Check out this f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c piece in the new Consumer Reports on why consumers should care about medical overtreatment:
The chronically ill are not the only ones vulnerable to overly aggressive care. Consider the case of a middle-aged IBM executive from the New York City area who experienced chest pain. He went to a cardiologist, who ordered a full workup, including a CT scan of his chest. The scan found no heart problem, but at the edge of the film the radiologist noticed “something funny” in the neck area. A neck surgeon performed a biopsy and found nothing wrong. The cardiologist then performed an angiogram to look for abnormalities in the blood vessels. Complications from that procedure landed the executive in the hospital for a brief period. By the time it was over, his bills were more than $150,000 and he still had no diagnosis. Eventually the pain disappeared on its own.
Months later, when the executive’s chest pain returned, he told his medical history to Paul Grundy, M.D., an internist and director of health-care technology and strategic initiatives at IBM’s headquarters in Armonk, N.Y. Grundy asked him what he was doing at the time. “Oh, we started gardening again,” the man told him. It turned out that overzealous use of his string trimmer had strained a chest muscle, a condition that required no treatment other than an over-the-counter pain reliever. None of the high-priced specialists (some call them the “partialists”) had considered muscle strain, a common condition often mistaken for heart pain.
Few Americans are aware of the dangers of this type of unneeded testing and overreliance on specialists. Instead, many fear that their health problems will be neglected or inadequately treated. But for people with good private health insurance or Medicare, the perils of overtreatment are real.
This is a real challenge for consumers … how to get motivated and activated about overuse of medical services in a way that doesn’t feed into folks who just want to limit care — necessary or not — to save dollars. It’s a real risk, but the issue is real, too.