Providers, put on an open mind and pick up this book…immediately.  The byline of Shannon Brownlee’s book Overtreated, “Why too much medicine is making us sicker and poorer” says it all.  Based on extensive research and interviews, Brownlee picks apart the U.S. health care system bit by bit identifying it’s multitude of problems and exploring their roots.

I was intrigued but a bit reluctant to pick up this book.  Providers are often blamed for the problems our health system faces.  We are the face of health care, visible and therefore easy to accuse for the disaster our country’s health care system is today.  I was not disappointed by Brownlee’s assessment of our system and was shocked by her discoveries.

Did you know that depending on where you live, your likelihood of having a procedure such as a spinal fusion or a cardiac catheterization increases?  Is it because certain regions of the country are less healthy than others?  No.  The number of spine surgeons and availability of cardiac catheterization suites dictates your likelihood of receiving these procedures.  Are you aware that drug companies create new “illnesses” in order to market medications shown to be statistically ineffective?  The health system operates on a basis of limited knowledge and research but touts itself as a sure solution to patient’s medical problems, often with disasterous consequences.  These among many others are discoveries you will make in Brownlee’s novel.  Particularly concerning issues Brownlee presents are the stories of cardiologists performing unnecessary bypass surgeries in order to earn a profit as well as her assessment of pharmaceutical companies.

As a nurse practitioner, I was shocked to read Brownlee’s evaluation of the state of health care.  Yes, I am aware of the large number of unnecessary medical imaging studies ordered in the name of avoiding malpractice lawsuits.  I am a self-admitted over-prescriber in the name of making my patient’s happy.  Brownlee dives deep into the medical system exploring the faults of hospitals, providers, the pharmaceutical industry and government policies.  I felt that her assessment of the health care system was fair and rooted in fact.  Rather than leaving me feeling defensive or with a sense if injustice, I was left with a sense disillusionment with the industry in which I work.

Sounds boring you say?  I couldn’t put this book down.  Written in a conversational and easy to read style, Brownlee’s research will certainly change the way I view my medical practice.  Although written pre-Obamacare, her writing will give you precious insight into the health care system and how it arrived at its current state.

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1 thought on “Book Review: Overtreated”

  1. I agree with that the geographic location you live in can dictate whether a procedure is offered, or not. I am a cardiology NP, and on slow cath days, some cardiologists would cath a ham sandwich.

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