7 Themes from Preventing Overdiagnosis #PODC2014

In September I was lucky enough to attend the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference in Oxford, UK. I learned about new resources and people that I could connect with, changed some of my beliefs, and generated even more questions for myself/the health care system.

In my reflection, 7 major themes emerged:

  1. Nomenclature

    • under-use is as much an issue as over-use
      • like food, we want our medicine neither over- nor under-cooked [David Haslam]
    • how do we define the problem? what terms are being used to describe this/similar issues? [see glossary for some] can we create a common term?
    • causes of overdiagnosis are on a spectrum
      • good intentions -- wishful thinking -- vested interests [Stacy Carter]
  2. Cognitive/Labeling Biases = Problematic

    • flawed thinking: doing something better than nothing, "more is better"
      • the more resources exist, the more they are used
    • actions motivated by fear (of death, illness, uncertainty)
    • labeling bias
      • is there any other way we can see patients besides by labeling them with diagnoses? [William House, Andrew Morrice]
      • creating a "WAR ON CANCER" galvanizes people, breeds an ideology and creates fundamentalists
  3. It Is about conversations, not certainties

    • mostly grey areas, no blanket rule for everyone; evidence, guidelines, recommendations must be interpreted for each patient
    • pathology is a continuum, never/rarely yes or no
    • "correct" is not always effective

    • use existing skepticism/understanding to inform others

      • eg. people have begun to understand the harms of the overuse of antibiotics; parlay that into other areas

  4. Individuals vs. populations

    • for Patient X to not have a stroke, 76 other people have to be on statins
    • it is not possible to know at an individual level if something is overdiagnosis
    • evidence often does not apply to the person sitting in front of you
  5. Health Care delivery is flawed

    • changing the way we delivery primary care might be the heart of the solution
    • "consumer"-driven Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, Participatory (P4) medicine is scary & narcissistic [Henrik Vogt]
    • neo-paternalism may have a role
    • industry is scary
      • for-profit medicine is the biggest enemy of "Less is More Medicine"
      • this drives the medicalization of normal life, which makes us sicker!
    • the technology for genetic-based medicine is a long way off from being helpful
  6. Screening fails in ways we never imagined

    • patients equate screening with access to care [Laura Batstra]
    • "why is screening exempt from the ethical responsibilities to do no harm?" [Alexander Barratt]
    • preventative medicine has disappointing outcomes [Linn Getz]
  7. Evidence is lacking

    • it's not just a lack of quantity or quality
    • do we really need clinical trials to prove the obvious? can't we just do the right, ethical thing? [Dan Mayer]

Did you take away the same points as I did? Something completely different?

I'm already looking forward to the conference next year, in Bethesda, USA.