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Overdiagnosing by doctors a growing problem in the U.S.

One often hears stories in the news about medical malpractice lawsuits in Providence that stem from a doctor’s delay or failure to diagnose a condition in a patient that led to further complications in that patient’s health. While patient rights advocates have tried to serve as watchdogs over health care providers in search of cases of missed or delayed diagnoses, little attention is often paid to what some are now pointing to as a growing trend within the medical industry: overdiagnosis.

Researchers who’ve looked into this trend have noticed an increased tendency by doctors to classify mundane conditions in their patients as diseases or, in some cases, pre-disease states. This often leads to the prescribing of medications or orders for diagnostic procedures that may be deemed by some as unnecessary and potentially dangerous. What many patients fail to understand is that medical procedures and medications have the same capacity to harm as they do to heal. All procedures come with the risk of complications, and medications may have unwanted side effects. These facts have led some to question if doctors may actually be doing their patient’s harm by either looking for or creating problems that aren’t there, or simply being overly cautious.

Yet many believe that in order to stem the tide of overdiagnosing, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the American health care system. As it currently stands, physicians are reimbursed to perform procedures, not to educate patients on preventing disease. A shift towards a more result-based reimbursement model as opposed to procedural-based may be what’s ultimately required to stop doctors from being so overly cautious in their patient’s care.

It’s difficult to question a doctor’s judgment. Yet those who feel as though an unnecessary medical procedure or medication has had a harmful effect on them may be entitled to compensation from the provider. In such a case, one may wish to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to see what his or her options are.

Source: New Hampshire Public Radio “Could A Diagnosis Make You Sicker? Dartmouth Examines Overdiagnosis” Liz Faiella, Sep. 26, 2013

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