[Post updated 10/25/18 to include dates.]
One of the drawbacks of wellness is that focusing resources on risk factors that may pose problems for employees when they get older allows more immediate problems to fester without being noticed. One example would be the opioid epidemic (which Quizzify was the first wellness vendor to address). Yet opioid addiction poses a vastly greater immediate hazard to employee health than diet.
Another example would be the explosion of harms caused by the healthcare industry itself, and that is the subject of The Bleeding Edge, a new documentary on Netflix. In case anyone is keeping score at home, Quizzify teaches (among other topics) about harms caused by the industry…and already educates employees to avoid most of what The Bleeding Edge covers. Hence this review.
The Bleeding Edge tracks three hazardous medical interventions: vaginal mesh, metal-on-metal hips, and Essure, a failed birth control device. CAT scans and the DaVinci robot make smaller appearances as well. Vaginal mesh and metal-on-metal hip devices are both now off the market.
Interviews of victims of the first three are intertwined with images of devices gone haywire inside the victims’ bodies, along with experts talking about how this could be allowed to happen. (“More evidence is required to remove a device than to approve it.”)
The experts include the former head of the FDA, along with Dr. Martin Makary of Johns Hopkins. If you are not familiar with Dr. Makary, he is an accountability guru whose bestselling Unaccountable is the basis for the prime-time medical drama The Resident. He is also a big fan of Quizzify.
Perhaps the most compelling interview is with the former spokesperson for the birth control device, who then became an advocate for its victims. Switching sides like this never happens. The difference was that this spokesperson was also a customer…until her implanted device went badly awry as well.
FDA mistakes that could have hurt your employees, as described in the documentary:
Wrongly approving metal-on-metal hip devices in 2006 under a low-threshold FDA pathway called the 510(k) process.
Laughing out loud on videotape in 2002 at the idea that they may get in trouble if women get harmed, when approving the fatally flawed Essure birth control device.
Hiring industry executives to regulate their friends and companies they have invested in.
Firing experts who advocated for disclosures of hazards.
The last point relates to the hazards of CAT scans (specifically regarding “virtual colonoscopies”). In 2009, the FDA apparently fired nine employees for advocating what we here at Quizzify have educated employees about for three years: the radiation hazards of CAT scans. The scientists had been raising their concerns for three years before their termination. A 2014 Congressional report showed that FDA higher ups had installed employee monitoring software on the scientists’ computers.
Likewise, the FDA takes a hands-off approach on the DaVinci robot (another favorite Quizzify topic of education, although we weren’t the first to question their integrity). While the FDA has the power to require a manufacturer to train physicians on its device, it apparently failed to use that leverage with the DaVinci. Putting the robot into the hands of completely inexperienced surgeons has led to significant harms, including a case in which a woman’s insides literally fell out following the surgery.
Many doctors — especially “leading experts in the field” — are directly or indirectly compensated to use and pitch these devices. One of your employees may have a doctor who is among them, and it’s not as though the doctor is going to volunteer the information. Unfortunately, this is not something the FDA can remedy, because regulation of medical practice is the responsibility of state medical boards and the hospitals that buy these machines and allow their doctors to use them. Your employees need to learn to ask.
What should employers be doing?
It may be time to pivot away from encouraging employees to get more “engaged” in the medical system. A recently released comprehensive analysis found that spending more money on urging employees to obtain more care seems to backfire. For instance, there is no correlation between encouraging employees to go to the doctor and avoiding ER visits. Or between employer spending and getting employees to check their HbA1c's.
Additionally, Health Affairs recently wrote that overtreatment is a huge issue.
Perhaps in some cases it may be a good idea to educate employees to spend less of your money on healthcare by teaching them to not always demand the latest tests or procedures…or even simply to not always acquiesce when such tests and procedures are proposed. As Dr. Atul Gawande says:
"Virtually every family in the country, the research indicates, has been subject to overtesting and overtreatment in one form or another. The costs appear to take thousands of dollars out of the paychecks of every household each year…Millions of people are receiving drugs that aren’t helping them, operations that aren’t going to make them better, and scans and tests that do nothing beneficial for them, and often cause harm."
Instead, educate your employees that, as we say at Quizzify (and as anyone who watches The Bleeding Edge will say):
"Just because it’s healthcare doesn’t mean it’s good for you."
We’d encourage you to try a free quiz. Some questions are valuable health-and-lifestyle questions that you may not already know, while others are Bleeding Edge-type questions, highlighting medical interventions that are misunderstood, and as a result vastly overutilized and sometimes harmful.
If you learn something from these questions, you can be pretty sure your employees will too.