Vulnerable public

November 6, 2006

Vulnerable public

There’s a lot of excitement (and plenty of skepticism) in the medical world about the emergence of tools to detect so-called vulnerable plaque. Sudden death is one of the more common first symptoms of heart disease, so clearly there is some value in early detection.

On the other hand there is some truth in the adage “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” and especially in medicine the corollaries “trying to know can hurt you” and “acting on what you think you know can hurt you.” What am I talking about? I’m talking about injuries caused by follow-up tests and treatments and the stress caused by false positives and awareness of conditions one can do little to ameliorate.

Investors are excited about the large revenue potential represented by new diagnostic techniques and their accompanying treatments, but the downside is that there will be more, expensive testing and treatments as a result. Someone will have to pay.

For all its disadvantages sudden death is cheap to treat.

2 thoughts on “Vulnerable public”

  1. I fight with the ‘what you think you know’ phenomenon all the time. Most docs embrace it, if unconsciously, because doing so feeds the franchise.

    best,

    Flea

    p.s., does “sudden death have an ICD-9 code, and if so, can I bill for it?

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