WTF Fun Fact 13142 – Use of Telemedicine in the U.S.

Telemedicine use skyrocketed during the pandemic, and now it seems poised to become a regular part of the healthcare landscape. A CDC report from October 2022 revealed just how much Americans relied on telemedicine in the previous year.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the use of electronic means (telephones, text messages, voice and video chats, etc.) to deliver healthcare to patients remotely. While it may occasionally involve in-office testing, most of the doctor-patient relationship takes place over a device like a phone or a computer.

During the COVID-19 pandemic State of Emergency, the U.S. expanded legislation to allow more providers to deliver a broader range of care options via telemedicine. Healthcare providers had been relatively limited in what they could do for patients without seeing them in person before this.

A CDC report using 2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data to assess the use of telemedicine provided interesting insight into just how many Americans over age 18 took advantage of what it had to offer in the second year of the pandemic.

The rise of telemedicine use

In 2021, 37% of American adults reported using telemedicine in the previous 12 months.

The report also found that the older people were, the more likely they were to use it. On some level, that makes sense since older people are more vulnerable to severe cases of COVID. However, it hasn’t often been the case that technology use increases with age in the past.

Women were also more likely to use telemedicine. 42% of women said they used it in 2021, compared to 31.7% of men. (However, women are more likely to see doctors than men.)

Other statistics

Adults in the U.S. West were the most likely to use telemedicine, and those in the Midwest were the least likely.

Telemedicine use increased with patients’ urbanization level – those living in large metropolitan areas were more likely to use it. This is interesting because the technology was initially used to reach those who lived far from hospitals and clinics. However, during the pandemic, people in urban areas may have been more reluctant to head to hospitals and seek care due to crowded public transportation and waiting rooms.

Those with a GED or higher education level were also more likely to get on the phone or computer to “visit” their doctor. As education levels go up, so does the use of this technology.

And while those with a below-average or average income are equally likely to engage with healthcare providers electronically, its use increases among those with higher incomes.

It appears that if telemedicine is going to be part of the future of medicine, it will be important to ensure a broader range of people have access to it and knowledge about its benefits.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Telemedicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2021” —

WTF Fun Fact 12750 – The Corpus of Galen of Pergamon

Galen of Pergamon was a Greek physician working in the Roman Empire in the second century AD. It’s believed he wrote hundreds of treatises. He was a well-known figure in his own time who treated politicians (including Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius) and gladiators alike.

Galen of Pergamon’s treatises

Galen wrote so many medical treatises during his lifetime that had to distill them later on into at least three treatises. He titled these: “On My Own Books,” “On the Order of My Own Books,” and “On My Own Opinions” (the latter only survives in fragments).

He wrote about anatomy and physiology, ethics, pharmacy, medical instruments, hygiene, and even the philosophy of medicine. Much of his work was based on the Hippocratic Corpus. However, he took issue with many of the ideas in those ancient Greek works.

By writing the organizing treatises, Galen meant to set out a curriculum for aspiring doctors. This would allow them to understand the order in which to read his books and what larger philosophical points to take away from each.

Galen outside of medicine

Galen was so prolific that he even wrote on subjects that typically lie outside medicine, such as linguistics. But many of those works are lost and we only know about them via references in other treatises.

Galen is also considered an ancient philosopher and engaged with matter of logic and the texts of Aristotle, Plato, and the Stoics.

Despite all of his medical experimentation and the scientific nature of his writing, he also claimed to have knowledge of medicine thanks to the ancient Greek healing god Asclepius. He also believed that the human body was such a perfect and divine machine that it was certainly created by a greater being. However, he does not engage directly with other metaphysical questions about what else that god might believe or dictate about the world.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Galen” — Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

WTF Fun Fact 12682 – France’s Water Cures

Want a prescription to spend 3 weeks at a spa as part of your free healthcare? Become a French citizen! (Ok, that’s no easy task for most of us.)

The New Yorker just published an article that made us long for a doctor’s visit that ended in a “spa cure.” They say:

Let’s say that you suffer from arthritis, arthritis, bronchitis, bursitis, colitis, diverticulitis, endometriosis, laryngitis, osteoporosis, rhinitis, sinusitis, tendonitis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Raynaud’s disease, multiple sclerosis, angina, asthma, sciatica, kidney stones, sore throat, dizziness, spasms, migraines, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, back pain, earaches, vaginal dryness, menstrual cramps, itching, bloating, swelling, constipation, gout, obesity, gum disease, dry mouth, psoriasis, acne, eczema, frostbite, hives, rosacea, scarring, stretch marks, or varicose veins, or that you are depressed, trying to quit smoking, or simply dealing with a lot of stress. You also, crucially, live in France. You go see the doctor. She writes you a prescription for a thermal cure, indicating to which of the country’s hundred and thirteen accredited thermal spas you will be sent. Then you fill out a simple form and submit it, along with the prescription, to the national healthcare service. Your application is approved—it almost always is—and you’re off to take the waters.

Ok, first of all, we have a hard enough time getting our medical care approved by our insurance company, we’d love to see their response to a thermal spa receipt for a sore throat. (Seriously, we mean that – we want it on camera.)

Yes, yes, the tax money. Of course. This is not an economic fun fact, because none of that discussion is fun. This is about notions of health and well-being – and you can call them kooky or brilliant, but it’s hard to deny that it’s also fascinating that these treatments – which date all the way back to the ancient world – are still practiced (and paid for) as part of mainstream(ish) medicine. Frankly, it dovetails nicely with much of what we know about the effects of stress and poor mental health on our physical health.

And wait, there’s more:

“The French government introduced “social thermalism” for the masses in 1947, proclaiming that “every man, whatever his social condition, has a right to a thermal cure if the state of his health demands it.” The full cure, consisting of treatments that use mineral water, mud, and steam from naturally occurring hot springs, lasts twenty-one days—six days of treatments with Sundays off, over three consecutive weeks. In 2019, around six hundred thousand French people undertook cures, targeting specific pathologies and subsidized by the state at sixty-five percent. Around three million more visited thermal spas as paying customers.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Seeking a Cure in France’s Waters” — The New Yorker

WTF Fun Fact 12636 – A Medical Device That’ll Make You Squirm

Sure, it sounds gross. It is gross. But so is a lot of the creative stuff doctors do to keep us alive.

As it turns out, the resurgence of therapies that use maggots and leeches has saved thousands of lives. Doctors can use them because they are FDA-approved as medical devices, despite being living creatures.

Now, no one heads to the local community garden or dumpster to get medicinal leeches and maggots. They are created in labs within very specific parameters.

So, let’s start with maggots. How can they possibly be medicinal?

The maggots used in medicine are the larvae of bottle-green blowflies. Because maggots only eat dead skin and not living skin, they’re actually perfect for cleaning infected wounds. Instead of having some first-year resident scrubbing out your open wound, maggots are even more gentle by comparison. In fact, since they’re eating dead tissue that’s already numb, you don’t feel the chomping at all. And they do a darn thorough job!

Leeches, on the other hand, are known as blood drinkers. Both of these creatures have been used in medicine for thousands of years, but are just making a comeback. However, leeches weren’t always applied in helpful ways in the past. Now, they’re used to clean up pooled blood in the body.

According to Discover Magazine: “When blood starts pooling instead of circulating, the area swells, and the lack of fresh, oxygenated blood causes skin tissues to die. Leeches can prevent that from happening.”

In the 1980s, as more wounds became resistant to antibiotics, a few doctors wanted to try maggots again and got some men at the VA hospital to agree. After the trials worked, the doctor in charge realized that in order to share the maggots with colleagues, he had to file paperwork with the FDA, and they turned out to be hard to regulate. But it was possible and in 2003, the FDA approved maggots as a medical device. Six months later, leeches were approved as well.

Obviously, not all hospitals are keen to use them (and patients aren’t generally big fans of the idea either). – WTF fun facts

Source: “Leeches and Maggots Are FDA-Approved and Still Used in Modern Medicine” — Discover Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12550 – Magical Gladiator Blood

It’s not hard to find references to the drinking of gladiator blood in ancient sources. However, it was most often used to treat what ancient medical writers called “The Sacred Disease,” which we now believe is epilepsy. Some thought it was brought on by the gods, while others argued for a more natural cause.

Of course, there’s no truth to the claim, but epilepsy held an important place in ancient medicine because it stumped doctors for centuries. It could come on suddenly, making it even more mysterious.

And when diseases are misunderstood, their potential cures are likely to get pretty interesting.

In their 2003 article, “Between horror and hope: gladiator’s blood as a cure for epileptics in ancient medicine,” scholars Ferdinand Peter Moog and Axel Karenberg state that not only was gladiator blood a potential cure for this disease but a gladiator’s liver would be consumed as well. AND that the tradition may have continued in some places up into recent times!

“Between the first and the sixth century a single theological and several medical authors reported on the consumption of gladiator’s blood or liver to cure epileptics…
…the magical use of gladiators’ blood continued for centuries. After the prohibition of gladiatorial combat in about 400 AD, an executed individual (particularly had he been beheaded) became the “legitimate” successor to the gladiator.
Occasional indications in early modern textbooks on medicine as well as reports in the popular literature of the 19th and early 20th century document the existence of this ancient magical practice until modern times. Spontaneous recovery of some forms of epilepsy may be responsible for the illusion of therapeutic effectiveness and for the confirming statements by physicians who have commented on this cure.”

As the authors state, the condition we now know as epilepsy got better on its own in some people. But if they had the “gladiator treatment” and did get better, it simply strengthened doctors’ resolve to keep using it.

But why gladiator blood? According to Dr. Lydia Kang, MD, author of the book, Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything:

“They stemmed from this magical idea that young, healthy males had energy. If you could harness that energy right at the point of death, you could ingest some of this healthfulness. In other words: you are what you eat.” –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Gladiator Blood and Liquid Gold: Good for What Ails You?” — MedPage Today

WTF Fun Fact 12455 – Meditation Relieves Pain

Pain is a sensitive topic (no pun intended). It’s subjective, for starters, so some people genuinely feel pain more (and pain affects them more) than others. When you’re in pain, it’s hard to conceive of something like meditation as a potential remedy. And to be fair, if you’ve never done it before, trying it for the first time minutes after you break your leg isn’t going to help.

Meditation has also become controversial since some people associate it with religion. But it doesn’t have to be Buddhist – most meditation is completely secular or customized to include elements of the practitioner’s own faith.

And here’s why it matters: we have an epidemic of painkiller use going on worldwide that has killed millions. Pharmaceutical companies are getting the blame, but that doesn’t do much good to people already experiencing addiction to opiates, for example. And recommending meditation to those people won’t replace receiving professional help at this point.

However, knowing that meditation can be a powerful tool can help set up those of us who have yet to experience serious acute or chronic pain for more success in managing it in the future. That doesn’t mean painkillers will become a thing of the past, but having a set of tools designed to draw on your own inner strength couldn’t hurt, right? (Again, no pun intended.)

So, as we pointed out in the photo, research from Wake Forest University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that meditation decreased the intensity of a subject’s pain by 40%. Pain also affects us in other ways that tend to make it worse by setting off a stress chain reaction in our bodies. Those overall feelings of unpleasantness were reduced by 57% in the group of meditators. Scans of their brains confirmed this, so researchers didn’t just take their word for it.

Even morphine didn’t have that kind of success in pain reduction.

But there are a few things worth keeping in mind:
– These were experienced meditators who had been trained to do it correctly (the technique used was called “focused attention”)
– While every subject experienced some pain reduction, it varied, with some only reporting an 11% reduction
– They did not later give these same people morphine; the researchers relied on known data about the pain reduction morphine provides
– While the study has been replicated, it was small, so more research needs to be done before we assume everyone can meditate their way through the pain

Despite these caveats, it’s pretty amazing to think about the power we have over our own bodies. –  WTF fun facts

Source: “Meditation instead of morphine — not so fast” — LA Times

WTF Fun Fact – Mr. Miyagi Childhood

WTF Fun Fact - Mr Miyagi Childhood

Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi in the 1984 classic Karate Kid, was 2 years old when he contracted spinal tuberculosis and was confined to a bed in a sanitarium for 9 years. When experimental medicine finally cured him, he was sent to live in an internment camp in Arizona with his family. WTF Fun Facts