Robert B. Clark, Committee on Publication for Florida, reviews a book in this post.
Shannon Brownlee’s book, Overtreated: Why too much medicine is making us sicker and poorer, is like reading a fast paced thriller; you can’t wait to find out what new myths Brownlee will expose and more importantly… what solutions she will propose.
Referenced in an earlier blog, Overtreated exposes mini-myths that perpetuate the mega-myth that our health care system is working. Here are just a few of the myths Brownlee, Acting Director of the New America Health Policy Program, details:
Myth # 1: There’s too little health care to go around. Not really. Between $500 and $700 billion is spent annually on care that does nothing to improve our health. A third of the medicine we receive is unnecessary.
Myth #2: Hospitals are safe havens for those in need. Not always. In 1999 the Institute of Medicine estimated that as many as 98,000 Americans were killed by medical error. Another 90,000 to 400,000 were harmed or killed by the incorrect use of a drug. An intervening decade has not improved this startling number.
Myth #3: Modern medicine is an unbroken string of discoveries, each of which has improved medical care. Actually, as Brownlee points out we’ve only been “nibbling around the edges of fixing the system”. Although some wonderful advances have been made, there has been astonishingly little overall progress given the resources expended.
Brownlee also asks three simple questions: 1) What drives unnecessary care? 2) Why should we worry about it? 3) How can we create a better system? She answers the first two questions deftly with well researched facts and convincing anecdotes.
But isn’t it that third question…“How can we create a better system?” that matters most?
Brownlee’s answers? She has a good variety. They include: better coordination and communication, decentralization, and the institution of a P4P (pay for performance) system that rewards success.
The most intriguing solution was in a section toward the end of the book called, “Learning what patients want”. According to Brownlee, Washington state is providing leadership here by the passage of a recent bill that recognizes the legal status of informed patient choice.
Spiritual care offers effective and inexpensive alternatives. These typically look beyond the body and focus on non-material sources of health, such as prayer or meditation, which engender healthier states of mind, which in turn affect the body in positive ways. Physical healing is often the result. These alternatives, many of which are available without any sort of doctrinal or credal commitment, can be offered to patients who are willing to embrace or at least explore them.
Are we, as a nation, ready for spiritual alternatives to mainstream medicine?
Link to Bob Clark’s blog