THESIS: Preventing Overdiagnosis, the Quaternary Prevention

Maria Llargués Pou, a soon-to-be Family Physician in Barcelona, recently shared with me her Bachelor's Thesis. 

Her work - "Primum non nocere" Preventing Overdiagnosis, the Quaternary Prevention provides a concise introduction to the efforts around the world to prevent overuse of tests, treatments, and disease-labels, as well as the reasons we must address this growing issue.

 

Medicine’s much hailed ability to help the sick is fast being challenged by its propensity to harm the healthy 

Llargués Pou has beautifully laid out an evolution of ideas, from Ivan Illich's idea of Iatrogenesis, to Jamoulle's attempts to thwart iatrogenic harm with a public health model of Quaternary Prevention, and now, contemporary efforts to tackle overdiagnosis, like the Choosing Wisely Campaign and Preventing Overdiagnosis conference. Her paper serves as a great "backgrounder" for those who wish to learn more about the broad themes and history of this movement.


You can view the full text HERE.

Overdiagnosis across medical disciplines: a scoping review | BMJ Open

Curious about which areas of medicine have more problems with overdiagnosis than others? Wondering in which fields the problem has been studied extensively? A group from the Netherlands has looked into this extensively in their paper: Overdiagnosis across medical disciplines: a scoping review for BMJ Open.

One of the biggest challenges in exploring this area is that the problem of 'too much medicine' goes by many different terms, these vary from place to place, and even where the same term is used there is disagreement about definitions. 

Jenniskens, a PhD student at Utrecht University, et al looked at almost 5000 studies and included 1581 for review. Unsurprisingly, the majority of papers pertained to the field of oncology, perhaps because wide-spread screening programs and attempts for early diagnosis are much more common for cancer than for chronic disease and other conditions. Though they did not publish the information, they also took a moment to determine from where in the world the papers were being written.

For years, I have been fascinated with the geographically diverse response to the problem of overdiagnosis and the idea that overdiagnosis can happen in resource-rich and -poor countries alike. I worked with Alan Cassels to facilitate a group discussion at the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference in Barcelona in 2016. We identified movements that attempt to combat overuse of tests, treatments, and procedures around the world (presentation slides are available here) and discussed what factors in each region might be playing a role.

Seeing that presentation and recognizing my interest, Mr Jenniskens has since kindly provided me with a breakdown of the country of origin of the authors for the papers analyzed in his group's review. While most of the papers were tied to the United States, first authors from 65 different countries were among the 1581 papers.

 Grey - no authors; Light Green - few authors; Orange - many authors.

Grey - no authors; Light Green - few authors; Orange - many authors.

Please click through to interactive map to view the % proportion of authors of the 1581 assessed papers, originating from each country. From Albania to Zimbabwe, it is clear that overdiagnosis is a global concern, and is being researched everywhere.

Read more about the papers considered in the scoping review.

Source: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/12/e01844...

PODCAST: Preventing Overdiagnosis 2017 - from theory to practice by BMJ talk medicine

My first Podcast!

Dr Navjoyt Ladher of BMJ talk medicine kindly invited a few colleagues and me to participate in an informal discussion at the Preventing Overdiagnosis 2017 conference in Quebec, Canada.

As working clinicians, we explored moments in our careers that got us interested in tackling overdiagnosis, scratched our heads thinking a little bit about why we (and not all of our colleagues) are taking this on, and reflected on take away messages from the conference.

Have a listen, and go to the original site if you wish to join the discussion.

Source: https://soundcloud.com/bmjpodcasts/prevent...

JUST RELEASED: #RightCare Series in The Lancet

The Lown Institute has just announced the release of the Right Care Series, a collection of articles on overuse and underuse of medical care around the world, published in The Lancet:

"The full series of papers is available free to read online, along with our authors' commentary, a commentary by Don Berwick, and an editorial by Richard Horton & Sabine Kleinert of The Lancet. [The hops is that] you'll share the papers with your colleagues and others you think might be interested. You can also participate in the ongoing conversation about the papers on social media, by following us on Twitter and using the hashtag #rightcare. . .

The series is also a great opportunity to start a conversation about right care with friends and family. [They] have created a short explainer in non-technical language that lays out the key points from the article, including why it's crucial for patients and community advocates to take a leading role in decisions about how countries allocate their health resources."

(taken from a release by Vikas Saini, President, Lown Institute)

There are two other medical journals featuring similar collections: 

I also collect articles from diverse sources here:

 

 

Source: http://www.thelancet.com/series/right-care

Wake up and smell the #overdiagnosis

Alan Cassels is not a shy kind of guy. He tells it like it is and is not one to stay quiet even if what he says may be unpopular. 

And usually it is pretty unpopular. 

However, it is necessary. From calling out the BC government's inaction on Choosing Wisely to fighting the overmedication of Canadian seniors and digging into the Sex, drugs, and rockin' beat of tramadol and tramacet's marketing machine, he is not afraid to talk about the elephants in the room, when it seems no one else is willing.

 

Cassels is a policy analyst, author, and champion debunker when it comes to pharmaceutical policy and the medicalization of Canadians.

In his most recent article for Focus Magazine, Cassels highlighted the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference, the harms of prostate cancer screening, and my perspective on the issues. 

I've had the chance to work with Cassels on a few small projects but to be called a 'resistor' by him feels like quite a pretty high honour! Check it out in Focus.

CONFERENCE: Hellish Decisions in Healthcare Jan 2017

Hellish Decisions in Healthcare is designed as a space for healthcare leaders, professionals and researchers within the international healthcare community to shape healthcare policy and systems to deliver Triple Value.

  • Personalised value, the delivery of services informed by what matters to the individual

  • Technical value, determined by how well resources are used within services for each purpose

  • Allocative value, determined by how the assets are allocated to services for different purposes.

The decisions and strategies needed to deliver Triple Value will not always be immediately apparent and nor will they be easy to make; the Value in Healthcare Forum is a safe place where these strategies can be developed and where strategic discussions can be had with the key thought and implementation leaders in healthcare.

Read more on the website and do Register by Oct 15 for the Early-Bird Discount.  The event will be in Oxford, Jan 12 to 13th, 2017.


For more events related to "Less is More," "Choosing Wisely," "Preventing Overdiagnosis," "Shared Decision-Making," etc, go here.

 

Source: https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/events/hellish-de...

A New Kind of Rounds: Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly CME

Thanks to my local Division of Family Practice and the Practice Support Program (PSP), we were able to put together "A New Kind of Rounds" event all about helping patients find the right amount of medicine. 

Our first event, focussed on Type 2 Diabetes in the Elderly, and specifically the harms of treating this too aggressively. Inspired by the Lown Institute's RightCare Rounds and the DoNoHarm Project, we started with patient cases in which the patient's perspective highlighted the burden of treatment and the potential harms of too much medicine.

After small-group case learning, I presented a didactic session reviewing the unique factors that change our approach to management in the elderly, the best available evidence on diagnosis and treatment targets, the current guidelines, and some resources that clinicians and patients can refer to in order to make shared decisions about the "right amount" of care.

The event was well-attended and it was heartwarming to see the level of engagement on this topic from clinicians in our community; we are reviewing the evaluations to consider some changes to the format. Participants also generated an amazing of possible topics for future events, from hypertension to cancer-screening, and anti-psychotic use in the elderly to the annual physical. 

The slides are available here.

Your feedback is most welcome. You can comment below or e-mail. 

My other lectures can be viewed here.

Source: http://prezi.com/ln78vzbqpu4-/?utm_campaig...

Books! Books! Books! Read all about overdiagnosis, high value care and more

Of late, I have been flooded with announcements and suggestions regarding wonderful books on the topics of overscreening, the factors that drive overdiagnosis, our inability to accept death as a normal part of life, and other important currents that feed into the "Too much medicine" problem or the "Less is More" approach to solving this.

See the Books section of this website to get a taste of what is out there.

​Choosing diagnostic tests wisely: Doing the little things well

* RESEARCH FIRST LOOK *

There was such a wonderful response to the Choosing Surgery Wisely paper from Dr Roland Grad and medical students Nicholas Meti and Mathieu Rousseau, that they have submitted another!

 Dr Grad's poster at PODC2015

Dr Grad's poster at PODC2015

You may remember Dr Grad, a family physician and researcher at McGill University, from his poster on harnessing InfoPOEMS to find potential topics for the Choosing Wisely Campaign, which he also presented at the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference this year (PODC2015). [click to view the more recent poster in PDF format]

Again, Rousseau and Meti worked with Dr Grad to extend this work and look at InfoPOEMs that dealt with three topics in diagnostic testing: stable TSH measurements, screening mammography, and mid-stream urine collection. Guided by clinical questions pertaining to these topics and the best available evidence, they make a clear case that we need to choose very wisely when considering 'routine' testing. There are some apt qualitative insights provided by physicians reflecting on the practice-changing POEMs (Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters) included in this research, which will undoubtedly help it to resonate with readers.

Please feel free to leave questions or comments below or contact the authors directly. If you would like to submit a guest-post for consideration, email lessismoremedicine@gmail.com.


Choosing diagnostic tests wisely: Doing the little things well

Rousseau, M., Meti, N., Grad, R. Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
 

Introduction
 

As clinicians, do we challenge the appropriateness of our diagnostic test ordering? To achieve shared decision-making in health care, it is up to clinicians to communicate both the harms (as well as the benefits) of diagnostic testing. Within the concept of shared-decision making, there are three core practices: 1) Identifying that a decision must be made; 2) Communicating the potential benefits and harms of options to patients; and 3) Incorporating what is important to patients within the decision. The latter may require us to consider other questions: What would be the impact of this test on the patient’s quality of life? What about the interval between follow-up tests? What is the impact on the economy when diagnostic tests and follow-ups are considered at scale? When clinicians think about ordering a test (or not), we suspect their decision is based on “routines” and “experience”. The point of this post is not to argue against the “art of medicine”, but to raise awareness of new research that can inform decisions about diagnostic testing.

In this post, we highlight the findings of three recent diagnostic test studies. Study findings were disseminated to Canadian physicians as ‘POEMs’. For those unfamiliar with this acronym, POEMs are tailored synopses of primary research or systematic reviews, selected in a process that involves searching over 100 journals. [1] Since 2005, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) delivers one POEM to their members by email on weekdays. As described in a prior guest post (Choosing Surgery Wisely), we identified the following POEMs by analyzing the ratings of all daily POEMs (n=255) collected from physician members of the CMA in 2014.
 

CLINICAL QUESTION: “How much do seemingly stable thyroid tests vary over time? / POEM Title: Stable TSH can be rechecked in 2 years”

In a cohort study, the authors asked how frequently do patients with treated hypothyroidism need to have their TSH measured. [2] From a sample size of over 700 persons treated with levothyroxine, they were able to identify a subgroup that would benefit from less frequent TSH monitoring based on their dose of levothyroxine. They report that patients receiving less than 125 micrograms per day could have their TSH rechecked in two years instead of annually. Importantly, this study highlights that once TSH has normalized, the frequency of subsequent monitoring can be stratified based on dosing.

Monitoring frequency is a relevant issue in the clinic setting. In the absence of evidence, many clinicians assume default rates for all manner of diagnostic test and treatment plans. We read the free-text comments submitted by CMA physicians about this POEM. Some of these physicians expressed surprise at the association between dose and frequency of monitoring. Others reported the following: had they known about this approach, they would have spread out the visits for their healthier patients. This would save time and provide costs savings for the healthcare system. Although not addressed by this study, one physician even raised the question of whether we need to be checking TSH levels at all in an asymptomatic patient.

 

CLINICAL QUESTION: “What are the trade-offs of benefits and harms for women considering a mammogram to screen for breast cancer? / POEM Title: Numbers to help women understand the benefits/ harms of screening mammography”

Welch et al. believe primary care physicians should have more balanced discussions with their patients about the benefits and harms of screening mammography. [3] Their premise is that the majority of discussions focus on the possibility of avoiding death from breast cancer, and do not include a discussion of false alarms nor overdiagnosis. The authors used currently available data from trials of screening mammography to give a range of estimates for harms and benefits with the hope that this information would help decisions about screening. Their results are summarized in this table. Note that the numbers are per-one-thousand women, screened yearly for 10 years:

Figure 1: Estimates of harms and benefits of screening mammography

We received mixed feedback from physicians who read this POEM. Some physicians were grateful to have empiric data to help them in their discussions with patients. One wrote it is “helpful to have the actual numbers presented in such a way that I can share info with the patient when discussing mammograms and screening - always easier when there are numbers that we can look at”, and these numbers “make discussion around breast cancer more objective”. However, others wrote that even though “it is much easier to communicate this information to a patient by simply selecting the age group she falls into, and presenting the numbers for that group [...], I have not yet had a patient who didn't just simply choose the mammogram”. It seems that numbers do not tell the entire story… “because this is an emotional issue, most women we counsel opt for the regular screening”.

The importance of this topic to primary care is high, because as one CMA member wrote “the harms of false positives are seen first-hand in primary care”.
 

CLINICAL QUESTION: “How accurately does a midstream urine culture predict the results of a catheterized urine culture? POEM Title: Interpretation of midstream urine cultures in healthy young women with suspected UTI”

What about the practice of empirically treating suspected urinary tract infection in otherwise healthy women without relying on culture? In a diagnostic test evaluation study, midstream urine cultures with any evidence of E. coli or K. pneumoniae strongly suggested a true infection, while the presence of enterococci or group B streptococci had little predictive value. [4]

Feedback from physicians who read this POEM showed appreciation for the findings and included comments such as this one: “As a walk-in clinic doctor, urinary symptoms are a very common reason for visits. I routinely treat women on spec for these UTI's and don't send their urine for culture unless it is a complicated UTI, the patient has significant comorbidities, or the patient has recently been on antibiotics.”

The practice of empirically treating suspected urinary tract infection in otherwise healthy women without relying on culture was recommended in a recent review by Grigoryan et al. [5] Her group reviewed the optimal approach for treating acute cystitis in young healthy women and analyzed studies totalling 259 397 patients. This showed that “immediate antimicrobial therapy is recommended rather than delayed treatment or symptom management with ibuprofen alone”.

This choosing-wisely-approach to a common infection was perfectly summarized in this comment submitted by another physician: “great info [in this POEM]. Sometimes we just do too much testing”.
 

Conclusion
 

As we reflect on all this, we see that even if one test “can’t hurt”, at scale the impact can be large for publicly funded health care systems. This point has been made by others. For example, Kale et al showed how “routine” diagnostics tests cost large sums of money. [6] Primary health care faces a big challenge in reconsidering how diagnostic testing is used, to ensure better value for all.
 

References
 

1. Grad RM, Pluye P, Tang DL, Shulha M, Slawson DC, Shaughnessy AF. 'POEMs’ suggest potential clinical topics for the Choosing Wisely Campaign. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 2015;28:184-189. http://www.jabfm.org/content/28/2/184

2. Pecina J, Garrison GM, Bernard ME. Levothyroxine dosage is associated with stability of thyroid-stimulating hormone values. Am J Med 2014;127(3):240-245 http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(13)01021-8/abstract

3. Welch HG, Passow HJ. Quantifying the benefits and harms of screening mammography. JAMA Intern Med 2014; Dec 30 http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1792915

4. Hooton TM, Roberts PL, Cox ME, Stapleton AE. Voided midstream urine culture and acute cystitis in premenopausal women. N Engl J Med 2013;369(20):1883-1891 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1302186

5. Grigoryan L, Trautner BW, Gupta K. Diagnosis and Management of Urinary Tract Infections in the Outpatient Setting. JAMA. 2014;312(16):1677-1684. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1917443

6. Kale MS, Bishop TF, Federman AD, Keyhani S. "Top 5" lists top $5 billion. Arch Intern Med 2011;171(20):1856-1858