AirTalk for January 27, 2011

Is overdiagnosis the biggest problem posed by modern medicine?

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo sits with Juan Gonzalez as he conducts a checkup on him at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

Doctors joke that healthy people, are simply folks who haven't gone through enough medical testing. Patients who visit doctors often, get poked, prodded, x-rayed, tested and re-tested. What starts out as a mild burning sensation from drinking apple cider, leads to a diagnosis of acid reflux disease. Cold hands on the ski slope? Reynaud’s Disease. In his new book, “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health Medicine," Dr. Gilbert Welch argues that what we’re really suffering from is an epidemic of over diagnosis. Welch, a health policy expert, examines the possibility that American doctors now label too many of us as sick, and as a result, are over-treating patients who never go on to develop symptoms or die from the diagnosed conditions. Going against the conventional wisdom that more screening equals the best preventive medicine, Welch builds a compelling case that we need less – not more – scans and tests. Are doctors being overly alarmist? Or do we really need all those mammograms? What are the ramifications of a health care system that unnecessarily diagnoses and treats patients?

Guest:

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, author of Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health (Beacon Press)


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