Tuesday, February 5, 2019

600 old medical tests, treatments still used

Physicians have big trouble unlearning outmoded practices, New York Times writer claims

The public is paying more because it's hard for physicians to unlearn what they were taught long ago.

That — along with the notion that "procedures live on even after they've been proved ineffective," which "can lead to harms and wasted resources" — is the contention of a recent story in The New York Times by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, a pediatrician.

The article leans on a review in JAMA Pediatrics magazine of "medical literature related to overuse in pediatric care" — finding "that we still recommend that children consume commercial rehydration drinks [that] cost more, when their drink of choice would do," that we "give antidepressants to children too often," that "we induce deliveries too early, instead of waiting for labor to kick in naturally," and that "we get X-rays of ankles looking for injuries we almost never find."

Overuse, the article maintains succinctly, "is rampant. And it can harm patients."

The Times specifically cites an initiative of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, "Choosing Wisely," which it says is "entirely focused on the identification of care that physicians routinely recommend but shouldn't."

Almost 600 tests, procedures or treatments collected over six years, it claims, "are currently listed on their website. Almost all the recommendations basically say 'don't do' them."

But the public "shares some culpability," Carroll's story says: "Americans often seem to prefer more care than less."

Professional organizations are also to blame, the piece contends, because they "seem better at telling physicians about new practices than about abandoning old ones."
David Niven
Carroll asks David Niven, lead author of an earlier study, why it's so tough for docs to "discontinue certain practices. The researcher says "physicians have a hard time unlearning what they have learned, even when there's newer and better science available [in part] because they work within a system that doesn't adapt well to changing evidence."

More details on medical community attitudes toward treatments and tests can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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