This Former Hippy Wannabe Likes HIPAA

Each day, I post a tidbit about, or relating to, Chronic Kidney Disease on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page. This is the quote from Renal and Urology News that I posted just a short while ago:

“Patients with stage 3 and 4 chronic kidney disease (CKD) who were managed by nephrology in addition to primary care experienced greater monitoring for progression and complications, according to a new study.”

My primary care physician is the one who caught my CKD in the first place and is very careful about monitoring its progress. My nephrologist is pleased with that and feels he only needs to see me once a year. The two of them work together well.

From the comments on that post, I realized this is not usual. One of my readers suggested it had to do with HIPPA, so I decided to look into that.

The California Department of Health Care Services (Weird, I know, but I liked their simple explanation.) at http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/hipaa/Pages/1.00WhatisHIPAA.aspx defined HIPPA and its purposes in the following way:

“HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. HIPAA does the following:

• Provides the ability to transfer and continue health insurance coverage for millions of American workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs;
• Reduces health care fraud and abuse;
• Mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electronic billing and other processes; and
• Requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information”

Got it. Let’s take a look at its last purpose. There is an infogram from HealthIT.gov at https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/YourHealthInformationYourRights_Infographic-Web.pdf  which greatly clarifies the issue. On item on this infogram caught my eye:

“You hold the key to your health information and can send or have it sent to anyone you want. Only send your health information to someone you trust.”

I always send mine to one of my daughters and Bear… and my other doctors if they are not part of the hospital system most of my doctors belong to.

I stumbled across National Conference of State Legislatures at http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/hipaa-a-state-related-overview.aspx and learned more than I even knew existed about HIPAA. Take a look if you’d like more information. I finally tore myself away from the site to get back to writing the blog after following links for about an hour. It was fascinating, but not germane to today’s blog.

Okay, so sharing. In order to share the information from one doctor that my other doctors may not have, I simply fill out an Authorization to Release Medical Information form. A copy of this is kept in the originating doctor’s files. By the way, it is legal for the originating doctor to charge $.75/page for each page sent, but none of my doctors have ever done so.

I know, I know. What is this about doctors being part of the hospital system? What hospital system? When I first looked for a new physician since the one I had been using was so far away (Over the usual half-an-hour-to-get-anywhere-in-Arizona rule), I saw that my new PCP’s practice was affiliated with the local hospital and thought nothing of it.

Then Electronic Health Records came into widespread use at this hospital. Boom! Any doctor associated with that hospital – and that’s all but two of my myriad doctors – instantly had access to my health records. Wow, no more requesting hard copies of my health records from each doctor, making copies for all my other doctors, and then hand delivering or mailing them. No wonder I’m getting lazy; life is so much easier.

Back to HealthIt.gov for more about EHR. This time at https://www.healthit.gov/buzz-blog/electronic-health-and-medical-records/emr-vs-ehr-difference/:

“With fully functional EHRs, all members of the team have ready access to the latest information allowing for more coordinated, patient-centered care. With EHRs:

• The information gathered by the primary care provider tells the emergency department clinician about the patient’s life threatening allergy, so that care can be adjusted appropriately, even if the patient is unconscious.
• A patient can log on to his own record and see the trend of the lab results over the last year, which can help motivate him to take his medications and keep up with the lifestyle changes that have improved the numbers.
• The lab results run last week are already in the record to tell the specialist what she needs to know without running duplicate tests.
• The clinician’s notes from the patient’s hospital stay can help inform the discharge instructions and follow-up care and enable the patient to move from one care setting to another more smoothly.”

Did you notice the part about what a patient can do? With my patient portal, I can check my labs, ask questions, schedule an appointment, obtain information about medications, and spot trends in my labs. Lazy? Let’s make that even lazier. No more appointments for trivial questions, no more leaving phone messages, no more being on hold for too long. I find my care is quicker, more accessible to me, and – believe it or not – more easily understood since I am a visual, rather than an audial, person.

Kudos to American Association of Kidney Patients for postponing their National Patient Meeting in St. Petersburg from last weekend to this coming spring. The entire state of Florida was declared in a state of emergency by the governor due to the possible impact of Hurricane Irma. The very next day, AAKP acted to postpone placing the safety of its members over any monetary considerations. If I wasn’t proud to be a member before (and I was), I certainly am now.

Aha! That gives me five found days to separate The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 each into two separate books with indexes. I never was happy with the formatting of those two. I plan to reward myself after this project. How, you ask. By writing a book of short stories. I surmise that will be out next year sometime. Meanwhile, there’s always Portal in Time, a time travel romance. Geesh! Sometimes I wonder at all my plans.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

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B.U.N. No, not bun. B.U.N.

Let’s consider this part 2 of last week’s blog since all these terms and tests and functions are intertwined for Chronic Kidney Disease patients. Thanks to reader Paul (not my Bear, but another Paul) for emphatically agreeing with me about this.

Bing! Bing! Bing! I know where to start. This is from The National Kidney Disease Education Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ information about being tested for CKD.

“If necessary, meaning if your kidney function is compromised, your pcp will make certain you get to a nephrologist promptly.  This specialist will conduct more intensive tests that include:

Blood:

BUN –

BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen. Urea nitrogen is what forms when protein breaks down.”

If you read last week’s blog about creatinine, you know there’s more to the testing than that and that more of the information is in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2. No sense to repeat myself so soon.

Let’s take this very slowly. I don’t think it necessary to define blood, but urea? Maybe. I found this in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“But how can I explain blood urea?  I’ll allow the experts to do that.

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/routine-kidney-function-blood-test has the simplest explanation.

‘Urea is a waste product formed from the breakdown of proteins. Urea is usually passed out in the urine. A high blood level of urea (‘uraemia’) indicates that the kidneys may not be working properly or that you are dehydrated (have low body water content).’

In the U.S., we call this test B.U.N. or Blood Urea Nitrogen Blood Test.  So as I understand it, if your protein intake is high, more urea is produced.  But since your kidneys are already compromised by CKD, the toxins remaining in your body are not eliminated as well….”

You with me so far? If there’s suspicion of CKD, your nephrologist tests your serum creatinine (see last week’s blog) and your BUN.  Wait a minute; I haven’t explained nitrogen yet. Oh, I see; it has to be defined in conjunction with urea.

Thanks to The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/understanding-your-lab-values for clearing this up:

“Urea nitrogen is a normal waste product in your blood that comes from the breakdown of protein from the foods you eat and from your body metabolism. It is normally removed from your blood by your kidneys, but when kidney function slows down, the BUN level rises. BUN can also rise if you eat more protein, and it can fall if you eat less protein.”

So now the reason for this protein restriction I wrote about in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease should be clear.

“So, why is protein limited? One reason is that it is the source of a great deal of phosphorus. Another is that a number of nephrons were already destroyed before you were even diagnosed. Logically, those that remain compensate for those that are no longer viable. The remaining nephrons are doing more work than they were meant to. Just like a car that is pushed too hard, there will be constant deterioration if you don’t stop pushing. The idea is to stop pushing your remaining nephrons to work even harder in an attempt to slow down the advancement of your CKD.  Restricting protein is a way to reduce the nephrons’ work.”

This is starting to sound like a rabbit warren – one piece leads to another, which verves off to lead to another, and so forth and so on. All right, let’s keep going anyway.

Guess what. Urea is also tested via the urine. Nothing like confusing the issue, at least to those of us who are lay people like me. Let’s see if Healthline at http://www.healthline.com/health/urea-nitrogen-urine#overview1 can straighten this out for us.

“Your body creates ammonia when it breaks down protein from foods. Ammonia contains nitrogen, which mixes with other elements in your body, including carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen to form urea. Urea is a waste product that is excreted by the kidneys when you urinate.

The urine urea nitrogen test determines how much urea is in the urine to assess the amount of protein breakdown. The test can help determine how well the kidneys are functioning, and if your intake of protein is too high or low. Additionally, it can help diagnose whether you have a problem with protein digestion or absorption from the gut.”

Hmmm, these two don’t sound that different to me other than what is being analyzed for the result – blood (although blood serum is used, rather than whole blood) or urine.

What about BUN to Creatinine tests? How do they fit in here? After all, this is part 2 of last week’s blog about creatinine. Thank you to Medicine Net at http://www.medicinenet.com/creatinine_blood_test/article.htm for explaining. “The BUN-to-creatinine ratio generally provides more precise information about kidney function and its possible underlying cause compared with creatinine level alone.”

Dizzy yet? I think that’s enough for one day.

In other news, the price of all my Chronic Kidney Disease books has been reduced by 20%. I think more people will avail themselves of this information if they cost less… and that’s my aim: CKD awareness. If you belong to Kindle’s share program, you can take advantage of the fact that the price there was reduced to $1.99. You can also loan my books to a Kindle friend or borrow them from one for free for 14 days. Or you can ask your local librarian to order all five books, another way of reading them free. I almost forgot: as a member of Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, you also read the books for free although you do need to pay your usual monthly subscription fee.

Students: Please be aware that some unscrupulous sites have been offering to rent you my books for a term for much more than it would cost to buy them. I’ve succeeded in getting most of them to stop this practice, but more keep popping up.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Good Enough 

Yesterday, I carefully applied my eye liner, examined myself in the magnifying mirror, nodded to myself and murmured, “Good enough.” I’ve been saying that an awful lot lately and finally realized – once a valued, constant reader asked about the connection between worsening vision and Chronic Kidney Disease – that it may be due to my CKD.

This, after I’ve spent years attributing “Good enough” to the slowest developing ever case of macular degeneration,  the age related need for reading glasses, and my impatience with makeup. Of course, then I remembered that I couldn’t read a darned thing without the reading glasses and, that without ample light, even they didn’t do the trick.eye liner

Back to the drawing board, ladies and gentlemen. Here’s what DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/symptoms-and-diagnosis/eyes-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4732 has to say about CKD and vision.

Diabetes and high blood pressure aren’t only the leading causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). They’re also the leading causes of eye disease and loss of vision. If your renal disease is a result of either condition your vision may be at risk.

Some of the most common eye problems that occur in CKD patients are retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.”

Here are some quickie reminders before we continue. The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/  tells us, “Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin.”

Book CoverI turned to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney for a reminder about high blood pressure: “A possible cause of CKD, 140/90mm Hg is currently considered hypertension, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, too.”

However, the American Heart Association has changed this a bit as of Dec. 2013. “The American Heart Association maintains its recommendation of initiating treatment — starting with lifestyle changes and then medication if necessary — at 140/90 until age 80, then at 150/90.” Yet, The Journal of the American Medical Association maintains that people over 60 should not be considered hypertensive until they register 150/90.

While that’s not new information to me, I did wonder how hypertension could affect your sight. The American Academy of Ophthalmology at http://www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-eye-md-q/how-does-high-blood-pressure-affect-vision came to the rescue here.

“If the blood pressure is very high it can be called malignant hypertension and cause swelling of the macula and acute loss of vision. Otherwise hypertension can cause progressive constriction of the arterioles in the eye and other findings. Usually high blood pressure alone will not affect vision much, however hypertension is a known risk factor in the onset and/or progression of other eye disease such as glaucomadiabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration as well as blocked veins and arteries in the retina or nerve of the eye that can severely affect vision.”

My first response to this information was, “What’s an arteriole? A small artery?”  Time to find out. I turned to my old friend MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2335 for the definition.arteriole in eye

“A small branch of an artery that leads to a capillary. The oxygenated hemoglobin (oxyhemoglobin) makes the blood in arterioles (and arteries) look bright red.”

That makes sense.  Do you remember what glaucoma and/or macular degeneration are?

Back to another trusted source for one of the definitions: The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/basics/definition/con-20024042.

“Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is vital to good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye.”

I sort of, maybe, remembered writing about macular generation in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2.Digital Cover Part 2 redone - Copy Sure enough, I found it.

“An eye disease that progressively destroys the macula, the central portion of the retina, impairing central vision. Macular degeneration rarely causes total blindness because only the center of vision is affected.” (according to MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10027). Oh, MedicineNet again.  That’s a good source for easily understood medical definitions if you’re looking for one.

Let’s say you don’t have diabetes or hypertension.  Does CKD affect your vision then?  Interestingly enough, most sites I pulled up talked more about CKD being caught during an eye exam than CKD causing vision problems… except in diabetic End Stage Renal Disease.  This is when you need to have your eyes carefully checked and often.

PubMed, part of the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21784818 puts a bit of a different spin on the vision/CKD exploration. “Retinal abnormalities are common in inherited and acquired renal disease.”

journal_logoWow! This is from an older study – 2011 – conducted by the well-respected Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.  I don’t know if my CKD is inherited or acquired, but it is renal disease and I do have vision problems… and so does my valued, constant reader.

By the way, blurred vision may be an indication that you are suffering from uremia. This reminder brought to you by the Renal Network’s Kidney Patient News at http://www.kidneypatientnews.org/ckd/index.php.

Of course, I can almost hear some of you asking what uremia is.  The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 was DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAILof help here: it’s “the buildup of waste in the blood due to kidney failure.”

I really enjoy learning from the research I do to answer your questions, so thank you for another opportunity to do that. Just keep in mind that I’m not a doctor and you need to ask these questions of your nephrologist who will answer them or refer you to another specialist if need be.

Another birthday approaches – which I consider another opportunity to give you gifts.  Keep your eye on P2P’s Chronic Illness Awareness Buy and Sell’s page on Facebook and SlowItDownCKD on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in addition to this blog for Book Give- Away announcements.happy birthday

Last but not least, The  17th Annual Southwest Nephrology Conference and 4th Annual Convention of Cardio Renal Society of America will be held right here in Arizona at the We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center in Scottsdale. The dates are March 11-12. I’ll be attending part of the time. Why not meet me? Register at www.swnc.org or by calling 1 (877) 587-1357.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!