Weekly Newsletter

Are at-home health options improving?

The pandemic highlighted the importance of at-home healthcare. Learn about how hospital care, food sensitivity tests and STD tests are coming home, too.
A color photograph of a white woman with her long hair tied up, working on a computer while seated in her living room with a baby resting on the couch next to her.

Welcome to the Dr. B Weekly Roundup, a curated weekly healthcare email that cuts through the noise to deliver vetted reads on whole-body health. When the pandemic hit, our homes transformed into schools, offices, restaurants, pharmacies—the works. We’re already seeing some remote healthcare options fall by the wayside. Other innovations are just getting started. This week, let’s take a look at the latest in what’s available + keep an eye on what lies ahead. Open up + say ahh as we start off with…

  • The Checkup: holiday wholeness
  • Home Sick? here's what's happening
  • Healthcare 411: helpful to-do lists

The Check-Up: 

A hospital at home

A color photograph of an Asian senior man wearing a blue shirt and a black baseball cap, playing a violin and smiling at his granddaughter, a young Asian girl with short black hair wearing a white and black outfit and playing a small accordion.

According to the New York Times, seniors (especially) recover best when they receive hospital care at home: They catch fewer infections, move more, sleep more + eat better. They’re less likely to die or be readmitted. And they cost hospitals less. (One noted a 38% decrease.) Despite this, hospital-at-home programs have not blossomed over the decades—largely because Medicare hasn’t covered them. That changed with the Covid-19 health emergency. Given increased federal funding, Medicare paid more hospitals for at-home caregiving, which saved beds for Covid-19 patients. When the health emergency ends, funding for many at-home programs will get axed as a result. A bi-partisan bill extending Medicare's waiver for another two years didn’t pass in the House last spring. But it could if revised. More time to prove cost-cutting + health-boosting success could encourage future funding. Fingers crossed.

Are food sensitivity tests a marketing scheme?

A color photograph of a young Black woman wearing a black jumper and colorful cardigan, standing in her brightly lit kitchen, eating from a bowl and looking out through wide windows.

When dealing with digestive issues or itchy skin, it’s tempting to reach for an at-home test that promises to unveil which one bad food wreaks havoc. But healthcare experts at Inverse want us to know this before we buy: A food sensitivity is not a clinically-recognized condition. And that’s what those (costly) at-home tests claim to diagnose.

Food intolerance tests measure if we have the gut bacteria needed to digest a specific food (like lactase for lactose). Food allergy tests track if a specific food triggers immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies, which cause an inflammatory response like hives or anaphylaxis. Food sensitivity tests measure immunoglobin G (IgG) antibodies—and those mark presence, not sensitivity. A high test result doesn’t mean we react badly to a food . It just shows that our body has met the food before—and maybe that we tolerate it well. Experts worry this confusion encourages disordered eating or an avoidance of healthy foods. So while at-home tests entice, see a doctor when battling rosacea or chronic heartburn.

Why can't we test for STDs at home?

A dark and blurry outdoor photograph of a man and woman kissing against a gray sky, bare branches, and birds flying.

On any given day, one in five Americans walks around with an STD—and healthcare experts worry the epidemic is spiraling out of their control. While we’ve proven adept at taking at-home Covid-19 tests, the FDA hasn’t approved at-home STD tests (other than those for HIV). Small studies have proved their efficacy + they have the support of healthcare experts. But the FDA requires larger study participant groups to consider approval. Until such study funding comes through, they cite inadequate sample collection + degradation during shipping as reasons why at-home tests may produce inaccurate results. Curious about available tests (approved by Medicare + Medicaid) or the FDA's concerns? Get the full scoop at CBS.

Healthcare 411

3 ways you may be able to boost your vaccine response (ABC). Not all vaccination experiences are created equal. To encourage a robust immune response, sleep at least six hours the nights before + after your jab. Get vaccinated in the morning, if possible. And avoid taking anti-fever medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Click above for more why + how.

Is it Covid, flu or RSV? A few hallmarks can help distinguish among the illnesses (NBC). If you develop a cough, muscle aches or shortness of breath, it’s important to know which circulating virus is doing the damage. Risks differ for people of varying ages. Targeted treatment options can help you avoid a worst-case scenario. And you should know which symptoms are par for the course vs. worthy of a trip to the ER. Head to the article for specifics on symptoms, incubation timing, treatment options + more.

Omicron BQ Covid variants, which threaten people with compromised immune systems, are now dominant in U.S. (CNBC). As we’ve noted before, it’s going to be a hard winter for immunocompromised people—BQ.1 + BQ.1.1 variants make up almost 60% of current infections and evade the Evusheld + monoclonal antibodies made to protect them. So if you're healthy, get boosted + mask up when possible to help reduce transmission rates + lower their exposure risk.

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