I’m sad to report that HMSA is sending out inaccurate and inappropriate letters to our patients.  Without our knowledge or consent, HMSA has sent letters to our patients stating they need to find new PCPs because we “no longer participate with your health center.”

That sounds scary.  

However, it is a ridiculously complex way of saying that we at Hawaii Family Health have joined a more progressive Independent Physician Association and you need to change your card to reflect this.  We have been informing our patients as they come in as it is easy to do.  Somehow, HMSA has made it more complicated and they’ve even confused their own representatives to the point where they are telling our patients we no longer participate with HMSA.
This is not true.  Please contact HMSA and change your “health center” (nobody knew what that meant) from East Hawaii IPA to Hawaii IPA.  
See, simple.  
I personally apologize to all of you for this confusion. 
We have asked HMSA to correct their confusing letter to advise patients that they do not need to change their PCP, but only the “health center” or IPA.  HMSA refuses to send out a new letter or retrain their employees to help them explain the situation more clearly to patients. 
We at Hawaii Family Health understand this is especially stressful right now, given our physician shortage on the Big Island and our current volcanic eruption.  You, our patients, do not need additional stressors.  We will do everything we can to help you ease through this transition and during this difficult time.

Protecting your Hearing

According to the CDC, hearing loss is one of the most prominent debilitating health conditions in the U.S., with almost two times as many reportings as diabetes or cancer. While hearing loss has traditionally been a concern in older individuals, this issue has begun to cross all age groups. This is due to the increasing rates of hearing loss observed in young adults.

So how is sound measured? Sound is measured in decibels (dB) indicative of sound intensity or loudness. To give you a standard of comparison, an individual with normal hearing can typically hear sounds ranging from 0-140 dB. While normal conversation usually meets a level of 50-65 dB, sounds above 85 dB can be detrimental, depending on the length and intensity of sound exposure.

What causes hearing loss? [Read more…]

We’re Moving!

Hawaii Family Health has been working hard, not just at making sure you receive the best healthcare in Hilo, but making sure all of Hilo has access to the highest quality health care around.  We been working for years to build our integrated healthcare team, currently including medicine, psychology, psychiatry, nutrition, nursing, care management and education of the next generation of healthcare providers.  And, as we have done so, we have outgrown our small office.  With the help of Koa Architects and Sun Construction, we have a new building on the way. [Read more…]

Broken Heart Syndrome

What do an octopus and your heart have in common? Well, sometimes they both can get stressed out. Dahhaha; ok not such a great punchline – but it is an interesting thing to think about. With the holidays coming up, I think most everyone is aware that it’s a tricky time to make healthy choices with all the sweets, and treats surrounding us. But all the festivities can also bring additional stress– with all the last minute shopping, countless potlucks you have to bring food for, and family tensions running high as everyone flies home. It’s a time of sharing happiness and love, but also it’s pretty darn hectic – and while we’re watching out for our waistlines, we need to also remember to look out for our heart in other ways too. So let’s learn a little bit more about this interesting phenomenon that can affect one of our most vital organs.   [Read more…]

Local Health Insurer Shutting Down

First – Hawaii Family Health is intact and staying here!

Family Health Hawaii (yes, they stole our name!) has been ordered to liquidate – that is a fancy way of saying they are shutting down. Family Health Hawaii is a health insurance plan, not our office. 


This website has some frequently asked questions:


But the most important is: can I still see my doctor? This is complicated.  You can still see your doctor, as you are still technically insured.  However, your doctor may not get paid.  Bummer. 

It looks like they Liquidator (I didn’t even know that job title existed) will be holding all of the medical claims and then reviewing them after they are all received. Only then will they be able to determine if Family Health Hawaii will be able to afford to pay the claims and at what rate, meaning it might only be a portion of the previously agreed upon rate. 

So, your doctor may usually get $60 when you go for a visit (1-3 months later), but now your doctor won’t even know for 6-12 months (or longer) if he will get paid at all and he may get anywhere from $0-$60 for that visit. The doctor cannot charge you for this difference, but it is kind of a problem for the doctor who already put in the work and was counting on that money to pay his staff, rent and other bills. 


 What can you do?

Please make sure you are working with your employer to get new health insurance. It’s important to stay insured. 

If you have a routine appointment scheduled prior to May 6,2016 or before you get a new health insurance plan, please push it back so you have more stable insurance.

Please be understanding to the doctors who are asking you to change your appointment until after you change insurance plans. We are people too – we are in this profession because we care but this is also our employment and we too have grocery bills!

If you have an urgent issue, please contact our office. We are still your health care home and will help you!

Thank you, Hilo Heart Walkers!

Another year of the Hilo Heart and Stroke Walk was a success!  Thank you to all of the walkers and the organizers and supporters for making the Big Island a healthier place. 

Hawaii Family Health put in a good showing – with a majority of our staff and families participating in the day. 

Getting a running start.

Getting a running start.

Looking bright and fresh at the beginning!

Looking bright and fresh at the beginning!


The day was beautiful, if you don’t count the vog, which we rarely do here.

Liliuokalani Park is really pretty if there isn't some big guy and cute doggy blocking your view.

Liliuokalani Park is really pretty if there isn’t some big guy and cute doggy blocking your view.


Even the dogs put in a good showing for HFH!

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.


Most of the staff finished the walk.  We’ll find out who is missing when they don’t show up for work this week.  We’ll send out the search party and have them back by Friday. 

Finally, the end is in sight.

Finally, the end is in sight.


Thank you for all of the donations to the help the American Heart Association!

Now, rest up.  The next project is Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society on Saturday July 16, 2016.  Keep your walking shoes ready!

Join us for the Hilo Heart Walk!

We will be participating as an office in the Hilo Heart & Stroke Walk  – this Saturday, March 5 at Liliuokalani Park.  Come by for the walk between 6:30 – 11:00 AM to support healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke!

Or swing by our office anytime to provide a donation to the American Heart Association.

Here is Hawaii Family Health wearing our red dresses on National Wear Red Day (February 5) in support of women’s heart health.  Don’t we look healthy and gorgeous!

Red office

Take care of your hearts, Everyone.  You aren’t given a spare!

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the blood vessels in the eye due to chronic elevations in blood sugar, or diabetes.  The retina is responsible for detecting light and visual cues and sending them via your optic nerve into your brain to tell you what you just saw. 

Uncontrolled sugar levels leads to damage to the small blood vessels in the eye, allowing them to leak.  Over time, this leaking leads to swelling in the eye.  The end effect is a lack of blood flow and nutrients to the retina, resulting in loss of vision.  The body attempts to repair this damage by building new blood vessels, which are even more fragile and likely to leak.  All of this bleeding and blood vessel growth causes scar tissue to form, and as scars tend to do, they contract away from the surrounding tissue.  This pulling away can actually pull the retina off, leading to permanent visual loss. 

Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy.  Later symptoms may include visual floaters, increased visual difficulty, dark spots or difficulty with night vision.

This is why it is vital that people with diabetes get annual eye exams by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.  Since there are usually no symptoms, it is important to get a visual of your retina and its blood vessels to ensure there are no abnormal blood vessels. 

The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to control your blood sugar.  Long term sugar control is measured via hemoglobin A1C, which can tell you how your sugar has been over the last 3 months.  An A1C of less than 8.0 can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by more than 75%.  Don’t be discouraged if your A1C is not at that goal yet – studies show that for every 1 point reduction in A1C, there is a 35% reduction in retinopathy development.  So, small improvements can help while you are working toward your diabetic control goals. 

There are some treatment options for diabetic retinopathy, depending on the severity of the disease. 

An ophthalmologist may inject a medication directly into the eye.  One type of medication is to block a protein that stimulates blood vessel growth and leakage, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).   Another is a steroid, which is used to reduce inflammation and can be an injection or implant. 

There are two different types of laser eye treatments used for treatment: focal laser surgery and panretinal photocoagulation.  Focal laser surgery uses a spot laser to concentrate in an area that is already leaking fluid into the macula, the central area of the retina.  Panretinal photocoagulation utilizes multiple laser spots to diminish current blood vessels and prevent new blood vessels from forming, thus preventing leaking in the future.

If there is severe bleeding, a vitrectomy may be needed.  This is removal of the gel in the center of the eye.  It is replaced with a salt solution.  Or a terminator eye, if you have a billion dollars to spare. 

We are fortunate to have these treatments available, but they usually don’t return vision after it’s been compromised by diabetes.  Our best hope is to slow the progression of further retinopathy once it has started.  If you do have diabetes, make sure you follow up with your ophthalmologist or optometrist for regular exam.  And, even more importantly, make sure you follow up with your health care provider to ensure you have optimal sugar control!