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Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer
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Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  780 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
Though touted as perhaps the best in the world, the American medical system is filled with hypocrisies. Our health care is staggeringly expensive, yet one in six Americans has no health insurance. We have some of the most skilled physicians in the world, yet one hundred thousand patients die each year from medical errors. In this gripping, eye-opening book, award-winning j ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA
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Books Ring Mah Bell
Oct 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Excellent book on the many failings of our health care system. Why do we have 47 million American without insurance? Why are there over 100,000 patient deaths a year due to medical errors? And why the hell is care so expensive?

Brownlee gets into the various factors of why our system is totally jacked up. Doctors order unnecessary testing/procedures to cover their behinds in case of lawsuits. Doctors cannot treat the way they want due to guidelines set by insurance companies. Sometimes, there are
May 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book will make you angry. Very angry. Angry at doctors. Angry at hospitals. Angry at governments. Angry at insurers. And yes, angry at yourself. It will do this because it will show you what a total mess our health care system is in, and it shows us how all of these groups are responsible for this mess.
We all suffer from the delusion that our health care system is the best in the world. The author does a fabulous job of showing that, while we may have the most expensive health care in the w
Andy Oram
Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health
This book was written before the passage of the Affordable Care Act and was five years old as I read it, but it remains relevant and damning, showing just how difficult reform is. I liked the book because it covered a lot of ground and explained the common bugaboos of treatment--doctors' propensity for prescribing too much care, pharmaceutical companies' hegemony over drug testing, patients' inflated expectations of medicine--with a good journalist's strong style that combines anecdote with stat ...more
Austin Larson
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the best explanation I've ever read for the cost of healthcare in America. Brownlee covers the problems with fee-for-service payments for doctors, fragmented delivery of care and direct-to-consumer advertising. She starts the book as a profile of the doctor who developed the Dartmouth Atlas and explains his 30 years of research on that vast differences in the amount of healthcare consumed by americans in different areas. There is basically no correlation between the amount spent on healt ...more
Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting points, and important to know, but it can't seem to get around the sense of "scare tactic" that permeates the chapters. There is also quite a bit of repeated material, over and over, to make extremely nuanced points that sometimes don't further the conversation. Instead, it tends to make you feel a bit overwhelmed and frustrated.

The last chapter is hopeful, proposing some interesting ideas to solve the problems she addresses. Still, the solutions depend on massive overhauls of exist
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Though not nearly as deliciously funny or narratively delightful as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Shannon Brownlee’s book was very informative on a subject that I didn’t know much about previously (though apparently is common knowledge across medical schools in the nation). Primarily through concrete examples of hospitals and individual cases, and an accessible, easy-to-understand overview of plenty of academic studies, Brownlee demonstrates how doctors overtreat patients with drugs, ...more
Mar 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Overtreated was a decent primer, but I thought it was a bit too simplistic to be of real value.

Brownlee takes an extremely complex, multifaceted issue and boils it down to one or two "problems" which I think can be misleading for readers who are not familiar with health economics, or the history of healthcare in the US. For example, Brownlee discusses skyrocketing medical costs, and associates these with increased FFS Medicare payments. She pretty much concludes that Medicare is responsible for
Rajesh Kurup
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Must read for consumers that want/should know more about the health care system, even if ignorance is bliss. After reading this book, I feel that we have a responsibility to become involved in our care. There are too many third party influences that are pushing doctors to prescribe particular drugs or treatments for us not to question them. Since the fee per patient has come down, doctors are under high pressure to churn patients and push us on to specialists. As a result, per Brownlee, we becom ...more
Chris Demer
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a well-written and thoroughly researched book about medicine in this country. Clearly, we are seriously lagging behind the rest of the developed world in terms of cost, outcomes, delivery and access. There are numerous reasons, some of which are political, economic or ideological. What Brownlee is not in doubt about is that we have the power and money to fix it, but apparently not the political will.

This is not a new book, having been published in 2007, however, the problems she points o
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
There wasn't a ton in here that surprised me, which lays testament to how obsessively I follow this topic (although the chapter on Vioxx and drug companies freaked me out a little), but I'm thoroughly impressed by the research and dedication Sharon Brownlee put into writing this book. It's like she took that New Yorker article Atul Gawande wrote about McAllen, Texas and blew it up into an indicting manifesto, replete with personal stories, historical context, and nationally accredited statistics ...more
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health
Before I would have any type of operation today, I would research the heck out of it. Shannon Brownlee’s book is one of the reasons for this. Everything we know, or more precisely, everything we think we know, about medicine is not necessarily true. More to the point, medicine is a façade; it is a man behind a curtain. Be sure to check what you are getting!

Page 6 Today, Americans believe devoutly the power of medicine not only to heal but the cure. In surveys conducted by a group of Harvard rese
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Brownlee takes the conventional view of medicine and treatment - more is better - and turns it on its head in this accessible, engrossing, and fact-filled book. Arguing such a contrarian POV is never easy, especially in such a charged topic as healthcare. Brownlee handles the topic deftly and persuasively, though, and I was left feeling like I learned a LOT. The gist of her argument is this: more treatment leads to more people being involved in your care, each of whom is likely to make a mistake ...more
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Shannon Brownlee for such a wonderful insight into the medical world. The author has to be appreciated for her painstaking research which involved meeting so many doctors, patients, administrative authorities, insurance companies and other stakeholders. Each interview is so well documented in the book that it doesn’t disturb the flow of reading at all. What I particularly liked in the book was the way she has classified the information into chapters depending on areas of specialization ...more
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was delightful. Brownlee captured much of what is ailing with the US Healthcare System, and she clearly did her research. She presented some ideas for improvement in the last chapter- none of which are being considered in Congress for healthcare reform. Maybe part of our problem is we don't listen to the ideas of people who actually know something, so our "reforms" end up making the system worse. Gotta cover these ideas in my podcast now!
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for any modern American. Brownlee’s thoughtful research provides a very poignant diagnosis for the pathological misgivings of the US health care system. Through several detailed examples she exposes many of the myths that we have the best health care in the world and demonstrates how the the spiraling costs are a symptomatic result of our belief in the newest technologies, diagnostic equipment, and out of control malpractice system. The premise of the book is best summarized ...more
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Overtreated is a fascinating proposition that although Americans may have access to the best medical care in the world may actually be receiving too much care that doesn't actually translate into healthier people or better lives. Most of us (physicians and patients) have an underlying belief that more is better. More tests, more procedures, more medication, more studies translate in better care for all. However, Brownlee makes the case that sometimes more is just more and sometimes more is worse ...more
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book about the American healthcare system was incredibly depressing. It had a lot of well-researched information about why the current system rewards the wrong things and simultaneously manages to cause both overspending and undertreatment. Here is a sampling of the things revealed by this book:

1) Doctors and hospitals do not consistently offer some of the most effective treatments (daily baby aspirin for those with heart attack risk, diet/exercise for those with diabetes, etc) because they
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brownlee skillfully turns the heath care debate on it’s head focusing the overuse of expensive medical treatment (high tech procedures and medication use) rather than lack of care. Using both empirical data and anecdotal examples to illustrate myriad problems with the US heath care system including advancing technology, ever shrinking role (and numbers) of primary care docs, pay-for-service system, and wrongheaded demands of many patients.
Much of the book is based on Wennburg’s work that medi
Jayne Elizabeth
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Got book at a health fair. It is a pre-ACA book, so it may need an update. Like the Health Maps from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. I also liked the concept of patient decision aids. Choices should be discussed more with patients. Each chapter has a good and interesting healthcare story and the author sometimes refers to the same stories again and again like a healthcare fraud story from a hospital in northern California(i.e. tons of operations, not necessary).
Edward Newton
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it
A little outdated since many of the recommendations made in the book have already been implemented with limited success. I liked the observation that drug companies are constantly trying to convince the American public that they are sick with "restless legs syndrome" or "low T" or "non-24" and there are drugs for those conditions. There are still major problems with our healthcare system though. For example probably most physicians are now using some form of electronic medical record. While this ...more
Mindy McGrath
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: healthcare-books
If this book doesn't make you think about the difference between health and healthcare than nothing will. After reading this book, I will be asking many more questions about treatment recommendations and the value associated.
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
Shannon Brownlee knows why healthcare costs so much: poor top-down public policy that provides all the wrong incentives to everyone involved in dispensing it. She also knows the solution: top-down public policy that will force everyone to do the right thing. She gives great examples of over-treatment: fancy equipment and tests that really don’t help long-term survival rates, expensive procedures that upon closer examination don’t work, and of course the relentless pursuit of profit among Big Pha ...more
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more I read about the business side of medicine and health care, the more depressed I become over it. It's clear that costs are out of control and the problem is not just one thing, but a confusing mess of a lot of things, making it hard to solve. And ultimately, I don't know that it could ever be completely solved since doctors are only humans. But it's clear that the way we pay for things now is not the right way, and we need to focus more on general practitioners instead of specialists.

Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's hard to know how much of what is in this book has been changed by the ACA (Obamacare). Certainly, the ACA tries to cut down on the skyrocketing costs of healthcare by addressing some of the perverse incentives found in this book, but to what degree it has been successful, I do not know. Overtreated is a well-written modern non-fiction book, using a lot of case studies and examples to prove its points which it backs up with meticulous footnotes. Many of the tales of medicine gone awry are sh ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Some of this book, including its recommendations for reform, are a bit dated. The main premise and the need for those who use the health care system (all of us!) to understand it are still relevant & immensely important. Everyone should become aware of how the current system overtreats & overprices in order to advocate for appropriate care and to question care that appears to cross the boundaries of medical necessity.

I am disappointed that the book overlooks what I believe to be the most
Jun 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Definitely opened my eyes up about how health care is provided in this country. Unlike most market driven commodities, more of a particular health service (for example, MRIs) does not mean that market forces drive down price. What it means is that more people get MRIs. Does this mean that there was a shortage of MRIs prior to adding all the additional facilities? Not necessarily. Does this mean that more people needed MRIs and the new facility is allowing them to now get that test? DEFINITELY NO ...more
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The format of introducing each chapter's topic with anecdotal evidence and following it with the scientific and factual data behind the issue made for an accessible entry point into each area she explored. The economics of why we administer certain procedures and tests the way we do made for a fascinating, if not concerning look into the wonky structure of modern American medicinal practices. Would have been interesting to bring in more comparisons of us to other countries in these areas. That p ...more
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been planning to read this book for years. I never quite got to it. I knew it would be familiar territory since my husband is an economist specializing in the healthcare market.

Even though I was generally familiar with most everything she laid out, the book was much more interesting and compelling than I expected. The author leads you carefully from point A to B to C, providing very clear linkages between points with enough evidence to convince you that her conclusions are well-founded with
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Most of what the author put in the book I already knew. It's primarily just getting the information into the right hands. The information in the book is obviously a few years behind, with all the praise for/to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). I am aware the VHA had gone through a restructuring several years ago, but they had their problems (I experienced) dealing with budget cuts and giving proper care as early as 2007 when I was registering and trying to receive treatment. There is lot ...more
David Wrubel
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Anyone concerned about the US health care system needs to read this book. And lots of people will not like her conclusions. This extremely readable book, even for health care novices, has a simple premise, which is that our current system values economics over individuals, and is more concerned with maintaining the status quo than on basing its practices, protocols, and treatments on actual results and measurable benefits for patients.

The author reveals with great specificity just how dysfunctio
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“We know we can prevent heart attacks with aspirin, and with drugs called beta-blockers. We know that certain.

“While the elective use of angioplasty and stents has skyrocketed over the past ten to fifteen years, there has been no change in the rate of heart attacks.

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