Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More


Military and Veterans Discount



AARP Games - Play Now!


Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.


Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.



Heart Disease


Most Popular


My Medical Manager

Avoid Unnecessary Procedures and Medical Errors

An interview with Rosemary Gibson, co-author of The Treatment Trap

Q. Will the new health care reform law do anything to prevent overuse?

A. Health reform legislation has proposed pilot projects that would reduce the incentive for hospitals and doctors to overtreat. This is unlikely to curb overuse anytime soon.

Q. What can be done?

A. People who experience overuse and who are harmed by it need to speak out. Doctors and nurses who see overuse need to blow the whistle. If the public and the professionals did this, overuse would be a front-page story every day in every newspaper in the country.

Q. How does fear play into overuse?

A. It's two-sided. Physicians want to provide the best care to their patients and don't want to miss a critical diagnosis. They want to cover all their bases because patients' lives are in their hands. Fear of missing a diagnosis drives overuse. Patients are afraid, too. Many will want everything done. They may be unaware that the risks could be greater than the benefits.

Q. How can we mitigate our fear?
A. One way to combat fear during an illness is to know that you are not alone. Reputable online communities, like the Association of Cancer Online Resources, offer a place where people in similar situations can learn from others about their experience of illness and how they manage it. Knowing that others have traveled the same path can mitigate the sense of isolation and gut-wrenching fear.

Q. What steps must a patient take to protect him- or herself against such overuse?

A. Let me give you a list:

One, if you are facing a medical decision about a procedure, ask yourself the following questions: What is the procedure? What will it do for me? What are the risks? Are the benefits greater than the risks? What treatment options exist that may be less risky and less costly yet achieve a similar benefit? How will my quality of life be affected? How much pain will there be and for how long? Will I be back to normal?

Two, obtain multiple opinions, do your homework, and look for a physician who you believe has your best interests at heart. Follow your gut instinct.

Three, be media-savvy. Don’t fall for marketing and advertisements. They will never tell you the full picture. If you sense a provider has a conflict of interest, obtain another opinion.

Finally, if you are considering surgery or a procedure and the decision does not have to be made right away, ask for the informed consent form a week or more before the procedure. Take it home, read it carefully, and write down the questions you have. Ask your doctor those questions, and have your questions answered, before making any decision.

You may also like: Stay on top of your medications. >>

Tom Lombardo is a freelance writer in Atlanta. He was the founding editor in chief of WebMD and editor of the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points