Year-End Take: A Hopeful Trend in U.S. Health Care?

Less Is Sometimes More
A hopeful trend that’s gained some serious momentum this year—and may be connected to both the recession and some provisions of the Affordable Care Act—is that we’re beginning to question whether we really need quite so many tests and drugs. By ‘we’ I mean researchers, some journalists, some nurses and physicians, and of course patients. The answers aren’t always clear, and there’s plenty of room for disagreement on many such issues, but at least we’re asking the right questions more often, rather than retreating in fear and simply hurling around the word “rationing”:

Who really benefits from prostate and breast cancer screening and who is more likely to be harmed, and why? When are you too young or too old to be likely to benefit from a certain type of screening? When does aggressive care at the end of life cease to make sense? Are we confusing a risk factor with a disease, an association with causation, relative risk with absolute risk?

Does that drug you see relentlessly marketed in advertisements during breaks in the network news actually help you? Which physicians are being paid as consultants in support of various drugs, tests, or treatments, and does this compromise their objectivity? And so on. The latest example of this kind of analysis I’ve stumbled across can be found here: “Disease Creep: How We’re Fooled Into Using More Medicine Than We Need.”

The Many Faces of Nursing
So, that’s […]