ATTN: Edmonton, Feb 3, 2016 Picard Lecture: Less Medicine, More Health: 7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care

Gilbert Welch (img used without permission,  Beacon Broadside )

Gilbert Welch (img used without permission, Beacon Broadside)

I just learned of this event in Edmonton, on Feb 3rd. Don't miss it!

Welch is a persuasive champion of 'less is more' in medicine, and his talks are inspiring, dynamic, and necessary. If you can't attend, check out his latest book, Less Medicine, More Health. RSVP details below. - J.


From The University of Alberta (original post):

"Many doctors are worried about the problems caused by too much medical care. A recent survey suggested that nearly one-half said their patients received too much medical care. But it is hard to communicate the nuances – that medical care can do a lot of good in selected settings, but can also do harm in others – during a 10-15 minute clinic visit.

Doctors like to blame lawyers for the problem of too much medical care. But ask yourself this: Would the problem of overuse disappear if the lawyers disappeared? Economists like to blame economics. But the recipe of adding fee for service to third-party payment to cook up too much medical care would not work without strong underlying beliefs about the value of the product. The general public harbors assumptions about medical care that encourage overuse.

I’m not blaming the public; many of these assumptions flow directly from information provided to them – be it from the news media, talk shows, advertising, PR campaigns, disease advocacy groups, public service announcements or doctors themselves.

Regardless of their source, these assumptions lead individuals to have an excessively optimistic view of medical care. That leads them to seek – some would say to demand, others to accept – too much care.

February 3, 2016
12:00
McLennan Ross Hall (Rm 231/237), Law Centre (111 - 89 Ave)
University of Alberta - Edmonton, AB

Please RSVP here.

Dr. Welch is a general internist and professor of Medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Research in the Geisel School of Medicine. He is also a professor of Public Policy at Dartmouth College and a professor of Business Administration at the Amos Tuck School.

For the 25 years he has been practicing medicine, Dr. Welch has been asking hard questions about his profession. His arguments are frequently counter-intuitive, even heretical, yet have regularly appeared in the country's most prestigious medical journals — Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute — as well as in op-eds in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. His most recent book is Less Medicine, More Health – 7 Assumptions that Drive Too Much Medical Care.

Dr. Welch is very much part of the “Dartmouth School” that questions the assumption that more medical care is always better. His research has focused on the assumption as it relates to diagnosis: that the best strategy to keep people healthy is early diagnosis – and the earlier the better. He has delineated the side-effects of this strategy: physicians test too often, treat too aggressively and tell too many people that they are sick. Much of his work has focused on overdiagnosis in cancer screening: in particular, screening for melanoma, thyroid, lung, breast and prostate cancer."

Giving Doctors Grades - The New York Times

Kelly Blair's illustration of health care grades

Kelly Blair's illustration of health care grades

I write a lot about well-intentioned tests and treatments for patients leading to (unintended but very real) negative consequences.

For example: high cholesterol is linked to heart attacks and heart attacks kill. We have a kind of drug that lowers cholesterol (statins). Give the drug, lower the cholesterol, lower the number of heart attacks. So, we put everyone on statin drugs, yay! 

Except, no. Physiology is not logic; lowering cholesterol with statins may NOT lower the number of heart attacks or it may not do so in most people. And statins don't actually save lives in people who don't already have heart disease. But many people (~1/10) given this statin drug will experience unpleasant side effects, like daily muscle cramps. (theNNT.com)

Good intentions, bad results. Surrogate markers are not meaningful.

 

That understood, it should not be surprising to see this thinking error applies not only to physiology but also to the health care system, a system (like the human body) that does not follow the simple rules of logic.

Well-intentioned quality or performence measures can lead to unintended and very negative consequences. This NY Times article, Giving Doctors Grades, illustrates this problem perfectly.

While trying to ensure high quality care, some metrics are set. These metrics are meant to be measured repeatedly to ensure that whatever changes are made result in better and better patient outcomes, lower costs, etc. Unfortunately, the choice of metrics can drive physicians to behave badly, in order to score higher on their report cards. To get the best outcomes, surgeons stop helping the sickest people and surgerize the healthy instead.

Bad things happen to patients that did not need things done to them.

My own provincial medical association, Doctors of BC, and many other organizations in Canada have discussed measuring physician performance. We as physicians want to be accountable to our patients, and the public wants this too. Our common goal: that dangerous, unsafe practices be weeded out and high quality care be supported and applauded.

We must proceed very very carefully when we put measurements in place lest we incentivize the wrong thing and do more harm than good.

Read more in the NY Times.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/opinion/...

You’re Getting Too Much Healthcare

This essay is considered by me to be a Key Paper, because it elegantly explores the driving forces – and consequences – of "too much healthcare."

Any time you have an intervention for a patient, no matter how small, there is also the chance that it’s going to do some harm . . .

In some cases, the roots of the excess care are noble: Doctors just want to provide the best possible care for their patients. The operating assumption for many both inside and outside the medical field tends to be that if a little care does a little good, a lot of care will do a lot of good. Given the time constraints that many physicians are under, it can seem safest to default to over-ordering. But there are several other major drivers of overutilization, as well. . .

Doctors are rarely asked if they did too much, but they are constantly questioned as to whether or not they did enough.

Read more at The Atlantic.

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/...