June 01, 2007
BehindTheMedspeak: Medical Tourism
Prediction: This will be one of the great growth industries of the next 20 years.
Because when you can get a heart valve replacement by a U.S. or U.K. board-certified cardiac surgeon for $9,000 in India — vs. $160,000 in the U.S. — not only individuals but insurance companies are going to sit up and take notice.
Prediction #2: If you're not willing to go abroad for an expensive procedure, your insurance company will refuse to pay for it.
It's amazing how economics can create a whole new standard of care.
For example, once upon a time back in the late 20th century, every patient scheduled for elective surgery was required to have a pre-op chest x-ray and EKG.
No matter that they were always normal: it was the standard of care.
Then some studies showed that they were always normal, or close enough: suddenly insurance didn't cover those tests and by some miracle of medical revisionism, they were no longer necessary.
They never were — but as long as someone else paid for them, who cared?
Same deal with your heart valve replacement circa 2020: go to Mumbai or learn to live with things as they are.
Cindy Loose briefly reviewed Woodman's book (top) in the April 15, 2007 Washington Post Travel section; her piece follows.
- Road Reads: "Patients Beyond Borders" by Josef Woodman
Target audience: Anyone contemplating going abroad for dental or medical procedures.
Forget shady Mexican clinics for phony cancer treatments. Today, more than 100 American-accredited hospitals around the world — particularly in Asia — offer complex, high-tech treatments, often in luxurious hospitals and recuperation centers.
Medical tourism is hot. Brits and Canadians, to cite two examples, head overseas to avoid long waits in a socialized medical environment. Americans are more likely to be looking for a better price. As Woodman's book notes, price differences can be so dramatic that they more than make up for the cost of traveling. Typical cost of a heart valve replacement in the United States: $160,000. In India: $9,000. Thailand: $10,000. Singapore: $12,500.
Woodman's book is a practical guide to planning a medical trip, from how to identify a respectable hospital to warnings that cross-border malpractice lawsuits are so impractical that you should consider them impossible. The best hospitals abroad maintain standards "equal to, or higher than" those in the United States, and some boast lower morbidity rates, Woodman writes, although his book doesn't delve into specific stats.
If I were really interested in making a fortune I'd start a company devoted to nothing but the very best in medical tourism.
What makes coffee bitter?
That was the question addressed by C. Claiborne Ray in her May 29, 2007 New York Times "Q & A" column.
The last two paragraphs, especially, interested me, filled as they were with six useful tips from the Coffee Research Institute about how to brew the very best possible cup of coffee in your own private Idaho of a test kitchen.
Here's the Times piece.
- A Bitter Cup
Q. What makes coffee bitter?
A. Coffee is a complex chemical soup, and many of its chemicals, including some that produce astringency rather than bitterness, and even some acids, have been implicated in the perception of bitterness.
Bitterness also depends on variables including the coffee variety; how it is processed and roasted; the brewing method, temperature and time; and even the chemical content of the water.
Some degree of bitterness is desirable in coffee, according to the Coffee Research Institute, because it reduces the perception of acidity, for a more balanced flavor.
Some of the possible chemical culprits include quinic, chlorogenic, caffeic, citric, malic, lactic, pyruvic and acetic acids; 5-hydroxymethylfurfural; methyl furan; furfuryl mercaptan; trigonelline; pyrazine; thiazole; quinoline; phenylpyridine; and caffeine itself.
Studies reported by the institute suggest that perceived bitterness can be reduced by using hard or soft water, as opposed to distilled water; brewing at high temperatures, perhaps because more aromatic chemicals are released, canceling out the bitter ones; and using varieties other than robusta coffee, which has more caffeine and chlorogenic acid.
The institute also suggests using medium-roast coffee, which has a lower level of soluble solids; brewing using a drip system, which also cuts down the release of soluble solids; and perhaps using a coarser grind.
What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
One Step Pedicure
From the website:
- One Step Pedicure
One Step Pedicure is a gentle foot-shaped file that suctions to tub or shower to gently remove excess skin from heel or toes — hand-free!
Ideal for calluses and dry patches.
No awkward bending.
4" x 4" x 9".
World's strangest attempted bank robbery
Tom Jackman described it in yesterday's Washington Post story, as follows.
- A No-Hassle Way to Rob a Bank, If It Had Any Chance of Success
In the annals of crime, the guy who tried to rob a Fairfax County bank by sending a note through the drive-through teller's vacuum tube will not go down as one of the great evil geniuses.
But at least he didn't hurt anybody. And he did escape — so he's got that going for him.
The man pulled up in one of the drive-through lanes of a Bank of America branch in the Baileys Crossroads area just after 7 p.m. Tuesday. Then, boldly yet stealthily, he zipped a note demanding cash through the tube.
Perhaps equally, er, ingeniously, the teller simply sent the note back. Fairfax police declined to reveal the contents of the note or say whether the teller attempted any conversation.
Receiving his note back, sans cash, the criminal drove away from the bank, at 5707 Seminary Rd., perhaps to work on a more precisely worded note.
The would-be robber, who daringly disdained a disguise, was described as a clean-shaven man in his 20s. He did not show a weapon or imply that he had one. Police said they had a description of the vehicle but didn't release it. Anyone with information about the incident may call Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS.
Sure hope they didn't fire the teller.
If they did, and she or he is reading this, there's a spot here at bookofjoe waiting for you whenever you like.
There's one for the would-be robber, too: he was just named Official Criminal™ of bookofjoe.
Planet Switch — Does Al Gore know about this?
Inspired by environmentalists' noting that 8% of the UK's electricity is used to power appliances and whatnot in standby mode, Jeremy Paxton envisioned placing every device with a standby mode on a separate circuit so they could all be turned off at once.
He commissioned former hip-hop graffiti artist Alexander Baynes to create it.
From the website:
- Planet Switch
Designed by Jeremy Paxton, creator of the eco-responsible Lower Mill Estate, it's evocative and fun and was initially conceived to turn all TVs and monitors from standby to off (responsible for gulping 8% of the nations electricity) but, in addition to this function, ultimately has been developed to prick the conscience of the entire household to hit the switch from on to SAVE, turning off all lights and other appliances.
Essentially an on/off switch it is simply designed to look like planet earth with the word SAVE as an integral part of the design. The Planet Switch is now going into all new homes built at Lower Mill Estate as standard. This is done by installing a special circuit. For retro fits it will be used as an awareness booster not to waste energy.
Email Jeremy Paxton — firstname.lastname@example.org — and he'll sell you one for £9.99.
Tell him joe sent you if you like but me, I wouldn't.
No telling what could result.
[via Jonathan Margolis, writing in issue 181 of the Financial Times "How To Spend It" supplement]
Pediax — 'A new, interactive user interface for Wikipedia'
Still in beta but already very cool.
TechnoDolt™-approved, too — even I can use it.
Lucas Graves, in the March 2007 issue of Wired magazine, wrote, "It's a cartographic flyover of Wikipedia — as you mouse across Earth, the map fills with markers for any place or landmark that has a Wikipedia entry. Click 'em to bring up a brief description."
Synthetic Breathing Puppies — I've heard of letting sleeping dogs lie, but this is ridiculous
"Do you like our owl?"
"Of course it is."
"Must be expensive."
From the website:
- Life-Like Puppies
Life-like puppies actually "breath"!
As irresistibly adorable as the real thing!
Enjoy the companionship of a pup without the stress or mess.
Squeezably soft design and soothing breathing sounds make them perfect for cuddling.
Each includes bed, collar, carrying case and adoption certificate.
Perfect for comforting lonely seniors.
Uses 2 D batteries (one included).
Approximately 5" x 9" x 3-1/2".
"Uses 2 D batteries (one included)" is perhaps the strangest thing I've come across this month.
Wait a minute....
Does Sony know about this?
First person to correctly identify which of the four puppies is actually an imposter from the Bizarro World wins a prize.