The Omaha World Herald published a thought provoking article on the topic of overtreatment and the use of MRI’s in last week’s paper, written by World Herald Columnist Matthew Hansen. In it, Dr. Thomas Tape from the University Nebraska Medical Center discusses how the health system in this country pushes people into hospitals, rather than out, with unnecessary medical tests, including the overuse of MRI’s, becoming the norm. According to Tape, unnecessary scans or “waste” as Tape phrases it, can hurt more than help with additional testing resulting in “more physical and psychological pain.”
Dr. Tape points to studies where doctors who were handed MRI’s of people with and without back pain could not tell the difference between the two. Likewise, according to the American College of Physicians, an MRI “does not improve patient outcomes.” In the end, Dr. Tape concludes that it won’t be easy to eliminate overtreatment. There is always the concern that, understandably, a new system will promote undertreatment. Even so, the status quo of healthcare has become unsustainable and costly. Tape suggests that doctors “lead by example” and cut out treatment that is not in the best interests of the patient.