How to Avoid Overtreatment

Medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. The Doctors exposes the risks some patients face and share tips for how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

Dr. Martin Makary, surgeon and hospital safety researcher with Johns Hopkins Hospital, says he thinks the biggest problem with health care is overtreatment. He explains that there's a system of incentives that reward the wrong things and that some doctors prescribe the same treatments for similar conditions without considering the circumstances. "What you lose sometimes is the appropriateness: When is it right to treat?"

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and director of patient-centered care research at George Washington University, calls the issue of overtesting "cookbook medicine." "That's following a recipe and not tailoring the care to your symptoms and your body," she says.

Dr. Wen says the most important thing a patient can do to avoid being overtreated is to ask, "Why?"

"If your doctor doesn't mention the risks or if your doctor doesn't mention the alternatives to testing, that's a big red flag," she says.

What you can do to avoid being overtreated.

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says it's essential to trust your physician and feel comfortable talking with him or her.

"If you feel uncomfortable and you think something isn't quite right, that's when you become your own advocate. Don't be afraid to speak up and say, 'Do we really need to do this? What happens if we wait? What are my alternatives?'" Dr. Travis says. "Because if you don't speak up, no one else will."

Top 10 procedures every patient should question
Checklist every patient needs
What to do if you're diagnosed with a psychiatric condition
Four signs you need a new doctor