January Physician Focus: Too much medicine?

 

The conventional wisdom in medicine says that more care leads to better health, as annual physicals and regular screenings may lead to the early detection of diseases.  Research shows, however, that many medical tests and procedures are unnecessary and in some cases, can cause harm.

Dr. Dale Magee (l), Dr. H. Gilbert Welch

Dr. Dale Magee (l), Dr. H. Gilbert Welch

The January edition of Physician Focus examines the subject of ‘too much medicine’ with Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a general internist, Professor of Medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and author of Less Medicine, More Health: 7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care.  Hosting this edition is MMS Past President Dale Magee, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UMass Medical School.

Dr. Welch acknowledges that the screening of at-risk populations makes sense and that it’s a good thing to see a physician when something is wrong, but cautions that, amid a push for more testing in medicine today, “all treatments have some harms” and that the downside of early detection can be “a recipe for turning well people into patients unnecessarily.”  He urges patients to be cautious, to talk to their physicians, and to inform themselves about the pros and cons of testing and screening.

Physician Focus is distributed to public access television stations throughout Massachusetts, reaching residents in more than 275 cities and towns. It is also available online at www.physicianfocus.org, www.massmed.org/physicianfocus, and on YouTube.

Editor’s Note: In November, Dr. Welch delivered the 41st Annual Garland Lecture, “Less Medicine, More Health,” at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.  Video of his lecture is available at the above link.

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