Unnecessary tests and treatments are commonly ordered for patients

Just when I’ve lost hope that mainstream media will stop perpetuating the myth the more medicine equals better care, the Associated Press came up this excellent piece.

The article states, rightly, that “anywhere from one-fifth to nearly one-third of the tests and treatments we get are estimated to be unnecessary,” and that, “it may lead to dangerous side effects.”

Regular readers of this blog should be familiar with those concepts.

I wrote recently that patients often reject evidence based medicine. One reason is that there isn’t enough clinical guidelines available for patients to make an informed decision.

That leads to unnecessary tests, which can range from birth — with an escalating C-section rate, for instance — to death, with the copious amounts of dollars funneled into end of life care.

And that’s ignoring the billions of dollars spent on unnecessary antibiotics, unproven cancer screening, and imaging scans.

Responsible reporting like this can help sway some patients to be more critical of their physician’s recommendations. And when a doctor discusses the pros and cons of ordering a test, patients may be more receptive to the fact that more tests will not necessarily improve their health.

It’s also encouraging that medical journals, like the Annals of Internal Medicine and Archives of Internal Medicine, are planning series emphasizing “high-value, cost-conscious care.”

But to reach patients, mainstream media needs to pick up the baton and run with it. More articles like the AP piece would be a great start.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • http://www.hornygoatweedaphrodisiac.com Dave

    Well if only pharmaceutical companies and insurers were more interested in people’s health than in their balance sheets… but, we don’t live in a utopia.

    Antibiotics are a terrible example of wasted medicine, and their use in agriculture is also rapidly leading us to a stage when antibiotics will no longer be effective.

  • http://www.freshstartprivate.com mary john

    Protecting yourself from these adverse effects is to avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics. Since antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections (like strep throat, urinary tract infections, and severe sinus infections), they won’t be effective against viral infections that cause the common cold, flu, or bronchitis. In addition to the risk of unnecessary side effects, inappropriate use of antibiotics can promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and leave you vulnerable to incurable infections later on.

  • Doc99

    Patient demand and voracious plaintiffs’ law firms are confounding variables here. Doctors know that defensive medicine, for example, is not good medicine, but they’re between Scylla and Charybdis here. The waters are choppy indeed, and teeming with predators.

  • http://www.talktoyourunconscious.wordpress.com BobBapaso

    Let’s not have the mainstream media running with anything that effects our welfare.

    What is necessary or not depends a lot on perspective. Maybe we should just try to keep what might not be necessary as inexpensive and free of side effects as possible, and avoid saying,”Tough it out, or take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

  • Stennihag

    Please, Patients aren’t the only ones driving this. Doctors don’t offer tests, they order them. Doctors reject evidence based medicine every time they order/preform “Annual” pelvic exams on asymptomatic women, Mammograms for low risk 40 yrs olds or PSA testing on low risk men (or possibly any men depending on who you talk to) and the list goes on. The mammogram/PSA may “get the patient off your back”, and the Pelvic may “do no harm” but be financially rewarding, but they benefit the doc not the patient.

  • http://www.leanmedicalcare.org Peter Nesbitt

    Good to see this topic brought forward again. I have been writing on the subject of over-utilization (as insurers call it) for more than a year. An estimated $600 to $700 billion is wasted each year on unecessary treatment. In my blog, I focus on realistic proposals for obtaining voluntary medical cooperation in controlling medical care and limiting it to that which is required by the clinical findings. In my experience, doctors will willingly cooperate if paid fairly, promptly, treated with respect.

Most Popular