Is there such a thing as too much medicine?
Doctors are tackling that question this weekend at a conference in Palm Desert.
“We have come to believe in this country that you can’t have too much health care,” said Shannon Brownlee, author of “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.”
“It’s sort of like you can’t be too thin or too rich. You can’t have too much health care, but, in fact, you can and too much can harm you.”
Brownlee argued in front of more than a thousand physicians that Americans take too many medications, undergo too many surgeries, even receive too many cancer screenings.
She points to studies like one published in November that showed MRIs used to detect breast cancer statistically don’t translate into longer lives for parents.
More than 1,500 people attended the annual conference at the JW Marriott Hotel in Palm Desert. However, their ability to tackle important health care issues was hindered by the fact the Affordable Care Act is currently held up in the Supreme Court. Justices may make a preliminary vote as early as March 30.
Despite the delay, the president and CEO of the California Association of Physician Groups, Don Crane, says reform has already started.
“The goal is to get patients better care,” Crane said, “and frankly, there’s hope that patients will become better engaged in their care.”
Doctors hope that engagement will help patients make smart decisions about which medications and surgeries will actually prolong their life and improve the quality.
“I think (people are) starting to understand it because their elderly parents are being hospitalized and undergoing procedures that the family knows they probably don’t need,” Brownlee said.
“I think that’s a big piece of what’s going to shift the culture.”