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Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer Paperback – September 2, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
If you are in the American healthcare system, this is the single most important book you will ever read. If you are in a healthcare system that is moving towards "privatization" or "free market reform", this may be the most important book you will ever read. If you are a behavioral scientist interested in the role of behavioral factors in medical populations, this is the most important book you will ever read.
A science journalist with a real science background (an M.S. in Biology) and now a Fellow at the New America Foundation, Brownlee has brought together many strands of research to provide us with a picture of the core dilemma in the american health care system - why do we spend so much more than other industrialized countries while not producing better outcomes? At 16% of Gross Domestic Product (and climbing), the American healthcare system is 60-100% more expensive than any other industrialized country and yet we do not live as long as citizens there. Where all these countries cover 100% of their citizens, the American system leaves about 15% of its population (about 47 million people) uncovered at any one time (and even more if you include loss of coverage for extended periods, but not a whole year). Fifty percent of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical bills. Americans avoid switching jobs for fear of losing coverage for pre-existing conditions. The U.S. manages to achieve these colossal failures while still expending 62% of all costs through the government (if civilian government employee's coverage is included as part of the government supported costs).Read more ›
"[This book] is an exploration of three simple questions:
(1) What drives unnecessary health care?
(2) Why should we worry about it?
(3) And once we understand how pervasive it is in American medicine, how can we use that knowledge to create a better system?"
The above is found in this stunning, eye-opening book authored by medicine, health care, and biotechnology and award-winning journalist Shannon Brownlee.
Note that even though this book concentrates on the American healthcare system, what it says can be applied to the Canadian and European systems as well.
People familiar with the problems in healthcare will be familiar with some of the contents of this book. What they won't be familiar with is the true-life patient and whistle-blower stories (many of them ending up tragically) that Brownlee discusses to drive home the points she makes.
Almost every page has something interesting on it. I will provide a sample sentence from each chapter of this gripping book (these are just the tip of the iceberg):
(1) "As research would show over the coming decades, stunningly little of what physicians do has ever been examined scientifically, and when many treatments and procedures have been put to the test, they have turned out to cause more harm than good."
(2) "Every patient admitted to a hospital risks being hurt or even killed by the very people who wish to help her."
(3) "After blowing the whistle on the hospital and its specialists, he would lose practically everything he valued, his medical practice, his family, and his home."
(4) "The supply of medical resources, rather than the underlying needs of patients, is determining how much medical care they get.Read more ›
Brownlee has done her research very well and presents a well balanced (until the last chapter but more on that later) account of why our current system leads to overtreating. She discusses the three main reasons as being 1) fear of malpractice law suits by physicians (ie: doctor orders head CT scan for a patient with a headache even though chances of brain tumor is very small). The second reason is consumer demand (ie: patients demanding unnecessary tests) and finally financial incentives and culture in medicine (From early on medical students are taught to gain as much information as possible hence leading to unnecessary tests and procedures). All 3 reasons are valid. Perhaps Brownlee underestimates the importance of the first two reasons.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Eye opening and riveting. I understand more about our health care system and how it has been exploited then ever. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kjersti
Great overview on the many problems we face in medicine, and what we can do about it.Published 10 months ago by Anna Arakelian
A fine expose of medical industry rip-offs. Many good doctors out there but many are driven by greed and made mad and unethical by itPublished 16 months ago by a realist