Researchers at The Dartmouth Institute were among the first in the world
to identify overdiagnosis as a growing health care concern
People should be people first, and patients only when medically necessary. But, in reality, many of us are being treated for diseases that won’t cause us any symptoms, nor any harm at all. Researchers at The Dartmouth Institute were among the first in the world to identify such overdiagnosis as a growing health care concern, and to investigate it across numerous conditions and diseases, such as breast and prostate cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Today, as the pace of medical advance rapidly accelerates, researchers at The Dartmouth Institute are asking important questions about overdiagnosis and the benefits and harms of cancer screenings and other medical tests.
What happens when healthy people who attend screening programs, or receive tests during check-ups, are diagnosed and subsequently treated for the early form of a disease which would never in fact have harmed them?
What are the potential psychological and physical effects of overdiagnosis? What are the financial costs to health care systems struggling to provide better health outcomes at a lower cost?
How can we balance the continuing wave of medical and technological advances with the need for a healthcare delivery system that is accessible, affordable, and responsive to individual patient’s needs and priorities?
Dartmouth Institute researchers are asking all of these important questions, and looking at ways that we can reduce incidence of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, including examining radiological guidelines that might manage overdiagnosis and chronicling the experiences of patients who self-identify as being overdiagnosed and opt not to actively treat their diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Dartmouth Institute researchers also are assessing the various ways breast biopsies can be evaluated and investigating the relative impact on patient care and treatment.
Finally, Dartmouth Institute physician-researchers, such as Lisa Schwartz, H. Gilbert Welch, and Steven Woloshin are helping to bring the phenomenon of overdiagnosis to the public’s attention, providing information and discourse that empowers people to make their own informed decisions about screening and other medical tests.