Skip to main content

Colloquium examines ‘Disease, Diagnosis & Dollars'

November 13, 2009


Robert Kaplan, Distinguished Professor at the UCLA School of Public Health, will discuss "Disease, Diagnosis and Dollars" at a Research Colloquium from noon to 1 p.m., Dec. 3 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, room 122.

Kaplan will speak about the costs of healthcare and their impact on health. He takes the controversial position that mass markets have been created for health services that may offer little or no benefit to patients.

The event is sponsored by the ASU School of Letters and Sciences Doctor of Behavioral Health program and the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy.

Kaplan believes that many of these markets are for preventive medicine and target healthy people for expensive pharmaceutical products and tests. These include cancer screening tests, medications to control blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. The unintended consequence of ineffective preventive medicine is the overuse of medications and tests that drive up the costs of healthcare, according to Kaplan.

The major focus of the current debate on healthcare reform is providing coverage for more people, but Kaplan notes this does not address a key problem.

"We have been persuaded that we want more healthcare than we need," Kaplan said in his book "Disease, Diagnosis, and Dollars." "Our problem is not that providers charge too much, it is that they do too much."

He makes the case that mass markets are supported by national expert panels that have created new guidelines for new tests to diagnose illness and new drugs to treat disease. Yet Kaplan presents compelling evidence that these guidelines are unlikely to benefit most consumers of healthcare.

"We have been intentionally led to believe tests and medicines will offer greater benefit than evidence supports," he said.

Kaplan argues that the overuse of tests and medications runs up the costs of healthcare. Higher costs result in higher insurance premiums that contribute to more employers dropping health insurance coverage for employees as costs accelerate. Efforts to control costs in current proposals for healthcare reform also need to address costs related to overuse in order to attain the goal of a cost-neutral proposal.

Kaplan will offer suggestions for policy makers on how to analyze cost-effectiveness and opportunity costs for health services. He also will describe how effective shared decision-making between healthcare providers and consumers about treatments or tests that can have uncertain benefits may lead to reduced healthcare costs.

He is the Distinguished Professor of the Department of Health Services in the School of Public Health, and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine at UCLA. Kaplan is the Principle Investigator of the UCLA/RAND CDC Prevention Research Center. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute includes him in the listing of the most cited authors in the world. In 2005, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.

Admission is free, but seating is limited. Pre-registration is required. Please RSVP by contacting Candace Kistner at (602) 496-1354 or