Doctors surveyed believed that 20.6 percent of all medical care was unnecessary, including 22 percent of prescriptions.
Most physicians in the United States believe that overtreatment is harmful, wasteful and common.
Researchers surveyed 2,106 physicians in various specialties regarding their beliefs about unnecessary medical care. On average, the doctors believed that 20.6 percent of all medical care was unnecessary, including 22 percent of prescriptions, 24.9 percent of tests and 11.1 percent of procedures. The study is in PLOS One.
Nearly 85 percent said the reason for overtreatment was fear of malpractice suits, but that fear is probably exaggerated, the authors say. Only 2 to 3 percent of patients pursue litigation, and paid claims have declined sharply in recent decades.
Nearly 60 percent of doctors said patients demand unnecessary treatment. A smaller number thought that limited access to medical records led to the problem.
More than 70 percent of doctors conceded that physicians are more likely to perform unnecessary procedures when they profit from them, while only 9.2 percent said that their own financial security was a factor.
“This study is essentially the voice of physicians about the problem,” said the senior author, Dr. Martin A. Makary, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins. “We’re told that there are too many operations done for narrowed blood vessels in the legs. Spine surgeons say that a quarter of all spine surgery may not be necessary. Half of stents placed may be unnecessary. These are significant opportunities to improve quality and lower costs.”
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