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60-Second Health

Docs Think We Get Too Much Doctoring

Many U.S. physicians think that their patients and their patient's purses could get by with less medical care. Katherine Harmon reports

When was the last time you left the doctor's office without a prescription, test or referral? It's probably been a while. And many argue that this increase in care—more drugs, procedures and tests—is a big reason the U.S. spends about twice as much on healthcare as other industrialized countries.

Despite all the extra treatment, the U.S. ranks only 36th in life expectancy, just below Cuba.

Even doctors say we could do a little less doctoring. Forty-two percent of primary care physicians think their own patients are getting too much healthcare. That’s according to a survey analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. [Brenda E. Sirovich, Steven Woloshin and Lisa M. Schwartz, "Too little? Too much? Primary care physicians' views on U.S. health care"]

So why do docs keep giving these extra tests, meds and referrals? To avoid malpractice suits, according to the report. More than three quarters of physicians fessed up to practicing more aggressively because they worried about being sued. This fear is so pervasive that it has its own name: "defensive medicine." But to keep patients healthier and costs down, maybe it's time to send this kind of practice to the morgue.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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