Conventional wisdom holds that vigilant medical care can ease pain, suffering and costs by catching health problems early, but a new study found that early intervention can sometimes do just the opposite. In research involving 1,396 severely ill military veterans with diabetes, chronic lung disease or heart failure, a team of researchers at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Indianapolis report in the May 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that the men who were carefully followed by a physician spent significantly more time in the hospital and had no improvement in their quality of life.
The study does not mean that all early interventions are misguided. Early detection has proved to reduce illness and save lives in many cases. But in patients who are already very ill, it may simply increase hospitalization rates.