Monday, November 17, 2014

Over treatment issues again

Electronic medical records do all kinds of helpful things. I remember going from doctor appointment to doctor appointment, lugging a six inch thick file. Now the doctors and nurses carry laptops or tablets and can look up information quicker to see when I last had a blood test or MRI.

Now the data is being mined to find out if Americans are getting their cholesterol blood tests, mammograms, and colonoscopies and all sorts of other helpful tests. But also to see if people are getting their tests too frequently.

And it turns out that some Americans are getting too many colonoscopies. Really? I mean who wants to have a camera 'there' too often? I am personally in the five year club for them. My husband was in the two year club but now is also in the five year club. But the average healthy person needs them every ten years, no more often.

If you are over fifty and never have had a colonoscopy, can I tell you two stories about people I know personally who waited too long? One is now stage IV colon cancer.

There are concerns with too frequent testing unless there is a compelling reason - higher costs and higher risks. Colonoscopies do come with risks as do any invasive peek inside you. And even if you do not pay out of pocket for a colonoscopies, there are costs incurred.

Medical over-treatment is a real problem. Antibiotics are given to treat viruses. This leads to antibiotic resistant germs. Choosing Wisely is an established project to help patients question tests or procedures that might actually be over treatment. Yes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But too many ounces of prevention can quickly add up to the pound.

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