Too much medicine?

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Does more medical care lead to better health? For most of us, the answer to that question would be yes. Annual check-ups and screenings are intended to catch problems early, when they are most treatable.

Recent research, however, is showing that many medical tests and procedures are unnecessary and in some cases, can cause harm. Increasingly, more physicians are wary about the problems caused by ‘too much medicine.”

The reality, says H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., is that “all treatments have some harms, and that means some people are being harmed for something that was never going to bother them.”

Dr. Welch, a general internist, Professor of Medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, shares his experience and research on the topic of ‘too much medicine’ in the January edition of Physician Focus with the Massachusetts Medical Society. Hosting this edition is Dale Magee, M.D., a past president of the Society and Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UMass Medical School.

Dr. Welch is also the author of several best-selling books including Less Medicine, More Health: 7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care.
Using examples in the areas of heart disease, and prostate, breast, and thyroid cancer, Dr. Welch discusses how overtreatment can lead to problems.

Seeing your doctor when something is wrong is appropriate, says Dr. Welch, and the screening of populations at risk is also sensible. Patients, however, should talk with their doctors, inform themselves about the pros and cons of testing and screening, and “be a little careful about approaching the system when we feel well because there’s such a push to find things that are wrong.”

Please join us this month on Physician Focus for a thoughtful discussion about medical care – and how much of it we should - or shouldn't - have.

Photo: Dr. Dale Magee (left), Dr. H. Gilbert Welch