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When TLC becomes TMC: too much care

If you have recently gone to a New Mexico emergency room or your primary care provider, you may have felt comforted by the level of care you received. Your doctor may have ordered a battery of tests to address your complaints, and perhaps you left with a prescription in hand or an appointment to see a specialist, or to have an exploratory procedure.

This kind of comprehensive care may have given you the feeling that the doctor was really listening to your concerns. However, a recent survey shows that even doctors feel they may be endangering your health and life by providing more care than you need.

Is that really necessary?

While many doctors who admit to over-caring for patients say they do it because they fear medical malpractice lawsuits, the irony is that such overtreatment is often the cause of preventable patient injury. As much as 30 percent of all medical care is unnecessary. The survey reveals some eye-opening statistics about medical overtreatment, including:

  • Twenty-nine percent of tests doctors order are excessive.
  • Doctors frequently perform inappropriate diagnostic procedures.
  • Needless surgeries occur 11 percent of the time.
  • Twenty-two percent of all prescription medications are unnecessary.

In addition to the doctors who perform these acts to avoid accusations of malpractice, about half of the doctors believe the practice exists because doctors give in to patients who pressure them to do procedures or to prescribe medications the doctors know they don't need. More outrageous may be the nearly 20 percent of doctors who overtreat their patients because they profit from it.

Overtreatment puts your life at risk

Anytime a doctor performs an invasive procedure, places you under anesthesia or prescribes a medication, there is a chance that your body will react in a negative way. There is also the possibility your doctor will make a medical mistake that causes you harm or even ends your life. This is why numerous medical societies urge doctors to limit their care to only those practices that are necessary.

Although receiving an incorrect or delayed diagnosis is certainly a fear you may have, concerns about the prevalence of overtreatment are rising among the medical community as well as the government. Doctors themselves feel that better training and clearer guidelines for offering medical care may reduce or eliminate overtreatment, perhaps lowering the possibility that you will suffer harm at the hands of an over-zealous or profit-seeking doctor.

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