Wasteful practices and unnecessary health procedures cost the U.S. healthcare system about $800 billion year – more than the annual Pentagon budget and proposed reductions in Medicare spending over the next decade.
That’s the conclusion of a new report on “overutilization” of healthcare, published in the British Medical Journal.
The finding, based on studies of Medicare by a panel of health experts, has prompted prominent doctors and consumer health advocates to challenge the assumption by many American healthcare practitioners that more is better, when it comes to medical tests and procedures.
"The crucial step right now is to get the medical community mobilized around the idea that overtreatment harms patients,” said Dr Shannon Brownlee, chief author of the new report “Overtreated: How Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer."Editor’s Note: 3 Secrets to Never Get Sick Again. Get Super Immunity for Only $4.95. Click here.
Engaging clinicians at an international level will be key to making changes, Brownlee added.
The new report comes in advance of an international conference “Preventing Overdiagnosis,” to be hosted next year by The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, in partnership with the British Medical Journal, Consumer Reports magazine and Bond University, Australia.
Among the report’s findings:
• In the U.S., overly aggressive treatment is estimated to cause 30,000 deaths among Medicare recipients alone each year;
• Unnecessary interventions account for up to 30 cents of every dollar spent on healthcare ($800 billion annually); and
• Overuse of screening tests and imaging technology have led to what researchers called “an epidemic of questionable surgery.”
Many healthcare experts have been warning for decades about the dangers of overtreatment, but the economic downturn and rising medical costs are now driving unprecedented attention to the issue.
The new report said overtreatment is often fueled by doctor malpractice fears, biased research, patient demand, “financial conflicts” of guideline writers, and the use of unproved new medical technology without informing patients of potential harms.