Archive for September, 2006

ID theft in medical records

It is likely you may have heard of break-ins to personal data sets, such as the veterans affairs in the US or various banks or universities. In the US, at least, there are frequent TV ads about identity theft, including the two older women who end up buying tricked out motorcycles without their consent.

This LA Times article points out another, possibly deadlier, version of ID theft.

I know it doesn’t even require a theft to have errors in the health system. Our regional health monopoly frequently charges insurance companies (and therefore patients for the remaining excess charges) for treatment never received or for unneccessary procedures. Protests to billing doesn’t clear the charges. The bills are sent out to a collection agency. Protests to the insurance company don’t work; it is cheaper for them simply to process the charges. There is no internal checking mechanism because all charges not billed to insurance are eventually paid by the Federal government as part of their trust responsibility. There is no third party recourse in rural or frontier areas.

  • But until I read this article, I had no idea that erroneous medical information, not just the billing problems, would get passed along. This is truly scary.

The problem of access to one’s medical records predates the HIPAA legislation. Doctors and hospitals have felt patients are unable to understand their records so refused to allow individuals to see their records. I have had a couple of doctors seize X-rays and letters from other physicians, “for my records”, and not return them to me. I had let the doctor see the records for their assistance in my health.

On the other hand I have had excellent primary care physicians who would copy my file for me, when I needed to transfer to another place. Regrettably, there seem to be fewer and fewer instances of genuine medical partnership.

ID Theft Infects Medical Records
Victims face bogus bills and risk injury or death. Privacy laws make such fraud hard to pursue.
By Joseph Menn, Times Staff Writer, September 25, 2006

To guard against identity theft, patients should:

• Ask to see their medical files from each provider on a regular basis;
• Scan medical and insurance bills for services, medicine and equipment they didn’t receive;
• Demand an annual list from their health insurance company of benefits that have been provided.

If medical records have been compromised:

• Ask the healthcare providers to delete the incorrect information and contact everyone they have shared that information with, as required by the health insurance act;
• Ask the providers for a list of those recipients, and follow up with them;
• Clean up records with the health insurer and make sure the provider has not passed along improper benefit reports to insurance databases;
• Scrutinize credit reports for unpaid medical bills;
• File a police report;
• Contact the Federal Trade Commission and state health and insurance departments.


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older dog care

Pets can be a significant assistance to older people, not only as trained assistants but, through friendship, actually improve or maintain health and activity (who wants to walk alone and cleaning the litter pan is daily exercise.) But, too frequently, as the story below discusses, people don’t know how to care for the oldest pets. Many people worry about care for their pets after their death or a lengthy illness or if an assisted living residence is needed.

Every dog, horse and bird at the elder-care animal sanctuary and hospice south of Santa Fe has a story, and most stories belie the wagging tails and the contented neighs heard here. …

Most of the animals at Kindred Spirits have ended up at the sanctuary under dire circumstances. Many were abandoned at animal shelters because they were old or ill, or their human companions had died or could no longer take care of them. The sanctuary rarely takes animals from private individuals; they are generally referred by veterinarians, shelters or other animal-welfare organizations.

On-site workshops on death and dying, first-aid and caring for elderly animals help people grow, but changing attitudes toward senior companions is an uphill battle.

“It’s about making a lifelong commitment,” Schildkraut says. “Animals aren’t disposable. I don’t think people realize what they’re saying to their children by doing things like that. There’s a value — across the spectrum of life, (aging) is just another phase. You can teach your children to ignore it or be fearful of it, and that’s a disservice. They really need to embrace this phase of their life just like any other.”


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Medical Reference for Non-Medical Librarians

This site is oriented towards librarians who are asked about locating information on health. But the suggestions for checking the integrity of Internet health sites are useful for anyone to follow.


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How to start — Karen G in Vancouver

Actually aging to live in a real world.

Karen G left this comment at

which I think is worth moving up for more attention. I had always considered Vancouver to be an ideal place in which to grow older because of the public transportation, the flowers, even climate, nice citizens, culturally diverse, good accessible healthcare, etc.

Her question is complex and most of the best advice will need to be suited to her and her aunt’s individual situation. But her question is relevant to all of us. Karen’s first step was so important, empathy or putting herself in her aunt’s place. Now I hope we can come up with other ideas.

I am looking after my aunt whom is coming up to 90 years old Christmas Day. I am hoping that someone out there has some ideas, she is a double amputee, failing eyesight and hearing, etc. I have purchased a wheelchair accessible van so I can at least get her out of the house for a few hours, but the van keeps breaking down. I don’t have alot of money, so I am trying to find things for her to do, so she isn’t sitting in her wheelchair all day and night. The story is a lot deeper problems though. I guess I am pleading for some ideas. If there is anyone out there that would like to talk to me more about this problem I would love to hear from you. You don’t realize how hard it is for the elderly when they have to rely on you even to take them to the bathroom, until you have to take care of them day and night. I really hope some responds to this. I live in Vancouver Canada. Thank you in advance.

Karen.

  • Off the top of my head, because it is past my bedtime, consider contacting the university. There may be students (or even entire programs) who could try their ideas for improving transportation or modifying wheelchairs. Maybe they have a program similar to UMass-Amherst where they can match graduate students needing housing with people needing assistance. (I’m thinking you could use the assistance with house or vehicle modifications or even with outings. ) There may even be a wheelchair users group at the university or city.
    vuee
  • FCC reduces closed captions

    The FCC has changed the rules on Closed Captioning, creating a large number of exemptions that will make it easier for shows to be aired without accessible text….this is a severe blow to those with hearing disabilities.

    “The adverse impact goes much beyond the hearing impaired: close captioning attaches a synchronized stream of text to a video stream, which opens up useful ways to index, search and retrieve video for anyone, deaf or not.”

    Read more at

    Nonagenarian American Indian linguist

    By DON PACE | Associated Press, August 28, 2006

    LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) – Esther Martinez was born the year the Titanic sank and New Mexico became a state.

    Her American Indian name is P’oe Tsawa, or Blue Water, the name her friends and family call her. Martinez, 94, is a renowned storyteller from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. …

    Binford said her mother has written many storybooks, wrote the Tewa dictionary which is still in use in Tewa speaking pueblos, and numerous curriculum guides for the bilingual education program.

    Martinez will be honored with the National Heritage Fellowship Award in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12 for her work in preserving the Tewa language.

    Esther Martinez

    Tragically, Ms Martinez was killed by a drunk driver on 16 September 2006, as she was driven home from the return flight from DC.

    Esther Martinez was known for her career in education, which didn’t begin until she was in her 50s. A mother of 10, she served as Ohkay Owingeh’s Tewa instructor and director of bilingual education for more than 20 years.

    …Among Blue Water’s many recognitions are a Living Treasure Award from the state of New Mexico, the Indian Educational Award for Teacher of the Year from the National Council of American Indians and the New Mexico Arts Commission Governor’s Award for excellence and achievement in the Arts…. She was a major conservator of the Tewa language, teaching her native language from 1974 to 1989 at schools in Ohkay Owingeh, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo. …She also helped translate the New Testament of the Bible into Tewa and compiled Tewa dictionaries for pueblos that have distinct dialects of the language, the NEA said.

    Since 1988, Esther Martinez told her stories in English to non-Tewa audiences through Storytelling International.

    More recently, she was presented an honorary Bachelor of Arts in early education by Northern Community College in Espanola….

    For more background on Martinez, check out the following link:

    Also, an audio version of stories can be found at the National Endowment for the Arts website:


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    nesting in place

    Liz Taylor’s articles are linked on the sidebar. She practices aging in place, too.

    By Rebecca Teagarden

    LIZ TAYLOR IS a specialist in matters of aging and long-term care…. “Let’s talk about what the boomers need to think about as 77 million of us grow old — in a society that’s not at all prepared,” she says.

    “It’s not one thing, but a combination — and more attitude and planning than architectural. When I see older people moving into two- and three-story humongous houses all around me, I think living on one level is probably the most important thing you can do to age in place.

    “That, and exercise!”

    … I’m almost ready for the rest of my life.”

    “Almost” means Taylor wants to make her property available to friends, perhaps building two or three more small houses there so the group can care for each other or possibly share a caregiver.

    Taylor would offer part of her house, either the main house or the B&B suite, to the caregiver. She hopes that attractive housing will attract more caregiving candidates. To pay for the help, Taylor bought long-term-care insurance seven years ago. She also serves on an island task force planning for Bainbridge’s growth over the next 20 years. She is working to change island zoning and sewer ordinances to permit such huddled housing….


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