Fighting Overtreatment

Overtreatment in the United States has been an issue pushed to the forefront of health care debate in recent years. Overtreatment is defined as providing unnecessary health care, whether it be invasive procedures or prescribing medicine, to a patient by a doctor who more often than not is incentivized by money. A New York Times article written by Julie Creswell examines the issue of overtreatment in a small Indiana town.

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Could the concept of “Overkill” go as far as performing an open heart surgery just for the profit?

I read a news article recently about a woman in a small town in Indiana who found out about her doctor being sued for performing unnecessary operations. This woman had been going to this cardiologist for more than 30 years. When she was 27 years old, she first came to this doctor regarding an abnormality in her heartbeat, and the doctor told her that an open heart surgery would be necessary to fix this problem. She did not question the procedure at the moment. However, a number of patients of this town have recently filed lawsuits against this doctor and two other physicians that work with him. In response to these lawsuits, it was discovered that these doctors received nearly $5 million in Medicare reimbursements, making them the most reimbursed cardiologists in Indiana.

This article reminded me about what we have been talking about in class about the “Overkill” idea and how the payment method in the US promotes that doctors prescribe more medications, more treatments, and more surgeries. I find this incident very worrying because of the lack of professionalism of such doctors in treating their patients. While some people might argue that patients should be aware of this trend and be knowledgeable about their health, so they can avoid this over diagnosis, I personally believe that this is a “Band-Aid” solution to the problem. While it is true that patients should be involved in their medical appointments and their treatments, it should not be the patient’s concern to investigate whether or not the treatment they are receiving is actually necessary, or just a way for doctors to earn more money. Patients are not supposed to have the academic and clinical experience that a doctor has; after all, this is why they come to the doctor to begin with. Rather, the system should be settled in a way that doctors are not rewarded for doing this.

To what extent does the patient’s fear play into overtreatment?

In Atul Gawande’s article “Overkill,” he describes the case of Mrs. E, a woman who was found to have a microcarcinoma in her thyroid. When she came to see him, she insisted on getting her thyroid removed based on the advice of her previous surgeon, despite Gawande’s objections that it was an unnecessary procedure. Continue reading “To what extent does the patient’s fear play into overtreatment?”

Has healthcare become an industry of business, or do doctors just really, REALLY, care about their patients?

There are always two sides to every situation. On the one side, you have Dr. Atul Gawande and his article “Overkill”, in which he essentially criticizes the current healthcare situation and blames doctors for overdiagnosing and overtesting their patients. On the other side, you have doctors – doctors that are just trying to do their job. So which is it?

Indeed Dr. Atul Gawande makes incredible points, followed by his own experiences in the medical profession and the experiences of fellow colleagues. He has firsthand witnessed the detriment known as overtesting, which he says leads to overdiagnosing. Not only does he highlight the health issues that come with overtesting, but he states the obvious; it’s expensive and is costing us way too much money. “The medical system had done what it so often does: performed tests, unnecessarily, to reveal problems that aren’t quite problems to then be fixed, unnecessarily, at great expense and no little risk.”

But one could argue that doctors are just doing everything in their power to run excess test to ensure the health of their patient. People could even agree that the importance of their health far surpasses any monetary value, hence my question: Has healthcare become an industry of business, or do doctors just really, REALLY, care about their patients?

Are healthcare providers just looking to make money? Have they turned an industry based on providing and caring for people into an industry run by money? Or are these tests necessary in insuring the complete health of patients?

Preventative Care in the Health Care System

In Atul Gwande’s 2015 article “Overkill” he discusses the repercussions of over testing, over diagnosis, and over treatment. However, testing, diagnosis and treatment are taught to doctors in both medical school and residency. So why are they expected to do anything else? Public health in the form of preventative care should be more prominent in the heath care system, but in what way? Should doctors should receive extra training to avoid the need for so much testing or should public health professionals be included in the doctor patient communication?

Overtesting a by-product of technology?

After reading “Overkill” by Atul Gawande, I was upset by the fact that so many people were receiving unnecessary treatments and medicines they did not actually need. In this day and age, medicine is advancing faster than ever and technology is always improving to be more effective and efficient. At one point in the article, he states, “the phenomenon of overtesting, which is a by-product of all the new technologies we have for peering into the human body.” If this statement is true, do you think technology is actually harming humans when it comes to treatment and how should we balance this with the knowledge and resources medical professionals already had pre-technological advances?