Overdiagnosis: what it is and what it isn’t

by John Brodersen, Lisa M Schwartz, Carl Heneghan et al.
BMJ EBM 2018; Volume 23, Issue 1

4 pp. 194 kB

Overdiagnosis is one of the most harmful and costly problems in modern healthcare. It often triggers a cascade of overtreatment, although the two are not synonymous. To prevent and minimise overdiagnosis, we need more studies on the natural history of diseases, watchful waiting trials of very early/small or ambiguous abnormalities, studies of the effects of diagnostic language, intervention studies on known drivers of overdiagnosis, and studies of how to involve patients in decisions about diagnostic strategies. And we need to ensure that new disease definitions are based on evidence, not financial interests. Describing what overdiagnosis is and what it isn’t is essential, so that more attention and resources are directed towards preventing it.

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