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Friday, August 18, 2017
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Three Popular Myths About Healthcare That Too Many People Still Believe

What are some popular myths about healthcare and medicine that simply aren’t true?  

Answer by Nicole Van Groningen, Internal Medicine Physician, Medical Writer & Contributor, on Quora:

Though a complete list could probably fill a book, below are three of the most popular myths about medicine — and my personal favorites, Forbes writes.

Having health insurance and access to care is the most important factor in good health.

Actually, poor access to care is only responsible for about ten percent of the risk of premature death among Americans, and is much less important than social determinants of health, which are defined as “the structural determinants and conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.”

Many people don’t realize the dramatic health disparities that are caused by social, economic, and environmental factors.

If you have a low-paying job, live in a segregated community, can’t easily get to a grocery store, and sleep in a house that is inadequate for health, studies show that you will have a poorer health status than that of people who don’t have to worry about these things, independent of whether or not you are insured.

According to an analysis from the Brookings Institute, the richest ten percent of men in the U.S. tend to live a full fourteen years longer than the poorest ten percent.

For women, the gap in life expectancy is ten years. So although we should work toward providing health insurance for everyone, even more important than expanding coverage is addressing these social determinants of health, which tend to be overlooked.

High-quality care costs more. In fact, high-quality care is often inexpensive and tends to lead to less spending downstream.

As health care spending continues to rise, the culture of medicine has shifted toward focusing not just on quality but also on value, which is a function of both quality and cost. Many, many things that doctors recommend are low-cost but high value: things like aspirin for people at risk of heart disease, or pap smears for cervical cancer screening.

Many of these low-cost interventions create value by preventing catastrophic – and costly – diseases in the long term. There are also plenty of interventions that are high-cost, low-value, like MRIs for uncomplicated low back pain, which are almost never useful. On a national scale, the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country in the world, but markers of our overall health, like life expectancy, are average at best. More spending doesn’t cause better health outcomes.

Modern medicine allows for a high degree of scientific certainty. Although most people believe that the vast majority of the decisions physicians make is backed by solid evidence, the truth is that only a fraction of what doctors do is backed by high-quality randomized clinical trials. One major reason is that these trials simply don’t exist, and we have to rely on smaller, less robust studies, if any exist at all.

Physicians often refer to these types of decisions as occurring in an “evidence-free zone.” Another reason is that much of medical decision-making is subjective, which is frequently necessary and oftentimes beneficial – it’s the “art” of medicine. But sometimes, there is a gap between what studies suggest physicians should do and what they actually do.

This has led many to argue that we need to provide physicians with better access to clinical decision support, and set nationwide standards for health care quality.

Three Popular Myths About Healthcare That Too Many People Still Believe - overview

Summary: Having health insurance and access to care is the most important factor in good health.

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  • Elisheva Flink

    The summary is contradicted by the article!!!!Where is the medical oversight on these articles.