Perspectives on Preventing Overdiagnosis

15 Sep

Preventing Overdiagnosis Barcelona 2016We continue drawing inspiration from the Preventing Overdiagnosis Congress (in Twitter: #PODC2016), which is due to take place this coming week. There are many issues in play that we must take into consideration and we will try to demonstrate just some of those here.  Joan MV Pons in this post reflects on the public health measures implemented over the past centuries which have had a role in the history of overcoming poverty and increasing life expectancy after reading the book by Nobel Prize winning Economist Angus Deaton.

Without detracting from developments made over time, in this post Andreu Segura comments on the futility of medicine and of procedures with unrealistic expectations regarding the benefits. Segura mentions the report “To err is human” and the estimation made by Barbara Starfield concerning mortality caused by adverse side effects of medicine. At the same time, the author mentions the very specific case of prescribing preventive measures and how these have evolved over the years.

It is not a straightforward task, but thanks to this post by Cari Almazan, it is easy to understand exactly what is being referred to when we talk about overdiagnosis. Almazan takes us on a journey from the origins of the concept itself through to some current examples and discusses the challenges we face in the future in this area, which begins with a good communications strategy.

No es fácil pero gracias a este post de Cari Almazan resulta fácil entender qué significa y qué no significa sobrediagnóstico. Almazan propone un recorrido por los orígenes de este concepto pasando por algunos ejemplos actuales y planteando algunos retos de futuro en este ámbito, empezando por una buena estrategia de comunicación.

The concept of overdiagnosis is equivalent to diagnosing a disease that does not present symptoms throughout a person’s life and, meanwhile, the treatment and monitoring the patient is subject to in order to treat the disease can be more harmful and fail to produce any benefits.

The interest of working along the lines of diagnosing less can be seen on an individual and population-wide level. On an individual level, overdiagnosis is associated with the negative effects of unnecessary labels, such as the effects of radiation and false positives and false negatives as a result of unnecessary diagnostic tests and therapies (surgery or medication). On a population-wide level we are talking about the opportunity cost derived from wasting resources that might have been allocated to preventing and treating diseases.

That said, we can ask ourselves what the primary care professionals think. In this regard we find some interesting pointers in this post by Johanna Caro where we can see the principal results of a survey of GPs and paediatricians post by Johanna Caro Mendivelso where we can see the principal results of a survey of GPs and paediatricians. One of the most striking results of the survey is the fact that around 80% of physicians surveyed find themselves in the position of making a decision whether to request an unnecessary test or prescribe unnecessary treatment at least once the week.

The interest in the impact that this issue can have is growing significantly. For this reason, Preventig Overdiagnosis will be a brainstorming session which will enable us to design strategies and make decisions to address the fallout from overdiagnosis and overtreatment. We think that this new topic for debate is increasingly present in both our professional and personal lives.

Johanna Caro Mendivelso and Cari Almazan, members of the Essencial Project team, participating in the Preventing Overdiagnosis.

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