Dispatch: Less is More

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Americans may be receiving too much medical care, and it could be making them sicker, The Associated Press reported in a lengthy article yesterday. Author Lauran Neergaard cites the over-prescription of antibiotics for viruses, needless evaluation and treatment of back pain, fetal monitoring and PSA tests in men over 75 as among the most unnecessary and avoidable treatments performed.

ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross says the article had “no hard data,” and further adds, “Lots of people are making assessments as to why the US spends so much money on health care and gets results that are not commensurate with the amount of money spent compared to other countries.

“There are a few reasons why physicians and health care professionals commonly employ these diagnostic assessments: Most importantly of course, to help people, but also to make money and to practice defensive medicine. Unfortunately, sometimes the need to create a nice looking chart to present in court when sued for medical malpractice has extremely little to do with improving patient outcomes.”

“What are we going to do about it?” asks ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “Tort reform — which would reduce the risk of frivolous litigation against physicians — would be a step in the right direction.”

One way to help would be removing malpractice from the tort system, says Dr. Ross. “Instead of making it adversarial, move it to an independent evaluation and provide compensation to people injured by the medical system similar to workman’s compensation. Unfortunately, in the new health care paradigm, tort reform was not given proper consideration.”

Dr. Ross says he’s received unsolicited mail offering needless medical x-rays and body scans. “These needless tests often yield findings of no clinical significance, but lead to further wasteful and possibly dangerous tests. Bottom line: Don’t have a test unless it’s indicated, and never through a come-on in the mail.”