Are You Being Over-Cared for by Your Doctor?
Many in the medical profession would like to have you believe that the more treatment you receive, the less likely you are to have continual problems. Beyond the fact that this isn’t accurate, the reverse can frequently be a reality: More treatments often come with a significant medical risk. So, how are you overtreated, why does it happen, what can happen because of it, and how can you avoid it?
Ways Americans are Overtreated
One way that Americans are frequently overtreated is through unnecessary tests or scans. There is a tendency to get CT scans, MRIs, or other large, thorough, and costly machine-based evaluations. As many as one in three of these tests is completely unnecessary. Americans also often leap into surgery without trying medications or physical therapy that would be less expensive and comes with equal or greater chances of effectiveness. Additionally, in many situations, patients will be prescribed medications that have little to no chance of helping the illness, such as with antibiotics for viruses like the common cold.
Why Do Doctors Overtreat Patients?
The medical world, like almost any other part of modern U.S. culture, is run through a set of financial incentives. Doctors who have their own private practice and their own equipment stand to gain the most through conducting these unneeded scans. Almost any doctor will get a financial reward for referring patients to a group for tests of this nature.
The Risks of Being Over-Cared For
One of the most important things to mention here is the increased cost for all patients. In addition to costing you more money than you need to spend, this overtreatment increases the total insurance cost for the country. Due to the fact that insurance companies often cover a portion of many unneeded tests, the average insurance rate is consistently inflating.
The financial risk is only a small portion of the potential problem, however. The fact that patients get unneeded scans can put their health at risk, especially with tests like CT scans that use radiation. Although it is rarely the sole cause of cancer, getting excessive scans of this nature can make you more vulnerable to cancerous cells. Surgery, which Americans gravitate toward rather quickly, comes with its own set of risks, and unneeded surgeries often have to be repeated within a decade. Also of note, the overuse of antibiotics breeds strands of super-bacteria that are immune to treatment.
The first thing you can do to protect yourself as a patient is educate yourself. Rather than trusting a doctor’s diagnosis or recommendation, ask for information on what the recommended test is supposed to discover, how it works, how much it costs, and other alternatives that may be available. Thoroughly review online information and medical journals when you can.
It’s also important to build a healthy doctor-patient relationship with a care provider whom you trust. This begins with looking at doctor reviews when finding a physician and extends through every doctor’s visit that you have.