How Healthcare Might Be Like Garlic

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , August 4, 2011

I returned home to review my usual lineup of journals this week, and noticed that the Archives of Internal Medicine has launched a feature called "Less is More" that draws on a theme that more care and newer technologies are not necessarily better. 

Archives editor Rita Redberg, MD, wrote in her introduction to the section that it was designed to highlight papers "that document cases in which less healthcare results in better health, and offer commentary on the specific implications."

"Clearly, these erroneous assumptions negatively affect health by exposing patients to unnecessary harms of treatment and testing, with no expected benefit; they also increase the total cost of healthcare," she wrote.

The new journal section links to papers, editorials, and other scholarly work about how aggressive treatment approaches should be reconsidered.

It also will have stories from doctors and patients about how findings of abnormalities that would never have been clinically significant end up resulting in unnecessary invasive procedures that caused harm, says Deborah Grady, Archives series editor of "Less is More" in a telephone interview.

Grady, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, says that one of the authors of a paper published in this section used this analogy: "A man is walking down the street doing nothing wrong. The cops come along and throw him in jail. He gets out, and now he's really happy because he's out."

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