Overuse: More Care Does Not Mean Better Care

On March 18, Universal Health Care Foundation and our parent organization CHART hosted a Reform to Transform forum, Healing Health Care:  Curing the System of Overuse, Underuse and Misusefeaturing Shannon Brownlee as the key note speaker.

Universal Health Care Foundation seeks to empower patients and consumers to demand a health care system that keeps their needs and their health at the center. The Reform to Transform series aims to get a conversation going in Connecticut about how we achieve a health care system that truly delivers universal access to quality and affordable health care and improved health.

We know we could be getting much better outcomes and much more health for our health care dollars. But if people in Connecticut are going to work together to transform health care, we are going to need a common understanding of the problems our system currently faces. To that end, we wanted to share some of the important issues raised at the Healing Health Care event. This blog, the first in a series about the forum, highlights what Shannon Brownlee had to say about the problem of overuse and how it leads to tremendous waste and harm.

To illustrate the problem of overtreatment, Brownlee discussed a recent investigative report in Bloomberg News that questioned the appropriateness of the huge number of cardiac catheterization procedures performed at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

As Brownlee pointed out in the clip, “The sad fact is if it brings in revenue, it will almost certainly be overused.”

Brownlee then went on to talk about the “medical industrial complex”. “At $2.7 trillion, U.S. health care is one of the single biggest industries on the planet. Just as surely as there is a military industrial complex, we have a medical industrial complex.” This enormous enterprise is in need of revenue. The system is set up to reward the volume of procedures, whether they are needed or not. As a result, patients too often receive expensive medical and surgical procedures performed by skilled, high priced specialists using lucrative medical technology, regardless of whether the care is necessary to improve their health or quality of life. Or, as Brownlee put it quite bluntly, “This is an industry that is so hugely profitable, it is almost impossible to avoid doing the wrong thing if it makes money.”

As Brownlee summarized the problem of overuse to the forum audience, “…we must stop imagining that when we pay for more care, we will get better care. And I know most of the people in this room know that that’s not the case, but much of America still thinks more is better, and higher price is better.”

In our next blog post, we’ll highlight what Brownlee had to say about misuse.

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6 Responses to Overuse: More Care Does Not Mean Better Care

  1. Pingback: First, Do No Harm | Universal Health Care Foundation of CT

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