Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Another Open Door Crashed Through

CBS News, largely to its credit I suppose, has invested in a major act of investigative journalism to tell us what we already know: "Medical Overtreatment May Be Making Us Sicker." They cover the main points I've been ranting about here since I learned how to make an anchor tag:

Too much use of imaging that involves ionizing radiation".

Doctors prescribe antibiotics tens of millions of times for viruses such as colds that the drugs can't help.

As major health groups warn of the limitations of prostate cancer screening, even in middle age, one-third of men over 75 get routine PSA tests despite guidelines that say most are too old to benefit. Millions of women at low risk of cervical cancer get more frequent Pap smears than recommended; millions more have been screened even after losing the cervix to a hysterectomy.

Back pain stands out as the No. 1 overtreated condition, from repeated MRI scans that can't pinpoint the trouble to spine surgery on people who could have gotten better without it. About one in five who gets that first back operation will wind up having another in the next decade.

Okay, more people watch and read CBS News than read Stayin' Alive, so I guess it's helpful that they are pretending to have made a major discovery that nobody knew about before. Actually, of course, every serious student of health care policy is well aware of these facts and that's why we want to have comparative effectiveness research and cost effectiveness analysis, but you know what happens when any politician dares to say so aloud: Sarah Palin and her Army of Idiots start screaming about death panels and euthanasia. It's just incredible to me that the political discourse in this country is so enslaved to ignorance, and that the more we try to push the facts on people the harder they resist.

Drill Baby Drill is of course in the same category: we can suck our outer continental shelves dry and gasoline will cost 2 cents a gallon less in 2030. Maybe. If we're lucky. Or, if we blow out another well, it might cost more. Whatever. That's the truth, but to the Army of Idiots offshore drilling is the path to energy independence. Who cares about the truth when you've got a good sound bite?

Update: Just Came across this new article in Health Affairs: "Few consumers understood terms such as "medical evidence" or "quality guidelines." Most believed that more care meant higher-quality, better care. The gaps in knowledge and misconceptions point to serious challenges in engaging consumers in evidence-based decision making." 'Nuff said.

1 comment:

kathy a. said...

maybe this can count in the better late than never category?

my parents didn't have health insurance, and when one of the 4 of us had an infection in the 1960's, my pediatrician [wishing to save us money] prescribed a pint of antibiotic "yellow medicine," for my mother to dole out as needed. docs are better at dosage, and finally understanding that there is in fact a downside to prescribing antibiotics when they aren't needed.

it was pretty well known 30 years ago that back surgery could cause even greater problems, no? back pain is so common and [no pun] such a pain that i wish there were greater efforts toward relieving it without the big fat interventions.