Photo source: National Cancer Institute

Photo source: National Cancer Institute

When Canadians visit the hospital, they expect to receive all the medical attention necessary to cure or mitigate what ails them. Indeed, the Canadian public has become so accustomed to receiving comprehensive medical care that, as Hospital News detailed in a recent article, medical overtreatment is now pervasive and potentially damaging to patients.

Examples of overtreatment abound in day-to-day hospital operations: daily blood draws are ordered for in-patients, but don’t necessarily offer clinical value; patients undergo CT scans in search of pulmonary embolism when blood tests could as easily rule them out; despite being linked to increased falls and cognitive issues, senior patients are often prescribed sedatives to mitigate sleeping troubles. According to Hospital News, an estimated ‘one third of medical care adds no value to patients.’

Individual patients are not the only group affected by the impacts of medical overtreatment. Of the 23 million antibiotic prescriptions handed out each year in Canada, roughly half are thought to be inappropriate or unnecessary. The international practice of overprescribing antibiotics has contributed to the emergence of drug resistant superbugs, a looming global health concern.

While it’s easy to blame healthcare practitioners for this epidemic of overtreatment – Hospital News reports that approximately 80 per cent of healthcare costs can be traced to doctors’ decisions – hospital patients and their family members increasingly request tests and treatments without clinical value. In a ‘more is better’ society, doctors are under pressure to cover all conceivable bases.

“We have a belief in society that more is better, we buy big cars, big TV sets,” said Dr. Wendy Levinson, president of Choosing Widely Canada, told the CBC in April 2014. “We live in a culture of more is better and in medicine it’s just not the best.”

Choosing Wisely Canada, launched in 2014 by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), is a program which aims to initiate a culture shift among all participants in the healthcare system by improving awareness of the dangers of medical overtreatment. In addition to facilitating conversation between doctors and patients, the program works with specialized Canadian medical societies to create lists of ‘Things Clinicians and Patients Should Question.’

“Some doctors are still pretty much protocol driven and tell the patients what to do rather than work with the patient,” Patients Canada president Sholom Glouberman told the CBC. “We think that patients should be partners. We don’t think patients should just be engaged to doctors, we think that they should be married.”

“It is a challenge sometimes with patients to make them aware that no they don’t need antibiotics for every cough and cold or they don’t need an X-ray because their back is sore,” Toronto family doctor Yoel Abells also told the CBC.

While hospital patients in Canada are right to expect thorough, comprehensive care from their physicians, they must also understand that overtreatment can have profound negative consequences. If you or a member of your family has suffered an injury resultant from medical overtreatment, contact the Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today. They can help you assess your claim and decide whether a lawsuit is the appropriate course of action.

Greg Neinstein