People are worried about aggressive care

A new poll shows that at least half of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that they will be over-treated when they are sick. Many say they have foregone recommended tests, treatments and prescriptions that they thought were unneeded. Does this indicate that Americans are overtreated overall? Not necessarily.

Some treatments and tests that patients feel are unneeded may actually be important, but doctors don’t always explain them well or provide enough reinforcement. Sometimes doctors don’t bother to tell patients about all the treatment options, in some cases mistakenly assuming a patient won’t be interested or won’t be a good candidate. Although there are often financial incentives for over-treatment, these are often at least partially offset by incentives to restrain utilization.

I’d be interested to see the results of a similar poll in Canada, where in my experience undertreatment is the norm.

See here for details.

September 26, 2005

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