Children often receive unnecessary medical care, study finds

Children are likely to receive unnecessary medical care regardless of what type of insurance they have, according to a study published Jan. 1 in Pediatrics.

Researchers evaluated 2014 data for 8.6 million children receiving medical services in 12 states. They found 1 in 9 publicly insured and 1 in 11 privately insured children received wasteful care at least once in 2014, such as unnecessary vitamin D screening, imaging for acute sinus infections and antibiotics for colds.

Many parents and physicians tend to believe prescribing a drug or ordering a test is better than doing nothing, even though the right answer is often to do less, lead author Kao-Ping Chua, MD, PhD, a pediatrician and researcher at Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine, told Science Daily. He said a key factor is how difficult it is to change the interventionist culture of medicine.

Dr. Chua, who's also a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, noted that unnecessary care has consequences. For example, overuse of antibiotics can increase antibiotic resistance and the risk of allergic reactions. Sometimes, MRIs expose children to the risks of sedation, and CT scans expose children to radiation.

"Efforts to reduce waste should be global in nature and target the care of all children," Dr. Chua said.

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