Overtreatment as Wasted Resources in US Healthcare

When I look through critique articles addressing modern health care system, I often notice the word ‘overtreatment’. Although different authors approach this topic differently, I have also assumed that this problem has a much bigger impact than we think. Overtreatment can be linked to physician’s profit or inefficiency of the health care system. One way or another, overtreatment was confirmed to be one of the main types of health care waste in the USA.

Indeed, I had witnessed many times when a medication was prescribed to a patient only because it was a ‘brand’ when another brand of medication (a cheaper one) could be used. However, since pharmacy industry has invested millions in advertisement, and people tend to trust such brands more than unknown ones, this waste of resources and money can be explained by human psychology. Nevertheless, it is still not clear why physicians recommend various procedures that have other alternatives, less costly but with the same benefits.

Thus, patients are forced to spend more money on procedures that will not provide better or more detailed results (Macleod et al., 2014). Especially confusing is to see that thousands of dollars are wasted on the services that are needed by low-risk patients. Patients are prescribed to complex and incredibly costly procedures (MRI, for example); this procedure gives them the same result as any other would, but the health care money is already spent.

On the one hand, procedures that provide detailed data are necessary because they can indicate future illnesses; on the other hand, too much money is spent on them even when they are not needed. Thus, so far, the waste circle is unbreakable.


Macleod, M. R., Michie, S., Roberts, I., Dirnagl, U., Chalmers, I., & Glasziou, P. (2014). Biomedical research: Increasing value, reducing waste. The Lancet, 383(9912), 101-104.

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