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96 Biomedicine, overtreatment, and the potential of bio-psycho-social approaches
  1. Caroline Cupit
  1. University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. University of Leicester, Leicester, UK


Overdiagnosis and overtreatment are endemic within biomedical systems of healthcare. Moreover, the limits of biomedicine are obvious—especially in the treatment of chronic conditions—where pharmaceuticals may provide some change in biomarkers and/or symptom-relief, but do not affect root causes of illness. In response, ‘bio-psycho-social’ forms of care are increasingly being developed as alternatives to biomedical intervention.

In this paper, I draw on social science studies of cardiovascular disease prevention and fibromyalgia care, to highlight emerging bio-psycho-social models of care in the UK. These feature, for example: relational continuity; a psychotherapeutic mode of delivery; body-mind education; trauma/addiction awareness; and peer community. I draw attention to the potential of bio-psycho-social approaches to promote sustainable, patient-focused health improvements whilst mitigating overtreatment and the spiralling costs of treatment. I also consider the challenges of implementing such approaches within existing biomedical systems.

I argue that ongoing work to prevent overdiagnosis and overtreatment must focus on understanding how doing more of some things (e.g. bio-psycho-social support) may facilitate doing less of others (e.g. overdiagnosis and overtreatment).

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