Overtreatment in the United States. How much are you paying for health care that’s unnecessary?

Why is health care so expensive? For most people that question translates into “my insurance premiums are outrageous.” They readily blame insurance companies for high premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

The health care we receive, the type of care we receive, the cost of health care procedures and the frequency of care is the actual culprit, but nobody seems to want to hear that.


Overtreatment is a cause of preventable harm and waste in health care. Little is known about clinician perspectives on the problem. In this study, physicians were surveyed on the prevalence, causes, and implications of overtreatment.


2,106 physicians from an online community composed of doctors from the American Medical Association (AMA) masterfile participated in a survey. The survey inquired about the extent of overutilization, as well as causes, solutions, and implications for health care. Main outcome measures included: percentage of unnecessary medical care, most commonly cited reasons of overtreatment, potential solutions, and responses regarding association of profit and overtreatment.


The response rate was 70.1%. Physicians reported that an interpolated median of 20.6% of overall medical care was unnecessary, including 22.0% of prescription medications, 24.9% of tests, and 11.1% of procedures. The most common cited reasons for overtreatment were fear of malpractice (84.7%), patient pressure/request (59.0%), and difficulty accessing medical records (38.2%).

Potential solutions identified were training residents on appropriateness criteria (55.2%), easy access to outside health records (52.0%), and more practice guidelines (51.5%). Most respondents (70.8%) believed that physicians are more likely to perform unnecessary procedures when they profit from them. Most respondents believed that de-emphasizing fee-for-service physician compensation would reduce health care utilization and costs.

Source: Overtreatment in the United States

One comment

  1. Too many people go to the doctor when they could just as easily buy an over the counter med to treat their problem first. When I retired from the USAF in 1995 even though I had health care insurance, I did not go to the doctor for 20 years. All my blood work in 2015 came back with almost the exact readings as my last physical in 1995 all in the normal range. The only reason I went in 2015 was I had edema in my feet and legs. I was put on a diuretic / blood pressure medication for about a year. Once I lost weight, by watching my diet and getting plenty of exercise my doctor took me off of the diuretic. I learned diet and exercise have way more to do with your health, than doctor office visits. Of course if you have an issue or change in your body that is new go have it checked out. Annual doctor visits are a waste of time and money for most people, IMO.


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