Wake Up, Philippines!

How to Select a Sound HMO

Posted in Health Care, HMO by Erineus on May 12, 2009

May 11, 2009, 4:13pm

The average life-span of a company-HMO relationship is three years. This was confirmed by Norman Amora, IntelliCare’s Assistant Vice President for Sales and Marketing. The termination of the HMO-client relationship is often triggered by successive failures of the HMO to deliver promised services.

But with IntelliCare’s outstanding performance and excellent client relationship, the average life-span is almost always surpassed.

The habit of changing HMO every three years or so can put tremendous stress on companies and most especially the employees, who will have the burden of orienting themselves again on how to avail the benefits of their health plans.

According to Amora, the cost of an HMO’s package remains the top consideration for companies. However, by focusing solely on the cost, some companies tend to overlook the corresponding benefits included in the HMO package.

Aside from the high cost of an HMO, another common problem that leads to the short life-span of HMO-client relationship is the problem on contract implementation and interpretation.

Among the most common reported problems are vagueness of the coverage and limits of the health plan, unclear procedure on how to use the health card and bad service (i.e. absence of quality doctors in the HMO accredited facilities).

With a client retention rate of over 90%, IntelliCare shares the reasons for its strong client retention.
These are pricing/premiums, benefit package, network, financial capability and service.

This is usually the primary consideration of most companies. Fair pricing are the key words.

As long as the package is priced justifiably with corresponding guarantee that the services enumerated in the package will be delivered efficiently, then all stakeholders will be satisfied and the client will likely be retained.

Any HMO benefit package must include the basics, such as access to clinics and tertiary hospitals. The benefit package must also be tailor fit to the company’s needs.

“To be able to tailor fit the health care package, the HR has to be involved with the health consultant of the provider,” Amora says.

Caution must be set when appraising the HMO benefit package. The package should be fair and must be in the most feasible of terms. Most importantly, it must be within the budget of the company.
An HMO’s strength is measured in terms of its network. This includes the hospitals, clinics, and other facilities as well as expert resources (i.e. doctors and specialists).


Why RP is the Heart of Asia? A handy guide lets you know

Posted in Health, Health Care, Tourism, Travel, Wellness by Erineus on May 12, 2009

Updated April 26, 2009 12:00 AM

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MANILA, Philippines – Filipino medical and spa professionals are renowned the world over for their competence, knowledge and skill and uniquely, the level of compassionate care they extend to patients and clients.

Now, a handy, easy-to-use travel guide to fully experience the Heart of Asia and the health and wellness it brings is now available.

Those seeking health and wellness now have the basic information they need to avail themselves of world-class Filipino medical and wellness services by getting a copy of “Philippines: The Heart of Asia (Health and Wellness Travel Guide and Directory).”

The slim, full-color, attractively designed booklet contains basic information — including maps and directory information — and practical advice useful to international and local travelers on a health and wellness journey, and even for visitors who simply wish to have the option to go to the most suitable places for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.

Furthermore, the directory containing information on the country’s best hospitals will be useful to travelers going from urban centers to various islands throughout the Philippines.

It’s also a handy guide in case of emergencies: in case you or your companion would need quick medical assistance. “Philippines: The Heart of Asia” is a must for all who are traveling to the Philippines.

The booklet also offers revealing insights and interesting trivia about the Philippines — its culture, history, world-class hospitals and clinics, and the centuries-old tradition for wellness and healing that all Filipinos are steeped in.

Co-published by the Department of Tourism with Honors Integrated Marketing (HIM) Communications Inc., the “Philippines: The Heart of Asia” is the official travel guide for medical and wellness tourism.

It is now distributed worldwide for offshore patients who are seeking complete healing and total wellness to come to the Philippines.

Limited copies are available for free through the Office for Sports and Wellness Tourism, Department of Tourism, T.M. Kalaw corner Taft Avenue, Manila, or through HIM Communications at Unit 2003, Strata 100 Building, Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City (call 468-9999 or 910-8030 or e-mail at info@himcommunications.com).


Weight and see: New alert on diet pills

Posted in Consumer, Diet, Health, Health Care, Medicine by Erineus on May 8, 2009

CONSUMERLINE By Ching M. Alano Updated May 05, 2009 12:00 AM

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Illustration by REY RIVERA

Oh, to live and diet! The battle with the bulge rages. You’ve tried every diet program on the planet, every fat-zapping procedure and diet pills there are. But so far, the only thing they’ve successfully reduced is your hard-earned money.

Wait, did we just say diet pills? Before you pop that pill into your mouth, here’s a mouthful: The Food and Drug Administration recently warned the public against weight loss products that are tainted by potentially dangerous ingredients. Many of these products claim to be “natural” or “herbal,” when in fact, they contain drugs — and in very high doses at that. Now, that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

In its new alert, FDA lists these dangerous drugs found in weight loss products (stop, look, and see if your diet pill has them):

Sibutramine, a controlled substance.

Phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication.

Phenolphthalein, a solution used in chemical experiments and a suspected cancer-causing agent.

Bumetanide, a diuretic.

Since it made the issue public in December last year, the FDA has found 72 weight loss products, most of them imported from China, which are tainted with hidden and potentially dangerous drugs and chemicals. Among these are:

Cetilistat — an experimental obesity drug that can cause serious health risks in certain populations.

Fenproporex — a stimulant not approved for marketing in the US, which can cause increased blood pressure, uncontrollable movements or shaking, palpitations, arrhythmia, and possibly sudden death.

Fluoxetine — the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Prozac, a prescription antidepressant, which can increase the risk of suicidal thinking and suicide in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Furosemide — the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Lasix, a potent diuretic that can cause profound dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, leading to dehydration, seizures, GI problems, kidney damage, lethargy, collapse, and coma.

Rimonabant — the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Zimulti, which has not been approved in the United States because of increased risk of neurological and psychiatric side effects, such as seizures, depression, anxiety, insomnia, aggressiveness, and suicidal thoughts among patients.

(The full list of contaminated products can be found in FDA’s web site.)

These tainted weight loss supplements on the list are not FDA-approved and available over-the-counter without a prescription, which is not to say that those that are FDA-approved or available by prescription don’t have serious side effects.

Two of the most well-known diet drugs in the United States are Xenical, a prescription-only drug, and its non-prescription version Alli. Unpublished studies on Xenical have revealed the following alarming data:

• Xenical increases the precursor markers to colon cancer by 60 percent in rats.

• When eating a high-fat diet and taking Xenical, the cancer risk increased 2.4 fold.

• Fat-soluble vitamin E depletion, due to Xenical’s fat-blocking action, raises the risk of colon cancer even further.

• Recorded adverse reactions to Xenical include: 39 cases of increased abnormal blood thinning, several cases of bleeding episodes, 10 hospitalizations (four with life-threatening reactions), and one death.

• Dangerous thinning of the blood can occur in people taking drugs like Warfarin (an anti-coagulant), or who suffer from vitamin K deficiency.

On the other hand, Alli, which blocks the absorption of about 25 percent of consumed fat, can also result in loose stools, hard-to-control bowel movements, and gas with an oily discharge. But the manufacturer calls these “treatment effects.”

Fat chance you’ll lose weight with diet pills alone. Fact is, the Mayo Clinic reports that the average weight loss for prescription-strength Xenical is only about six pounds greater than diet and exercise alone after one year. Since Alli is half the strength of Xenical, they reasoned Alli could conceivably result in an average of just three extra pounds lost in a year.

Certainly, diet pills are a big business in the US. According to health activist Dr. Joseph Mercola, who wouldn’t be tempted by the promise of shedding unwanted pounds without sweating — simply take a pill, then sit back and relax as the pounds melt away.

According to Mercola, “for the 15 percent of American adults who say they’ve used weight-loss supplements, many probably thought, ‘Why not?’ What could they lose other than the money to buy them and possibly some extra pounds?”

Here, you could lose a lot, warns Mercola, including your health, if you take many of these weight-loss supplements.

Dieting is much more than having a bikini-worthy figure, according to Mercola. “It’s about having more energy, fighting disease, protecting your heart and, above all else, choosing a lifestyle that will support your entire body and your health.”

He gives this weighty tips:

Tailor your diet to your nutritional type. These are the foods that are right for your biochemistry, and foods that will push your body towards its ideal weight. (They may be high in fat or carbs, heavy on protein or veggies, it all depends on you.)

This is not a diet — no need to deprive yourself, no need to count calories. In fact, if you still feel hungry after eating, you are definitely not eating according to your nutritional type.

Consider exercise as a drug. When you’re trying to lose weight, a casual walk here and there is not going to cut it. Many studies find that exercising for one hour, five days a week is actually needed — agree! Sometimes you may even need up to 90 minutes of aerobic activity every day.

Take double note: There is also strong compelling evidence that strength training and high-intensity anaerobic interval training may be especially effective for weight loss.

The safe and effective way to lose weight, according to Mercola is to eat right, exercise, and address the nagging issues, big and small, in your life. You have nothing to lose but those stubborn unwanted pounds.

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We’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at ching_alano@yahoo.com

View previous articles of this column.


High blood pressure leads to kidney damage

Posted in Diseases/Disabilities, Health, Health Care by Erineus on April 20, 2009

By Joy Angelica Subido Updated April 14, 2009 12:00 AM

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Celebrating World Kidney Day: Novartis Philippines corporate affairs and market access director Christine Liwanag; hypertension specialist and resource speaker Dr. Rody Sy; National Kidney & Transplant Institute executive director Dr. Enrique Ona; Department of Health assistant secretary Dr. Elmer Punzalan; UP-PGH Department of Medicine chair Dr. Agnes Mejia; and Novartis Philippines president and CEO Eric van Oppens
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MANILA, Philippines – Control your blood pressure and save your kidneys. This was the message of health experts during the recent celebration of World Kidney Day. With more people succumbing to kidney failure and chronic kidney disease (CKD) worldwide, knowing that high blood pressure destroys the kidneys is important. Concomitantly, an increased vigilance to keep blood pressure within normal parameters will result in lessening the incidence of cardiovascular disease, stroke or debilitating kidney damage. In turn, this will lead to better health and longer, more productive lives.

“In the Philippines, renal disease is the number 10 cause of death today,” says Dr. Enrique Ona, executive director of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute. He estimates that 100 to 120 individuals per population of one million develop end-stage renal failure. “This is the most expensive disease that one can encounter,” he continues.

The kidney is a non-regenerating organ, therefore making damage permanent. Since the disease is chronic, dialysis is expensive and a compatible kidney donor may be difficult to find, the resources that an average patient can spend for maintenance will likely run out. Without proper treatment, the toxins will accumulate in the body and eventually poison the patient.

Are your kidneys at risk? Apart from hypertension and cardiovascular disease, another factor that can significantly affect the kidneys is diabetes mellitus and poor blood sugar level control. Smoking, being overweight, and a family history of kidney disease can tip the scales against you. Although age (over 50 years) also predisposes one to the disease, even the young can succumb to CKD.

Nephrologist Dr. Agnes Mejia, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of the Philippines- Philippine General Hospital, cited the case of a 22-year-old engineering student. Complaining of poor appetite, headache, weakness, pruritus (itching), weight loss, shortness of breath, and easy fatigability, he was admitted to the hospital for evaluation and was found to have end-stage kidney disease. A medical history showed that he suffered from bouts of urinary tract infection (UTI) in previous years. He should have taken heed.

“As a rule, men should not have UTI,” says Dr. Mejia. The frequency of the urinary tract infections should have alerted health providers about the possibility of a more serious underlying condition. His blood pressure was also elevated and when admitted to the hospital, the young man had a distinctive ammonia-like or fishy breath odor, a symptom associated with chronic kidney or renal failure. As is the case with most patients with severe renal failure, the story ended unhappily. The patient passed away during what should have been the prime of his life.

What are the symptoms to watch out for?

Dr. Mejia says one should be wary when urine is cloudy or bubbly — “beer urine with bubbles on top.” Nocturia or frequent urination at night and swelling of the legs (edema) without pain should also serve as warning signs. To be even more certain, blood pressure should be monitored so that it does not exceed 130/80 mm Hg. In addition, blood creatinine levels should be checked. Since creatinine or the breakdown product of creatine phosphate in muscle is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys, increased levels will signal that the kidney is not working effectively. The link between high blood pressure and CKD is unmistakable so that nephrologists worldwide seek to heighten awareness to make blood pressure measurement and examination of urine routine.

“High blood pressure is a global problem and the situation is projected to get worse. The world population is getting older and aging is the common risk factor for the development of high blood pressure and diabetes as well as CKD,” reiterates a fact sheet from the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations.

Although more innovative and effective medications to control blood pressure and its attendant complications are being introduced to the market, it is best to avoid illness with healthy lifestyle choices.

Consider these facts and act accordingly: Weight loss of eight to 10 pounds can have a dramatic impact on blood pressure. Reducing alcohol consumption leads to decreased blood pressure. Lowering blood cholesterol prevents narrowing of blood vessels, which is another cause of blood pressure rise. Other key preventive measures are control of glucose (in diabetics) and anemia, smoking cessation, and increased activity.

Disease wreaks havoc on the individual’s body, possibly causing extreme pain and discomfort. The costs of treatment for CKD can financially burden a family. The consequences of increased prevalence burden healthcare systems and society. Undoubtedly, the best way to beat and prevent disease is to learn about it and act accordingly.

View previous articles from this author.

Your daily health checklist

Posted in Health, Health Care by Erineus on April 19, 2009

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If you’re an organized person (bordering on being OC?), you probably draw up a daily checklist of things to do at home and at work, so that your life runs like clockwork. Without your checklist, your multi-tasking life could go haywire. Or you could go bonkers.

On top of our daily checklist, we must have a (mini) health audit every day, according to Handbook for Life (how to make friends, beds, love, tea, money … and the world a better place) by Caroline Righton (available at National Book Store).

Right on, Caroline! Listen up, everyone: “Whoever you are and whatever your age and general state of health, the key thing is to ask yourself if your body easily meets the demands made on it by the life you lead, and whether, if you would like to have a different sort of life, you might need to raise your game to improve your health …”

So, what are the things you need to ask yourself when you do your mini health audit? Here are a few questions and some answers:

1) Do you sleep well?

I guess for most of us who work such looong hours, the answer is a yawning no. Yes, says Caroline, “Most people need between seven and eight hours’ sleep a night … Sleep is needed by your body and brain to recharge and stay healthy. Too little and your immunity can decrease and your concentration suffer. Too much and you may feel lethargic and even depressed.”

What to do?

Take a few tips for a night of bedded bliss:

• Don’t eat or drink too late, yes, and say no to spicy foods, caffeine or alcohol.

• Take a warm milky drink. Milk does help as it contains brain-calming tryptophan.

• Don’t do any strenuous exercise close to bedtime. Allow your body several hours to relax and cool down before getting some shut-eye.

If the problem persists, says Caroline, go and see your doctor. For sure, you won’t be the only insomniac in the waiting room. Zzzz you there!

2) Do you feel stiff or have creaky joints when you wake up?

If your only form of exercise is stretching a point or bending your principles, you could be in trouble. “This (having creaky joints) is probably a reflection of your level of fitness,” writes Caroline. “… If you are worried about it, of course see your doctor, because it can be an indication of medical problems, but first try stretching out and gently flexing the offending creaking parts while lying in bed … Even gentle exercise, such as swimming, can help if it’s carried out regularly.”

3) Does your tongue look less than rosy pink?

Now, that’s no tongue-in-cheek question. Caroline has a mouthful to say on that: “Tongues really aren’t at their best in the morning, but serious badger’s bum furring is most likely to indicate that you are dehydrated and so, drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day and not overdoing coffee and booze should help.”

4) What color is your urine and does it smell?

Don’t get pissed off now, but your urine has a lot of story to tell about your health. For instance, smelly pee means you might have a urinary tract infection. And the darker yellow it is, the more likely you are to be dehydrated. Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body so your urine may be dark after a night of boozing it up. Rehydrate, but if your problem persists, see a doctor.

5) Is your waist size over 94 cm. (man), 80 cm. (women)?

As the experts say, “The broader the waistline, the shorter the lifeline.” For an overall picture, says Caroline, look at your body fat percentage, your blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels.

6) Have you got your stress levels under control?

Caroline’s book can’t stress this enough: “Stress is a killer, which is ironic given that it was once a lifesaver as the body’s front-line defense mechanism.”

Today, you are probably stressed if you feel guilty when you relax — yup, you’re stressed because there’s no stress in your life.

Here’s an antidote to stress, according to Caroline: “Get the stress in perspective … Count your blessings and accentuate the positive in your life …”

It’s a fact, as proven by medical tests, that optimists respond better to medical treatment. Indeed, a dose of positivism keeps ill health at bay.

7) Do you eat a sensible diet with restricted fatty or sugary foods?

Once more with feeling: A high-fat, high-sugar diet puts one at high risk of heart disease and diabetes.

8) Do you keep your salt intake low — to less than 6 g. a day?

How low should you go? Here’s the lowdown on salt from the life audit handbook: 6 g. is about the same amount as one level teaspoon. Too much salt raises the blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack. You better watch out, too, for processed foods, bread and cereals that contain salt.

9) Do you drink enough water?

How much is enough? Answer: Eight or more glasses keep the immune system healthy. An added bonus is that it helps you lose weight, too. But that’s another weighty issue that deserves another lengthy discussion.

So, how did you fare in this life audit?

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We’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at ching_alano@yahoo.com.

View previous articles of this column.

Is the health care industry recession-proof?

Posted in Global Financial Crisis, Health, Health Care by Erineus on March 6, 2009
By Rowena Bautista-Alcaraz
February 23, 2009

A recent government-to-government arrangement was made that will initially bring some 300 Filipino nurses to work for Japanese hospitals. This is good news considering the current economic slump worldwide. And then came the announcement of RCM Health Care Services’ need for occupational (OT) and physical therapists (PT) in the United States. Now that’s even greater news!

RCM is a recognized leader in health care staffing solutions, backed by 30 years of experience. Six years ago, it partnered with the leading HR solutions provider in the region, John Clements Consultants, Inc., and its overseas staffing partner, EDI Staff Builders, in promoting work opportunities, particularly for therapists.

According to RCM’s senior vice president Michael Saks during their recent visit to the country, “the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows nursing and physical and occupational therapy as the major health care job occupations with the fastest employment growth.” It is estimated that by the year 2014, health services employment is projected to increase dramatically with over 4,700,000 new health care jobs.

“Even in an economic downturn, one sector is staying strong, and that is health care. Intangible job markets such as health care and education has grown by over 500,000 jobs since the recession began,” Saks shares.

Marc Chafetz, RCM’s vice president, also agrees, “The health care industry is pretty much recession-resistant. We have more jobs than we’ve ever had. While some of the smaller companies who used to come and recruit in the Philippines has pretty much gone out of business and stopped coming, we, on the other hand, increased our efforts by coming twice in a year now.”

Strong demand for Filipinos

According to the Philippine Department of Health Report in 2007, 85 percent of Filipino health care professionals are working overseas, making the country the number one exporter of nurses and therapists worldwide. Between 12,000 and 15,000 nurses, therapists and other professionals are reported to leave the Philippines each year to work abroad, mostly in the United States.

“Filipinos consistently provide excellent and world-class service in the field of heath care all over the world. And the top three reasons why US health care institutions choose Filipino therapists and nurses are because of their strong work ethics, outstanding educational training, and genuine compassion in caring for patients,” explains Chafetz.

And while there’s currently a strong demand, RCM focuses its initiative on raising public awareness on these relatively unexplored fields with the end of getting more Filipinos interested in working as therapists in the US. It has partnered with various educational institutions across the country to create scholarship programs for students of physical and occupational therapy courses. RCM sees the development of educational programs in occupational and physical therapy as integral to increasing employment for Filipinos in the American health care industry.

“Our goal is to help local universities produce as many qualified OTs and PTs as possible for deployment to the US. We have critical shortages in the US, and to think that qualified therapists will never graduate solely because of money is a hard notion to grasp,” says Saks.

With yearly trips to the Philippines, RCM had the opportunity to tour the country, lecturing to students at various universities, nursing schools, and rehabilitation schools. They also hold seminars in every major city around the country for qualified RNs, PTs, and OTs that are looking for sponsorship. Some of its current partner schools are the University of the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas, Cebu Doctor’s College, and Emilio Aguinaldo College.

“The cost is prohibitive to go to school and enter a career, so we have tried to be creative and come up with ways to develop scholarship programs, help therapists go to school, to learn, to get a degree, but to still dream of a great job opportunity in the US,” Chafetz tells.

He finally ends, “We’ve made it a mission as an organization to get out in the field to educate people about the opportunity. We are very committed to expanding that as a profession so we can let them know about different opportunities.”