The book, Overtreated, by Shannon Brownlee, should be required reading for first year medical students, who have not yet acquired views and habits that promulgate excessive medical care and treatment. For those of us already in practice, this book should be a required element of board recertification. The theme of the book appears as a subtitle on the cover.
Why Too Much Medicine is Making us Sicker and Poorer
Brownlee understands the medical system well and describes a culture of excess, conflicts of interests, absence of universal quality control mechanisms and fractured and disorganized care with no one in charge of a particular patient. She presents some chilling anecdotes of medical tragedies that have occurred at our most prestigious medical institutions. And she introduces us to reform leaders who understand the system’s inherent deficiencies and their proposals to remedy them.
Brownlee states that explanations for waste in the health care system include:
- Cost of a gargantuan bureaucracy
- Medical malpractice fear and defensive medicine
- Incentives for patients with medical insurance to overutilize care
- Rising medical costs
The book was published in 2007, before the divisive national debate on Obamacare took place. But, the book is not dated and the issues are highly relevant. The book reminded me of Atul Gawande’s remarkable and influential essay published in New Yorker Magazine in 2009. Gawande’s piece impressed one reader so powerfully, that he required his entire presidential cabinet to read the article.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but I intend to. I award Brownlee’s book with the coveted Whistleblower Seal of Excellence. Even a perusal of the first few chapters would be worthwhile.
I hope that you will consider reading it and recommending it to others. Why not leave a copy in your medical office waiting room or on your coffee table at home? You might consult it before you sign up for the total body scan being advertised in your newspaper.
My deep concern is that Overtreated will be Underread.