I am so so far behind getting my transcripts of podcasts up here that it’s not funny. But this was one of the most recent and one of the most fun that I’ve ever done. It was a discussion with Shannon Brownlee. author of Overtreated, of which everyone in America should be forced to read at least the Cliff Notes version. (Warning, it’s long and the two of us had far too much fun talking with each other….)
Matthew Holt: It’s Matthew Holt with the Health Care Blog, and I’m back with yet another podcast. This time I’m talking with Shannon Brownlee. Shannon is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and, more importantly, has just written a great book called "Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer." Shannon, first of all, thanks for coming on The Health Care Blog. I’m really excited to have you here.
Shannon Brownlee: Oh, I’m delighted to be with you.
Matthew: My feeling about reading this book is that I thought I knew all this stuff. I’m sure in the last 15 years of hanging out in healthcare, I know all the Wennberg stuff, and I’ve known all this and I’ve known all that. I pretty well read all the studies. I’ve got to confess that when I read the first chapter, and you can introduce the first chapter in a little bit, it’s kind of like a homage to Jack Wennberg. You went and hung out at Dartmouth and it’s kind of almost like a folksy introduction to his character.
And I guess I started reading this and going, yeah, but is this is a serious way to treat a health policy issue. So why did you go about starting in that fashion?
Shannon: I started it that way because I found Jack Wennberg to be one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and the fact that he kept plugging away at this idea that started, oh gosh, almost 40 years ago, now 40 years ago, that he saw this enormous variation in practice patterns in the state of Vermont, and sort of puzzled over it and puzzled over it and puzzled over it. And then he finally started to say, "Yeah, this is real, there’s a variation in practice patterns. It’s not driven by how sick patients are. It’s driven by what the doctors are doing."