Monthly Archives: July 2010

Varying label information for the same product barcode harms the public

A very nice subscriber by the name of Ann wrote in to tell us that when she scanned her box of  Twinkies, ScanAvert delivered the result: may contain peanuts, harmful to her son.  However on her package it stated, “may contain pecan”.  We are located in the northeast and purchase products from as many different supermarkets as we can, specifically for this reason.   In all sites, we found ‘peanuts’.   So, whose is correct?  Well, depends on where you live.

Often the claims statement reflects the facility where manufactured, which may, or may not, also manufacture peanut or pecan products.   Ann did mention that in her area there is a local Hostess plant.   So this was a happy ending since this was a staple in her home and now she need not remove it.   But I share it to caution that you must still READ THE LABEL. Products safe in one region of the country may not be safe in another- food for thought before you send your kids off for a visit to grandma’s,  or embark on vacation.     The obvious and simple fix is to introduce another barcode, but from the resistance and rationing by manufacturers, one would think barcodes were a more costly commodity than gold bullion! Where’s the legislation?   Anybody out there listening GMA? NIH? FDA? CDC? ERB? – sorry – made that last one up – my initials, but you get the point.

Gluten free restaurant deals!

Unless you live in a vacation area/community,   restaurants offer tremendous deals this time of year.     Dining out can come to a small fortune once your kids graduate from the kids menu and heaven help you if they are teenage boys.  So, I try to utilize this new-found affordability as often as possible during these months and throw it in their faces come winter when I’m accused of being ‘cheap’.    Fortunately my family has limitless options when it comes to coupon consideration, but not so, for many families with allergies, or other dietary restrictions and those numbers are increasing.  Worse, some specialty restaurants even come at a premium.

A welcome sign then that the Melting Pot, one of my kids’ top picks,  has introduced a Gluten-free menu, and after your first dining experience, mention, and receive a $25.00 coupon off your next meal, at area locations Westwood, NJ, White Plains, NY, or Darien, CT.   You can also find coupons for $25.00 at which I have redeemed at the Westwood location, however this month they are sold out, so order on line at the first of the month and purchase one, my last one cost $10, but I was able to grab one for $2.00 a couple months ago.   Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you specify by diet, but if you learn of a restaurant that caters to your restrictions, see if they’re listed, if not, its worth contacting the management to learn why not and inform them of such a great visibility platform.

NOTE: as is our policy, ScanAvert receives NO PAYMENT  or benefit from any of the products or services featured in this blog.

The fine line between illness and allergy

I read Jonathan Papernick’s account of solving his mystery illness with disbelief.    Here was a man who was already  diagnosed with Celiac Disease and living gluten-free.   Common sense would indicate such a patient would be susceptible to other ailments of a dietary, or auto-immune, origin.     In addition, a diet void of gluten, must consist of something else, and perhaps the ‘something else’  has accumulated quite a quantity over the years.   But this was not investigated until after much suffering, time and expense.   Papernick states that a “simple blood test” revealed a yeast allergy/infestation in his intestines.   A mold specialist later confirmed his NYC apartment was a virtual incubator.  Certainly gives new meaning to the phrase: An apartment to die for!

After releasing our mobile service, we were inundated with requests to list mold and yeast in our drop down menu of common allergies.   We started with the ‘Big 8″ but after emails fraught with despair,  one woman wrote she had her lung removed due to a mold, we developed our custom diet box, so our subscribers could enter their own allergy terms.     Papernick’s story is a convincing testament to ‘heal thyself”.    With the doctor’s fee slashed to an average of $30 per patient, chances are, he/she won’t remember anything in your chart unless you remind, prod, pester him/her at each visit, and likely why a condition like Papernick’s went untreated for so long.   In conclusion:  be a pest, you’ll live longer.

Who represents the public in electronic health efforts?

Much effort and publicity has been made in the electronic reporting process of health data for medical professionals and facilities.    This affords improved access to patient data should lead to improved care.    Lesser known, was a study conducted last year on consumer views on healthIT , where focus groups from each region of the country participated in a survey.    They viewed health IT as a domain, and tool, that benefits health  professionals, and did not see themselves as a participant/partner.     Unfortunately, little has been done to educate the public on the benefits, or  tools available, in advocating for their health.   Perhaps this is why consumer creation/adoption of a Personal Health Record, PHR, is so dismal, or is it the consumer tools themselves?

This past week I  registered a health profile with 4 separate on-line tools/websites.  A couple I could not possibly complete by myself and would need my physician, and all but one had many notes I had to fill out, so that quailty of that data would vary upon the level of education, health related and otherwise, of the person doing the data entry.   While this is just my informal review, it mirrors the focus groups’ perception that healthIT in was not for ‘them’.    Futher,  that  the process [decisions] “had begun[made] without them”, and they were “powerless” to exert ” influence”.    They suggested a consumer advocate/representative was needed before being ‘steam rolled’ by health and government officials that don’t always put the consumer’s interests first.    The groups’ largest concern was that their privacy was at risk from unauthorized sharing of information or hackers.

The completion and results of this survey were public a year ago yet, puzzling then, that no meaningful follow-up action has occurred from it.   If the HHS is serious about consumer participation,  it needs to address these concerns, and standardize not just the reporting of information at the healthcare professional end but the consumer end as well,  to ensure the  process of  PHR creation is simple, user-friendly and fosters adoption, and they need to do it NOW.

Awareness is contagious

With incidence of food allergies on the rise, chances are you have, or care for/about or know someone who must manage them.   At ScanAvert we hear daily from someone who is seeking assistance in this daunting task, particularly  a fear that caregivers won’t  be as diligent about what their child consumes.    ScanAvert is a vital tool in this area but  allergy awareness  is the  key to adherence.   So here’s  worthy event in my neck of the woods worth sharing:

We all benefit when we share our experiences so come join, visit and learn.   This event is being held  July 27,  in Tarrytown, NY but there are other chapters throughout the country-find yours.

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“Thanks, Doc, glad to hear I’m not responsible for my addiction and poor health”

Like many football fans, I viewed the death of  Chris Henry at 26  as a tragic but almost a predictable end, given the details of his life as they emerged last December.   Today it was reported that his autopsy results revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.   This has raised concerns since CTE,  often associated with boxers or much older players, is usually the result of head trauma occuring over a period of  time.   It is also possible that Henry had suffered violent confrontations from early in his life and not just what was noted on the field, but that was not what I found noteworthy about this article.

Instead, I focused on the following statement: “Its effects are mainly neurobehavioral.  These symptoms include poor decision-making, behavioral problems, failure at personal and business relationships, use of drugs and alcohol, depression and suicide.”

The gray area of what is a symptom and what is behavior is a slippery slope.  If I have a cold my symptom is a sneeze, or runny nose.   Over dosing on Benadryl however, is NOT a symptom, it is an act.  Likewise, “use of drugs and alcohol” are NOT symptoms but also an act, and as they are often illegal, a crime as well.   By including them as symptoms, it infers that such actions are beyond our control and provides a crutch for anyone with a habit.   It is one thing to hear Gamblers, morbidly Obese, Alcoholics cite such reason for their state of poor health, or  their drunk driving accidents, but when the medical community engages in such banter, alleviating us from the responsibility from our actions, it is cause for concern.    Americans, more than any other population on this earth, exercise  free will.  Let’s not pretend we don’t when the outcome is tragic, or doesn’t make for good copy.

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