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.

Plans for Less is More

After the Preventing Overdiagnosis Conference, I took almost a month off, which we spent tootling around Iceland in a LandRover and enjoying the food and culture of Brussels, Brugge, and Paris.

Back home now, I am also back into the swing of things. It is full speed ahead! In brief:

  • Today, Dr James McCormack (@medmyths) and I will be presenting to the UBC Medicine students in their Doctor, Patient, and Society (DPAS) 420 class on Less is More in Medicine
     
  • I'll be doing various talks on this subject for the Family Medicine Forum (Nov 15, Quebec), Vancouver General Hospital Family Practice Rounds (Dec 9, Vancouver), the UBC CPD Post Graduate Review in Family Medicine (Feb 25, Vancouver), and the Rural and Remote Medicine conference (Apr 10, Montreal)
     
  • To the website, I've added a Media section, which will list any news articles or talks related to the site, and a Declaration section, detailing no conflicts of interest. Many other updates are needed!
     
  • I have tones of notes from the Preventing Overdiagnosis Conference and will try to summarize some of the themes in a following blog post, and update portions of the website accordingly (like the People section - lots of great names to add)

There's so much being written on this subject right now, it is hard to keep up. As busy as it makes me, it is a good problem to have.