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Overtreatment: How health care makes us sick

From: Nathanael Johnson
Length: 08:58

The health-care debate is focused on quantity: how many people – and how much care they will get. But perhaps quality, rather than quantity of care, is more important. Read the full description.

Scalpel_small_small In this country we tend to think more is better. More processing power, more fries, and certainly more health care. But there's strong evidence that too much care is hurting people in America. This piece uses the interaction of a prostate-cancer surgeon and patient to tell the story of overtreatment in America. It could be cut down so that it just focuses on prostate cancer and the controversy over the prostate specific antigen test.

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Piece Description

In this country we tend to think more is better. More processing power, more fries, and certainly more health care. But there's strong evidence that too much care is hurting people in America. This piece uses the interaction of a prostate-cancer surgeon and patient to tell the story of overtreatment in America. It could be cut down so that it just focuses on prostate cancer and the controversy over the prostate specific antigen test.

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Haven't Heard this Perspective Covered Much

This is a valuable addition to any discussion about health care in America.

Broadcast History

Aired for KALW's Crosscurrents on 11/10/2009, San Francisco.

Transcript

FEATURE: Overtreatment
Nathanael Johnson

TEASE: The surgeon leaned toward surgery. The radiation oncologist basically walked thru the radiation alternative and explained why that would be better.

As the nation debates health-care reform, most of the talk has focused on who will get it – and how much they will get. There’s a basic assumption that more health-care is better. But Americans already get a lot of medicine, and don’t seem better off for it. We spend more money on treatments than any other country – and yet the US does not even rank in the top 20 of most public health measures like infant mortality or heart disease rates. Often this is blamed on Americans, for not caring enough about their health, or on insurance companies for siphoning off profits and denying care. But there’s a simpler explanation that’s often ignored because it’s so counterintuitive: What if too much healt...
Read the full transcript

Intro and Outro

INTRO:

As the nation debates health-care reform, most of the talk has focused on who will get it – and how much they will get. There’s a basic assumption that more health-care is better. But Americans already get a lot of medicine, and don’t seem better off for it. We spend more money on treatments than any other country – and yet the US does not even rank in the top 20 of most public health measures like infant mortality or heart disease rates. Often this is blamed on Americans, for not caring enough about their health, or on insurance companies for siphoning off profits and denying care. But there’s a simpler explanation that’s often ignored because it’s so counterintuitive: What if too much health care is making us sick? Nathanael Johnson has found there’s overwhelming evidence that Americans are over-treated.

OUTRO:

(update to news of the day) The House has passed a bill that does have some provisions to encourage evidence-based care and discourage treatments that don’t work. It sets up research to determine what helps and what hurts. And it could change the way that doctors are paid. Now they are paid a fee for every treatment they perform – which creates an incentive to do more procedures. The change could tie payments to the quality – rather than the quantity of treatment.

Related Website

http://theheidihypothesis.blogspot.com/2009/11/overtreatment-of-america.html