2017 Update on Medical Overuse: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Importance

Overuse of medical care is a well-recognized problem.

Objective

To identify and highlight original research articles published in 2016 that are most relevant to understanding medical overuse or strategies to reduce it.

Evidence Review

A structured review of English-language articles on PubMed published in 2016 coupled with examination of tables of contents of high-impact journals to identify articles related to medical overuse in adults. These articles were appraised for their importance to medicine.

Findings

This study considered 2252 articles, 1224 of which addressed medical overuse. Of these, 122 were deemed most relevant based on originality, methodologic quality, and number of patients potentially affected. The 10 most influential articles were selected by author consensus. Select findings from the studies include the lack of benefit of transesophageal echocardiography in the workup of cryptogenic stroke, increasing use of computed tomography in the emergency department from 2.2% to 9.4% from 2001 to 2010, and carotid ultrasonography and revascularization being performed for uncertain or inappropriate indications with 95% frequency. Likewise, services for which harms are likely to outweigh benefits include treatment for early-stage prostate cancer, which provides no mortality benefit but increases absolute risk of erectile dysfunction by 10% to 30%, oxygen for patients with moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, surgery for meniscal tear with mechanical symptoms, and nutritional interventions for inpatients with malnutrition. This review highlights 2 methods for reducing overuse: clinician audit and feedback with peer comparison for antibiotic use (reduction in inappropriate antibiotic use from 20% to 4%) and a practical and sensible shared decision-making tool for low-risk chest pain (reduction in emergency department workup from 52% to 37%).

Conclusions and Relevance

The body of empirical work continues to expand related to medical services that are provided for inappropriate or uncertain indications. Engaging patients in conversations aimed at shared decision making and giving practitioners feedback about their performance relative to peers appear to be useful in reducing overuse.

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