Breakthrough

That is the title of an e-mail that my father sent to me today. He was asking me to look up information on the new Pfizer drug Inspira and the new implantable defibrillator/combo from Medtronics, both of which were announced at the recent American Heart Association meeting in Chicago. My father had an advertisement/news pop-up on his computer about them with the headline “Breakthrough for Congestive Heart Failure Patients” and he wanted to know if they would work for him. The short answer, of course, is no, although I reminded him that he could always ask his cardiologist about them, and I said a softer ‘no’ than that.

Before my conversation with my father today I had been planning to post a blog update with some positive news about an aspect of the health care system that seemed to finally be working for my father. I suppose a part of it still is: the home health agency he had established after his hospitalization (and which got bureaucratically stopped by a hospice blip–see previous post) was restarted and they outfitted him with a home vital sign monitoring system. It measures his blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and oxygen level and transmits the data to his primary care doctor every morning. He is happy about this as it gives him a level of control over his situation. That part is working. Unfortunately, he informed me today that he has seen a total of four different nurses from the home health agency in the past two weeks and that each one of them announces “this is our last visit, Medicare won’t pay for it” and none of them seem to be aware that the other nurses have been out to see him. This is the best home health agency available in his hometown. He laughs about it but admits it doesn’t make him very confident that they will provide any better home hospice care than my mother received (also a previous post topic).

Last night I watched PBS’s recent Frontline episode “Facing Death.” While overall it is well-done, and I have already pre-ordered the DVD to use in my upcoming health policy course, it is woefully incomplete on several important counts. For one thing it shows nothing of what a “good death” can look like and only peripherally mentions hospice or palliative care. Also–and this is obviously important to me–is that there is only one nurse portrayed in the entire episode, and she is the daughter of a dying patient. There were some blurred out faces of “help” in the hospital scenes, so I suppose some of them are the nurses… I have much more to say about this Frontline episode, but that will be a future post.

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