“For most Americans, the biggest health threat is not avian flu, West Nile or mad cow disease. It’s our health-care system.” That is a bold statement made by three physicians in today’s New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/health/02essa.html?_r=1&ref=health&oref=slogin. And what do they mean? The article analyzes a change in our healthcare system from years ago when we accepted everyday healthcare concerns as “part of life” and moved on – to our current culture where every ache and pain requires a name and corresponding treatment.
The essay states:
“The epidemic of diagnoses has many causes. More diagnoses mean more money for drug manufacturers, hospitals, physicians and disease advocacy groups. Researchers, and even the disease-based organization of the National Institutes of Health, secure their stature (and financing) by promoting the detection of “their” disease. Medico-legal concerns also drive the epidemic. While failing to make a diagnosis can result in lawsuits, there are no corresponding penalties for overdiagnosis. Thus, the path of least resistance for clinicians is to diagnose liberally — even when we wonder if doing so really helps our patients.
As more of us are being told we are sick, fewer of us are being told we are well. People need to think hard about the benefits and risks of increased diagnosis: the fundamental question they face is whether or not to become a patient. And doctors need to remember the value of reassuring people that they are not sick. Perhaps someone should start monitoring a new health metric: the proportion of the population not requiring medical care. And the National Institutes of Health could propose a new goal for medical researchers: reduce the need for medical services, not increase it.”
These are bold statements – but consider the source, three physicians. I think they make a good point, and even risk angering many in their profession by claiming a need to reduce the need for medical services.