10% of American Children Receive Unnecessary Medical Care

Last modified: January 7, 2020

A new study shows that 10% of children in the US have received medical services they didn’t really need. The results? Kids have been exposed to potential side effects while parents have been hit with costly medical bills. 

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed medical data for over eight million insured children in the US. It concluded that kids received prescription drugs, imaging and diagnostic tests that they did not actually need. 

The study also found that several children were treated for conditions they didn’t have, such as acute sinus infections. Some were prescribed antibiotics for colds although the treatment is counterindicated in certain healthcare guidelines.

The study further revealed that one in 33 privately and publicly insured children underwent an unneeded diagnostic test. One in 12 meanwhile received an unnecessary prescription drug at least once. 

According to the director of communications for America’s Health Insurance Plans, Cathryn Donaldson, the insurance industry has already taken steps to reduce the instances of unneeded medical care. She added that health insurers are now focused on providing value-based care and promoting a patient-centered approach. This means that treatments will be better tailored to the patient’s needs. 

Kao-Ping Chua, one of the study’s co-authors, said that the new approach should help address the “interventionist culture” of US doctors. He reckons that healthcare professionals fear missing something important so they would rather advise potentially unnecessary treatments than do nothing.

Chua emphasized that parents could also help minimize the possibility of unneeded healthcare services for their kids. They should know that for an average child in good health, most illnesses resolve even without treatment. For example, kids will get better regardless of whether they take an antibiotic for a cold. 

Chua further encourages parents to ask questions about the benefits and risks of medical services. If they’re comfortable without intervention, they should let their healthcare professional know. Ideally, parents must have a doctor who adheres to evidence-based practices.  

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