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Senior Healthcare - Can There Be Too Much?

Feb 28, 2018 by Comfort Keepers Denver

In the current state of political banter on healthcare, it may seem like many people don’t have good access to healthcare, or any at all.

While this is true in a lot of cases, it turns out that it is also true that some people receive too much healthcare. How can this be, and what’s so bad about that?

The Stats

To put it simply, people are getting screened and tested for things much more frequently than is necessary.

For example, some patients who are considered healthy in a physician’s eyes ask to undergo lab tests before undergoing procedures electively.

Or, women get screened for cervical cancer yearly when it’s recommended only every three to five years for most cases. People who don’t need an annual heart tests, including an electrocardiogram (you may know it as an ECG or EKG), are being tested anyways.

This may not seem like a big deal, but the answer to the second part of the question posed above is, it’s bad because it costs us a LOT of money.

And because everyone is spending so much money, the cost of care correspondingly goes up as well, making it more difficult and expensive for everyone to access healthcare – especially those who truly need it.

In fact, after analyzing a year’s worth of insurance claims from over 1.3 million patients who all received some sort of unnecessary service or test, it was found that:

  • 75% of cervical cancer screenings were on women who did not need to be screened, costing $19 million.
  • Low-risk cardiac patients received needless tests, costing $40 million.
  • Those undergoing low-risk surgery who underwent unnecessary lab tests pre-operation spent $86 million.

Overall, over 600,000 patients received unneeded care, in total costing $282 million.

A Fine Line Between Cautious and Unnecessary

You may be thinking, isn’t it better to be safer than sorry? It is true that the need for these tests generalized as “unnecessary” truly does change in importance for different individuals. A woman with a family history of cervical cancer, for example, may want to get screened more frequently than the three to five year recommendation.

ut while it may be worth it in some cases to do the extra screenings and err on the side of caution, money is still being wasted. The medical community has made a promise to do no harm unto its patients, and one of those harms should be not giving them bills they can’t afford to pay.

However, part of the issue is the patients. They may ask their doctors for tests they truly don’t need, or prescriptions that won’t help them any. Both players need to change their mindsets on this waste of time and money.

What’s the Solution?

Experts recommend physicians and patients to “watch and wait” for a condition to change or require medication, instead of screening and prescribing regularly. Hopefully within the years to come, this method will be used throughout medicine.

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