Two physicians describe how they are mobilizing patients, providers and others, to change the culture of overuse in health care, to one that is individualized, compassionate and just.
The end of life can be fraught with emotion and excruciating decisions for families. It is a time when overuse of treatments and interventions occurs far too frequently. The culture of medicine teaches physicians to “do everything you can” to keep patients alive, with an underlying message that more is better when it comes to treatments and interventions. For doctors, patients and their families, making the decision to refuse extraordinary measures can feel like giving up.
As physicians who are active in the Lown Institute’s RightCare Alliance, we are dedicated to changing this culture. We know that a range of practices persist as standards that don’t improve the length or quality of life. Overuse and inappropriate care are baked into how we do things to the point that they are almost invisible. From frequent blood draws in the hospital to unneeded imaging for a normal pregnancy and futile chemotherapy in end-stage cancer, our goal is to keep patients safe from unnecessary diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, harm. We think that it is critical to combine an understanding of the true benefits and risks of procedures and therapies with a respect for a patient’s wishes. Such a thoughtful approach that individualizes care, promotes doing more for the patient and less to the patient.