Is there such a thing as ‘too much medicine’?

with Amber Petty and Associate Professor Martin Hensher

The OECD estimates around 20% of all health care activity and expenditure in high-income countries is wasted and of little or no value. Much of this waste is driven by over-diagnosis and over-treatment – when patients receive services that could never really have helped them.

Listen to "Is there such a thing as 'too much medicine'?" on Spreaker.

The economics of health care systems have become increasing important in the past 25 years as we battle with the problem of making sure everyone has access to appropriate care, while ensuring every dollar spent results in the best possible outcomes.

“Every dollar spent on something which has less impact on people’s health is a dollar that could actually have saved lives elsewhere,” says Associate Professor Martin Hensher.

But over-consumption of health care isn’t just a question of wasted resources. Unnecessary care exposes patients to the inherent ‘downside’ risks of adverse events, injury and even death – without them gaining any ‘upside” benefit’. And every instance of unnecessary care also causes environmental damage – through greenhouse gas emissions, chemical pollution, and the use of non-renewable resources – again without delivering any real benefit to the patient.

Join Martin in this wide-ranging episode as he explores the causes and forces behind over-diagnosis and over-medication and explains why health economists have a vital role to play in ensuring that everyone can have access to the ‘right care’ when they actually need it, while reducing avoidable harms, conserving resources, and minimising the environmental harms of health care. 

Martin Hensher is Associate Professor of Health System Financing and Organisation at Deakin Health Economics within the Institute for Health Transformation. He has worked as a public servant and economic adviser to health departments in Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa and his research interests include health care financing, health care systems and the macro-economy, and transforming the organisation of health care.