The strain of overtreatment

MEDIGO, a global digital health company headquartered in Berlin, Germany, recently surveyed 1,500 Americans to ask if they had been overtreated by their doctor and had this confirmed by another physician, and almost 10 per cent answered that they had.

The company said that the cost and resources crisis in healthcare is magnified by the overtreatment and overdiagnosis of patients, resulting in wasted resources and patient harm.

“When an industry is delivering between 15 to 30 per cent of all its services unnecessarily, it’s extremely inefficient, very costly, and – in the case of the healthcare sector – it's harmful to people,” commented Dr Marty Makary, surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and MEDIGO advisor. “We are throwing a lot of money into healthcare without getting better outcomes out of it. This is a frustrating issue for patients and businesses that have to pay for healthcare.”

Dr Makary also said that, in some instances, people are being harmed not from the illnesses that lead them to seek care, but from the care they receive. “This is what we call iatrogenic harm, and it can be tragic,” he stated. “In some specialties in medicine, overtreatment has become endemic.”

According to Dr Makary, patients can be part of the solution by asking doctors the right questions about their treatment and making informed decisions, which includes getting a medical second opinion. Dr Makary also said that when patients are more educated about their healthcare, they become highly powerful consumers that can participate in shared decision-making with their doctor about their treatment options.