Overused Medical Procedures

Project Summary: Overused Medical Procedures

Please note: This is an archived project that is not currently being updated.

Some doctors prescribe overused medical procedures and medications. Our resources can help you decide if a treatment might be unnecessary.

  • Physicians may still be prescribing medical treatments as long as 10 years after research has shown that they may not work as intended.
  • Some medications or procedures have even been found to cause harm to patients.
  • Patients and their caregivers should carefully consider the risks and benefits of each medication and treatment option in light of current research, medical recommendations, and individual characteristics.
  • Understanding when to stop taking particular medications or treatments is equally as important to your health.
  • A consolidated list of medical treatments to carefully evaluate would help patients become more informed.
  • Evidence-based medicine is at the core of the Parsemus Foundation’s mission, and helped kick off the medical series “Less is More” that covers overused or outdated practices to assist both physicians and patients.
  • This website provides updated information and reviews of medical procedures that are overused or even possibly harmful, as well as guidelines on when to stop medical treatment.

Project Topics

Promoting Evidence-Based Medicine

Less is More

Medical treatments, each with their own set of side effects, often continue to be used even after data has shown that they do not improve outcomes in certain situations. The reasons are many and include systematic profit structures, lack of awareness, or simply the understandable desire to “do something” for the patient. How to address this?

Less is more when it comes to overused medical procedures

The Parsemus Foundation helped make possible a series called “Less is More,” running 2010-2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine (now called the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine), a journal that goes to primary care physicians all over the country. This series highlighted cases in which unnecessary medical procedures have actually damaged patient health, and clarified the conditions under which certain procedures and drugs are best used. Angioplasty and stenting were covered in the original series, as well as data on colonoscopy frequency, proton pump inhibitors, and more.

Due to the popularity of the “Less is More” series, it has continued to this day.  The 20172018, 2019 and 2020 reviews of overused medical practices described tests and treatments that do not achieve their goals and, in some cases, could actually cause harm.

While the use of stents has declined, they are still overused despite mounting evidence against them. For example, a 2017 study showed no impact on chest pain after implantation of a stent to open a blocked artery. A February 2017 article in The Atlantic highlighted the continuing overuse of certain medical treatments, including stents. The authors noted that doctors are often quick to adopt new procedures, even with shaky evidence, but it may take ten or more years for them to stop prescribing something once its efficacy is shown to be poor. MedPage Today found that another reason for unnecessary medical procedures is that the U.S. healthcare system rewards hosptials and doctors by paying more for more tests. Responses from medical professionals also indicate that patient expectations and physician concern for missing a diagnoses is most important.

Other points made in the reviews:

  • Electrocardiograms are routinely performed on low-risk patients
  • Lipid monitoring rarely affects care
  • Overdiagnosis of cancer caused anxiety and criticism about not seeking treatment
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplementation does not reduce hip fracture
  • Pregabalin does not improve symptoms of sciatica but frequently has adverse effects
  • and more…

Take Action

The bottom line is that each person should take responsibility for his or her healthcare, and do some research before accepting a medical procedure or medication. The Choosing Wisely lists are a good place to start. Keep in mind that knowing when to stop taking a medication or treatment is just as important as starting. This post includes a summary list of recommendations on de-intensifying treatments. Your extra effort just might save your life!

Key Resources

  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine series publication introduction: Less is More
  • To review articles in the JAMA series, enter “Less is More” in the search box at the top.
  • Choosing wisely. Lists of evidence-based recommendations for various health conditions from medical specialty societies summarized by Consumer Reports. An initiative of the ABIM Foundation.

Media Coverage


  • Chalmers K, Smith P, Garber J. et al. (2021) Assessment of overuse of medical tests and treatments at US Hospitals using Medicare claims. JAMA Network Open 4(4):e218075. (free full text).
  • Elshaug AG, Watt AM, Mundy L, Willis CD. (2012). Over 150 potentially low-value health care practices: an Australian study. Med J Aust.197 (10): 556-560. (free full text)
  • Hoffman TC, Del Mar C. (2017). Clinicians’ expectations of the benefits and harms of treatments, screening, and tests: A systematic review. JAMA Intern Med. 177(3):407-419. (abstract)
  • Kerr EA, Klamerus ML, Markovitz AA, et al. (2020). Identifying recommendations for stopping or scaling back unnecessary routine services in primary care. JAMA Intern Med. Pub Date : 2020-09-14 , DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.4001. (abstract)
  • Morgan DJ, Dhruva SS, Coon ER, Wright SM, Korenstein D. (2019). 2018 Update on medical overuse. JAMA Intern Med.  1;179(2):240-246. (abstract)
  • Morgan DJ, Dhruva SS, Coon ER, et al. (2018). 2017 Update on Medical Overuse: A Systematic Review. JAMA Intern Med. 178(1):110-115.  (abstract)
  • Prasad V, Vandross A, Toomey C, et al. (2013).  A decade of reversal: an analysis of 146 contradicted medical practices. Mayo Clin Proc. 88(8):790-798. (free full text)

Note: The Parsemus Foundation made an unrestricted gift to support “Less is More” activities, and has no financial interest and no editorial control over the series.

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