OverTreatment is Killing Americans.
There are reasons that one third of Americans are discovering alternatives to mainstream medicine. And one of the most compelling motivations is overtreatment. This country spends far more money per person on medical care than other countries and still gets worse results. In a study of 13 countries, the U.S. spends more, but ranks last overall with poor scores on all three indicators of healthy lives — mortality amenable to medical care, infant mortality, and healthy life expectancy at age 60. Overall, France, Sweden, and Switzerland rank highest on healthy lives.
Shannon Brownlee is author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.
She points out that “stunningly little of what physicians do has ever been examined scientifically.” Shannon Brownlee ticks off a list of surgical procedures, screening tests, and medical treatments that have been widely accepted only then to be proved useless or harmful once studied: radical hysterectomy, frontal lobotomy, x ray screening for lung cancer, proton pump inhibitors for ulcers, hormone replacement therapy for menopause
“We spend between one fifth and one third of our health care dollars,” writes Ms. Brownlee, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and former writer for U.S. News & World Report, “on care that does nothing to improve our health.”
Atul Gawande is the author of, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. In Overkill, a New Yorker article, Gawande reported that a study of more than a million Medicare patients suggested that a huge proportion had received care that was simply a waste.
Gawande said, “The researchers called it “low-value care.” But, really, it was no-value care. They studied how often people received one of twenty-six tests or treatments that scientific and professional organizations have consistently determined to have no benefit or to be outright harmful. Their list included doing an EEG for an uncomplicated headache (EEGs are for diagnosing seizure disorders, not headaches), or doing a CT or MRI scan for low-back pain in patients without any signs of a neurological problem (studies consistently show that scanning such patients adds nothing except cost), or putting a coronary-artery stent in patients with stable cardiac disease (the likelihood of a heart attack or death after five years is unaffected by the stent). In just a single year, the researchers reported, twenty-five to forty-two per cent of Medicare patients received at least one of the twenty-six useless tests and treatments.
“Virtually every family in the country, the research indicates, has been subject to overtesting and overtreatment in one form or another.”