Disease, Diagnoses and Dollars

by John McDonald

A new book by Robert M. Kaplan, Wasserman Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Public Health at UCLA, examines the overuse of healthcare. The book carefully analyzes scientific studies and shows why patients have been mislead about the benefits of cancer screening and of medical treatment to prevent heart disease. Challenging the value of common cancer screening tests and treatments for blood pressure and cholesterol, Kaplan provides guidance on how to read and interpret the medical literature so that patients can make better-informed choices for themselves and for their families.

Kaplan’s book also raises important public policy questions. The book argues that the overuse of medical care by health providers and patients is driving up costs and placing patients at unnecessary risk without any real health benefit. The driving force is not better health, but more profit. In such a system, preventative care has become focused on the selling of expensive drugs and procedures to healthy people. Instead, Kaplan contends, preventive care needs to be focused on the prevention of disease.

Kaplan’s new book makes clear that overuse of healthcare has serious implications for both our health and our economy. The United States currently spends sixteen percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare, but there is little evidence of better health outcomes than in other countries that spend far less. Meanwhile, overuse is exposing patients to needless testing, driving up the cost of healthcare benefits and insurance premiums for employers and individuals, increasing the number of Americans who are uninsured, and reducing the competitiveness of American companies. The ultimate result of greater expenditure may be a reduction in population health.

Mr. Kaplan discusses the finding of his new book at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YykQCjHkeSA.


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