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How Much Taxpayer Money Is Spent On Unnecessary Procedures?

“Doctors, with the consent of their patients, should be free to provide whatever care they agree is appropriate. But when the procedure arising from that judgment, however well intentioned, is not supported by evidence, the nation’s taxpayers should have no obligation to pay for it.”

So argues Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of California, in a provocative op-ed published in the New York Times. She writes that Medicare “spends a fortune each year on procedures that have no proven benefit and should not be covered” and offers the following examples:

“Medicare pays for routine screening colonoscopies in patients over 75 even though the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts financed by the Department of Health and Human Services, advises against them (and against any colonoscopies for patients over 85), because it takes at least eight years to realize any benefits from the procedure.”

“The task force recommends against screening for prostate cancer in men 75 and older, and screening for cervical cancer in women 65 and older who have had a previous normal Pap smear, but Medicare spent more than Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Cardiac Stents Alone Don’t Work

I have a friend who had a blocked cardiac artery. A couple of years ago he had angioplasty on it, and his doctor inserted stents. The stents got rid of his chest pain and other symptoms, but didn’t do anything to get at the underlying cause of the blockage, which had to do with an unhappy combination of genetics and a –- perfectly admirable –- taste for rich, fatty foods. Like steak. (More on that in a moment.)

Before having the procedure, his doctors spent a lot of time with him explaining what the surgery would and wouldn’t do. In particular, the doctors explained that the stents would do their job, but he had to do his. He needed to eat better, exercise more, and take his medications. He’s followed most of that advice, and is doing well.

Unfortunately, his experience is not typical. A recently published study found that more than 80 percent of patients who had gotten angioplasty and stents thought they were alone a cure for their problems.

These patients are wrong. So how can it be that they are coming to this strange conclusion? According to some, it’s the doctors’ fault. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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