Doctors and patients should neither overestimate the benefits nor underestimate the harm of curative interventions, or they may increase the risk of unreasonable and even ethically questionable diagnosis and treatment. The alert is given by Carlos Martins, from CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research, in a scientific article entitled “Quaternary prevention: reviewing the concept” recently published in the European Journal of General Practice.
In this article, the researcher and family doctor affirms that quaternary prevention is more necessary today than ever and that it must be present in the minds of doctors whenever they propose an intervention to their patients in order to counter overmedicalization, overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
“In contemporary medicine, human beings can be harmed by medical interventions since they are born, in childhood, throughout their entire healthy life and during an acute, chronic or terminal illness. The Quaternary Prevention aims to make this reality recognizable by doctors and patients, insisting on the prevention of all the harm associated with medical interventions, ” says the researcher from CINTESIS.
According to the specialist in General and Family Medicine, there is the “growing popularity of periodic health examinations, commonly known as check-ups”, which are not unrelated to “public campaigns, often driven by economic motivations, which generate insecurity and lead to unnecessary medical care.”
In addition, the assignment of the “patient” label to perfectly healthy people contributes to polymedication (simultaneous use of several drugs) and overtreatment, which increases the likelihood of adverse effects or potentially serious drug interactions.
The author therefore proposes a new definition of Quaternary Prevention, more comprehensive than that currently used worldwide, considering it as any action intended to protect patients, but also healthy individuals, from any medical intervention that may be more harmful than beneficial.
This member of the European Network on Prevention and Health Promotion (EUROPREV), which integrates the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), conceives the application of this new concept in clinical practice as a routine practice that will allow “the delivery of better health care “, While avoiding the administration of therapies that are not adequately studied or whose efficacy and safety are not yet sufficiently proven.