When we head to the GP most of us assume “the doctor knows best”. But the truth is, many of the scans, tests and procedures ordered by medical practitioners are wasteful, unnecessary and potentially harmful.
“What do you think would be the reaction of the average person in the street if they knew what you knew?
“Well, I think they’d be quite alarmed.” Health Economist
Healthy people are needlessly being turned into patients with tests and scans leading to treatments which at best have no effect, and at worst, cause harm.
“The surgery doesn’t seem to affect the outcome any more than if you did a pretend surgery.” Leading Clinician
“Patients are receiving care that is sometimes ineffective and sometimes unsafe.” Health Economist
And it’s costing us a fortune:
“You know we’re just wasting hundreds of millions of dollars sending people off for unnecessary tests and exposing them to unnecessary radiation.” Health Researcher
In this special edition of Four Corners, guest reporter Dr Norman Swan reveals the real story behind the malaise in the Australian health system. A malaise driven by waste, rather than a lack of money.
“Increases in health care costs have been driven a little bit by (the) ageing of the population, a little bit by increases in the costs of technologies, but the largest drivers are over diagnosis and over treatment.” Health Researcher
Focussing on four common health complaints – back pain, knee pain, chest pain and prostate testing – Dr Swan shows how the cost to patients and taxpayers is escalating. Analysis by Four Corners found billions of dollars being squandered and more than a hundred inappropriate tests and procedures receiving Medicare rebates.
“We’re headed for a tsunami of over diagnosis.” Health Researcher
And as one interviewee explains, part of the answer lies with the public:
“If people knew that health interventions, tests and treatments were not going to deliver benefit, I think they might make different choices.” Head of medical oversight body