Medical over-treatment, a financial abuse
By Natasha Reeves
There have been rising problems due to medical over-treatment. Over-treatment is not only an issue for people’s health, but also in regards to rising health care bills. Examples of over-treatment include unnecessary x-rays, abundant CT scans, prolonged hospitalization and futile surgeries. Prescribing too many antibiotics is another type of over-treatment. Each year, the health care system wastes a large amount of resources on “care” which does nothing to improve people’s health and quality of life.
According to a poll conducted by the New York Times Blog,“The Agenda,” more than a thousand participants responded with an affirmative to the question, “Have you received too much medicine?”
Over-treatment is one of the leading factors increasing health care costs and is a concern worthy of serious consideration, particularly with the Affordable Health Care Act becoming the law of the land. There is an attitude in the nation that “more is better,” so it seems logical that more medicine and treatment would be a good thing; however, there are a lot of patients who get stuck in an endless cycle of tests and appointments with specialist who never really cure their illness — usually because there is no illness to cure.
Resolving this issue is a matter of knowing when to stop. The medical system will always have certain policies and procedures doctors and hospitals need to follow; but these policies and procedures demand medical practitioners treat patients only to the extent that is necessary and beneficial, no more.
Some doctors are more inclined to over-treat than others; this can be perfectly illustrated by a story in the New York Times about Diane Power of Breckenridge, Co. who had Wegener’s disease. Her original doctor insisted on office visits every three weeks, even when she was feeling well. Power went through multiple blood tests and X-rays, even after receiving perfectly healthy results on past tests. She had been hospitalized for a minor cold and in one six-month period, had accumulated 25 doctor visits. Power was spending about $30,000 a year out of pocket for the health care. Several years later, she finally looked for another specialist. With the new specialist, the regular testing stopped and Power only had to see her new doctor four times a year. During all the years she was with the prior specialist, she went through unnecessary physical suffering and was nearly ruined financially due to the medical cost.
Hopefully this increase in over-treatment will enable doctors and policymakers to start treating patients as individuals and learn when to go forward with treatment and when to stop.