pollution barrier


Enivronmental barrier




When the air board’s handbook came out in 2005, “we thought that was a real step forward,” said Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air.

Environmental groups have largely favored the state’s push to concentrate new homes near transit, citing the climate benefits. But without limits on home building near freeway pollution, those policies will have unintended health consequences, Magavern said.

“New housing should be well planned so that it’s not putting residents’ health at risk,” Magavern said. “The goal is to have the homes near transit, not near freeways.”

In Southern California, officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District say they continue to send letters to developers suggesting they increase the distance between new homes and traffic. In the Bay Area, air quality regulators last year published interactive traffic pollution maps and planning guidelines that recommend some of the same design measures as the state.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District advised communities to put new homes as far from freeway pollution “as is feasible.” The words “as is feasible” were added “at the heavy insistence” of developers and affordable housing advocates, said Jackie Winkel, a principal environmental planner with the agency.

tony.barboza
@latimes.com
Twitter: @tonybarboza
david.zahniser @latimes.com
Twitter: @DavidZahniser

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Social Capital investor Kristin Baker Spohn's health bill horror story

Kristin  Baker Spohn is no mere mortal when it comes to hospital administration.  If you are feeling inadequate or incompetent.,,,don't.  The best experts are humbled by the gordion know which is now hospital charges. You see it is the outcome of fee for service charges, mixed with capitation, and contractual arrangements by disparate health insurers. The computer systems simply cannot keep up with the myriad changes of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare' annual changes in reimbursement, new ICD 10 codes, 


This exec has spent her whole career in health care, and even she couldn't get her hospital bill fixed


This is her story about what happened when she noticed a duplicate billing for a procedure she had during her pregnancy...
"I've spent my entire career in health care.
It's impossible to work in this industry and not lament how challenging our system can be for patients. But I didn't truly appreciate its complexity until I was the one navigating it on my own.
Several years ago, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and classified as a "high risk" pregnancy. Following my doctor's orders, I had an additional ultrasound to check on the growth of my baby. A little over a week later, I went into labor and delivered my happy and healthy son.
We settled in with our new life at home and in a few weeks the onslaught of hospital bills and explanations of benefits (EOBs) from my health insurance administrator arrived. As the diligent chief financial officer and resident health care expert of our family, I jumped in, determined to reconcile the insurance reimbursement with the hospital bills.
In the haze of new motherhood, my recollection may be fuzzy, but it went something like this:
In one hospital bill, I noticed that there was a duplicate charge for my additional ultrasound.
Most people would groan -- or worse, not even notice the duplicate charge -- but for me, it was game time. I felt like an athlete who had trained for this moment for years. My finance background and attention to detail enabled me to reconcile and find errors in complex financial statements and models. My work at Castlight prepared me to understand all of the different healthcare systems, billing and reimbursement codes. And my weird love of negotiation energized me as I approached the starting line.

How it went down

Step 1: Pull all the documentation together. It is immediately clear that the information in the bills and EOBs isn't sufficient. I need an itemized bill from the hospital and a detailed EOB from my insurance administrator in order to make sense of all of the charges. Because I am on a high-deductible plan like millions of Americans, I also need the benefits coverage detail and my accumulators (how much of my health insurance deductible I had spent at the time of the ultrasound) in order to calculate my co-insurance responsibility.
Step 2: Log into my insurance provider's web portal to look up ultrasound coverage and attempt to determine my remaining deductible at the time of the ultrasound. I find the coverage information under "imaging benefits" and read that ultrasounds are "covered as a preventive service," but it's unclear what constitutes a preventive ultrasound vs. a non-preventive ultrasound, and which category mine falls into. I will need more detail from the hospital to figure this out.
Step 3: Call the hospital to get an itemized billing for the date of service which included the ultrasound. I request the CPT code for the service and am told that it is in a different department and I'll need to call back after 9am the next day.

Kristin Baker Spohn
[At this moment, my son starts crying. Break to change his diaper.]
Step 3b: Call the other hospital department line and ask for the CPT code (the guy on the line is shocked I know what a CPT code is and is confused why I'm asking for it).
[Next, I break to put my son down for a nap.]
Step 4: Call the insurance administrator for benefits coverage information related to ultrasounds. I'm informed that my benefits detail is specific to my employer's coverage and I should call my company's benefits team to ask for it.

Step 5: Call my company's HR team. They say, actually, since we are a fully-insured employer, the benefits should be available through my insurance administrator. Of course.
[Break again to take a quick work call.]
Step 6: Call the insurance administrator back and ask for the detailed summary of benefits. The support representative says I can go on the web portal, download, print and fill out and a request form and the document will be snail-mailed to me. Snail mail!
Step 7: Put my son in a stroller and walk to Fedex/Kinko's to print out the form and mail it in.
[Wait several weeks, it doesn't arrive. Baby gains two pounds!]
Step 8: Call the hospital back to request that they not send my bill to collections as there is an ongoing discussion with the billing department and insurance administrator over benefits coverage. I am assured by the support representative that this is noted in my file.
Everyone having fun yet?
Good, because we're going to rinse and repeat...for several weeks.

Why I gave up

After bouncing between three web portals and at least five call centers (across hospital departments and insurance administrator customer service lines), and spending more than 18 hours on the phone asking for CPT codes, diagnosis codes, and benefits information, and requesting extensions on my bill so that I could continue to pursue the reconciliation, I received….a collections notice.
I had been confident I could take care of this situation on my own, but after weeks of roadblocks and hold music, I felt defeated. I paid the bill. I couldn't risk the negative impact an unpaid bill could have on my credit score as my young family considered buying our first home.
Despite the fact that I had a (self-designated) advanced degree in healthcare technology, benefits and billing, I failed to successfully navigate the system.
I was recovering from childbirth, caring for a newborn, working on my company's upcoming IPO, and struggling to reconcile my hospital bills from a set of common services in a pregnancy.
My experience, while personally disheartening, added new fuel to my my passion for driving innovation and change in healthcare. If can't figure this out, what hope is there for the rest of us?

How health care could be

Contrary to some of the recent rhetoric from lawmakers, high-deductibles and health savings accounts (HSAs) won't magically create empowered healthcare consumers or a functional healthcare marketplace.
Stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem system need to innovate, remove friction points and thoughtfully design products and processes that enable the experiences we would want for our own families. I've worked to help build two such innovative companies. And I'm joining Social Capital to broaden that reach.
I'm looking to work with health care entrepreneurs that understand the world as it is today, but also see how it could be. A world where everyone gets the experience they deserve, whether they're experts in the healthcare system, or the next new parents struggling to understand a bill.


Social Capital investor Kristin Baker Spohn's health bill horror story

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How a multimillion-dollar empire built around urine drug tests exposes flaws in California’s rehab laws – Orange County Register

Perhaps one of the most vulnerable groups are those with addiction disorders.  This story is about inadequate safeguards as to whom is allowed to operate these 'sober homes' and the poor if not existent record keeping.


The Orange County Register (California) TonySaavedra and Scott Schwebe investigated the Califonia system of recovery and sober homes.  The allegations, if true are disturbing.


Philip Ganong, his wife and their 34-year-old son built a fast-growing, multimillion-dollar empire on urine.
They collected it from drug addicts at their chain of Southern California sober living homes. They created labs to test it. And they charged insurance companies to analyze it.
But the success story was a scam, according to prosecutors, who have accused the Ganongs of fraud. They say the family used a network of doctors and others to bilk insurers out of as much as $22 million for tests that were unnecessary or never performed.
The Ganongs have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
But the allegations raised in the Ganong case highlight what a growing number of critics say are chronic shortcomings in the oversight of California’s multi-billion-dollar drug rehabilitation industry.
Among the complaints:
  • Drug counselors and others can run sober living homes and some types of treatment centers without passing any kind of criminal background check. Even people convicted of drug crimes are allowed, under current state law, to get a license to own and/or operate drug and alcohol rehab centers.
  • Addicts and families considering rehab have no easy way to check the records of treatment centers, recovery homes or their owners or staff.
  • The state lags behind others in adopting reforms to crack down on treatment center operators who exploit vulnerable addicts and focus more on profits than on effective care.
California is “the wild, wild west right now,” said Kansas Cafferty, a commissioner with the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals.

In a state with about 1,800 licensed recovery centers and an unknown number of unlicensed sober living homes and testing labs, Cafferty is among many who believe California needs to get better at rehab regulation.

“There (are) a lot of places committing crimes that authorities are trying to enforce, but they can’t keep up with it.”

Just following the rules

Marlies Perez, chief of the California Department of Health Care Services’  Substance Use Disorder Compliance Division, which licenses rehab treatment centers, said her agency can only do what the state Legislature allows.
The state agency has only a broad guidance system, with few enforceable actions. 
It’s not a new problem, and California legislators have fought about it for years. Still, they’ve made only halting progress in beefing up licensing standards and rehab monitoring. That’s partly because of industry lobbying, and because of fears that tighter rules will raise treatment costs or limit the number of rehab beds just when the nation’s opioid crisis is cranking up demand.
This year, State Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, introduced a bill to reform the system, but it stalled in committee. Today, she describes the state’s oversight of rehab operators, sober living homes and counselors as “troubling.”
operator’s) background,” Bates said. “There’s a culture about giving these people a second chance.”
Still, she insists that background checks and tougher licensing requirements for counselors, employees and rehab operators are vital. “It’s something we need to pursue.”
Putting a face on it. Alex Schmick dies of an overdose while living in a recovery facility. The family sued the facility and the physician who wrote the order for the medication.




California lags other states

Smick is not the first to raise the issue of transparency. A state Senate report in 2012 found a host of oversight problems in the recovery industry, including poor monitoring of rehab centers and inadequate information sharing related to treatment center operators.
Other state officials have pointed to financial abuses in the industry that authorities say bleed millions from public and private pockets. Part of the concern is tied to so-called “junkie hunters,” people who recruit addicts from around the country and bring them to rehab centers in California in return for kickbacks.
One area of the rehab industry – sober living homes – has virtually no oversight.
The homes, where addicts often live for a few months after leaving formal rehab, aren’t required to submit any records of their operations. This is true, in part, because operators aren’t claiming to provide medical treatment and the people living in them, recovering addicts, are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lies, Sex and the Affordable Care Act, and the Seven Forbidden Words in Health Care

For my readers.  Warning...this post may be offensive to some. It includes language and images that may offend some readers.

CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
However it is no more offensive that our official government is banning certain words from HHS publications. This seems very similar to the past ban on network television of the seven 'famous' do not say words, in the words of George Carlin which first appeared in "Class Clown" his famous album, published in 1972.


These expletives can truly be assigned to our medical system.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Postmortem Autopsy-Confirmation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

CTE is a subject which should be of interest to every athlete and their family that engages in contact head sports.  Your sports career will be relatively short, the rest of your life will be long. CTE will make it even longer and less pleasurable.

A ground breaking scientific study of CTE casts scientific credibility on what was previously a subjective diagnosis.  The study could make earlier diagnosis of what could be a chronic disability.

Currently, only presumptive diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can be made in living patients.

 We present a modality that may be instrumental to the definitive diagnosis of CTE in living patients based on brain autopsy confirmation of [F-18]FDDNP-PET findings in an American football player with CTE. [F-18]FDDNP-PET imaging was performed 52 mo before the subject's death. 

The following symptoms were present before death

Summary of Symptoms Reported by Our Patient's Wife and Next-of-Kin at the Time of his [F-18]-FDDNP-PET Scanning
1. Difficulty recalling names of familiar people and recent past events. 
2. Problems with tracking conversations. 
3. Began losing personal objects. 
4. Became short-tempered, often felt panicked, was less organized. 
5. Became fixated on ideas and less interested in activities he previously enjoyed. 
6. Transformed from a kind, mild-mannered “gentle giant” to a very agitated person. 
  a. Exhibited angry outbursts that were out of character. 
7. Behaved inappropriately as if “his filter was gone.” 
8. Evaluated by a psychiatrist, diagnosed with depression, and “probable CTE.” 

Our patient exhibited negative family history for dementia or major psychiatric illness. According to his wife and next-of-kin, he exhibited progressive cognitive decline for many years after retirement from the NFL.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, our results may suggest that the in vivo identification of CTE substrates in living patients may not only be based on the presence or absence of proteinopathies, but also on the identification of the differential and selective topographic vulnerability unique to CTE, which [F-18]FDDNP-PET may be demonstrating. Further prospective studies are needed to assess whether [F18]FDDNP PET can serve as a useful adjunct in the diagnosis of CTE in living patients.
Postmortem Autopsy-Confirmation of Antemortem [F-18]FDDNP-PET Scans in a Football Player With Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy | Neurosurgery | Oxford Academic

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Real Talk w/The 19th Surgeon General of the United States | Against Medical Advice 029 - YouTube



What does the surgeon general do? The national media gives a very narrow description of what the surgeon general actually does. Most of the time the description is flat, uncolored and boring. Watch The Zdogg video interview with a surgeon general. Most of the generals rise through the ranks of the USPHS and are commissioned. The USPHS is a branch of the uniformed services of the U.S.A.





Real Talk w/The 19th Surgeon General of the United States | Against Medical Advice 029 - YouTube

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Influence of Social Media on Health Issues


Background: Major social networking platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, have become popular means through which people share health-related information, irrespective of whether messages disseminated through these channels are authentic.
Objective: This study aims to describe the demographic characteristics of patients that may demonstrate their attitudes toward medical information shared on social media networks. Second, we address how information found through social media affects the way people deal with their health. Third, we examine whether patients initiate or alter/discontinue their medications based on information derived from social media.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey between April and June 2015 on patients attending outpatient clinics at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Patients who used social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter) were included. We designed a questionnaire with closed-ended and multiple-choice questions to assess the type of social media platforms patients used and whether information received on these platforms influenced their health care decisions. We used chi-square test to establish the relationship between categorical variables.
Results: Of the 442 patients who filled in the questionnaires, 401 used Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter. The majority of respondents (89.8%, 397/442) used WhatsApp, followed by Facebook (58.6%, 259/442) and Twitter (42.3%, 187/442). In most cases, respondents received health-related messages from WhatsApp and approximately 42.6% (171/401) reported ever stopping treatment as advised on a social media platform. A significantly higher proportion of patients without heart disease (P=.001) and obese persons (P=.01) checked the authenticity of information received on social media. Social media messages influenced decision making among patients without heart disease (P=.04). Respondents without heart disease (P=.001) and obese persons (P=.01) were more likely to discuss health-related information received on social media channels with a health care professional. A significant proportion of WhatsApp users reported that health-related information received on this platform influenced decisions regarding their family’s health care (P=.001). Respondents’ decisions regarding family health care were more likely to be influenced when they used two or all three types of platforms (P=.003).
Conclusions: Health education in the digital era needs to be accurate, evidence-based, and regulated. As technologies continue to evolve, we must be equipped to face the challenges it brings with it.

J Med Internet Res 2017;19(11):e382

doi:10.2196/jmir.5989
Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp have become mainstream online tools that permit individuals to connect and share information. Furthermore, they permit individuals to share uncontrolled, unsupervised, and unfiltered content, irrespective of time and place [1]. Consequently, the Internet contains a lot of self-created content [2]. Many people are increasingly using social networking sites for health-related purposes. Research has demonstrated that an increasing number of patients are using social networking sites to share their experiences with health care personnel or institutions [3]. Patients also share their experiences with family members and friends via platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter [4-6]. There is evidence that if social networking is used properly, then it can help patients [7]. For example, a study that promoted breastfeeding among Saudi women showed increased adherence to breastfeeding through a Twitter campaign [8]. Another study that investigated the effect of Twitter on women’s health education demonstrated that women in Saudi Arabia were interested in discussing gynecological complains and breastfeeding-related issues on Twitter [9]. The investigators found that this strategy helped in creating awareness. Moreover, a recent study showed that Twitter was a powerful platform for health promotion strategies [10]. Influential people who have a huge number of followers can constitute an integral part of any health campaign or help in disseminating knowledge.
Concerns about the increasing use of social media to share health experiences and information arise as the use of these sites might affect choices that patients make regarding their health [11]. Furthermore, it might affect the way patients interact with health care professionals. According to one review, information obtained from social networking sites correlated with many measures of quality of care, including performance measures such as mortality and readmission rates [12]. Nevertheless, definitive conclusions cannot be drawn from correlation tests and several questions remain unanswered regarding the impact of patients’ use of social media.
There are few data available regarding the impact of social networking sites on the online health information-seeking behaviors of people in Saudi Arabia [13]. This report will attempt to determine whether advice obtained from social media platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, affect choices that people make about their health care. This study aims to describe the demographic characteristics of patients that may demonstrate their attitudes toward medical information shared on social media networks. Second, we address how information found through social media affects the way people deal with their health. Third, we examine whether patients initiate or alter/discontinue their medications based on information derived from social media.