“Do I really need that test?” It’s a question that many of us may ask ourselves at the doctor’s office, especially when we go in for a routine check-up. For those who have comprehensive health insurance, it’s easier to agree knowing that more often than not we’ll be covered through our plans. But a new initiative spearheaded by the American Board of Internal Medicine wants to change how and when doctors initiate medical tests in order to reduce wasteful spending.
The campaign revealed 45 tests that are often performed for both acute and chronic conditions, even when they aren’t needed. Below is sample:
- Don’t obtain imaging studies in patients with non-specific low back pain– from the American College of Physicians.
- Don’t routinely prescribe antibiotics for acute mild-to-moderate sinusitis unless symptoms last for seven or more days, or symptoms worsen after initial clinical improvement– from the American Academy of Family Physicians.
- Do not repeat colorectal cancer screening (by any method) for 10 years after a high-quality colonoscopy is negative in average-risk individuals– from the American Gastroenterological Association.
Though we realize medical tests aren’t free, per se, when it comes to understanding how much our healthcare costs each year, it’s safe to say that many of us are in the dark– that is, according to Dr. Jennifer Brokaw, the founder of Medical Consult and Advocacy Services in San Francisco. At a Commonwealth Club forum titled “New Approaches to Patient Care and Advocacy” Dr. Brokaw explained the disconnect between patients and doctors, and the price of healthcare:
But as a follow-up to Dr. Brokaw’s explanation, an opinion letter published last week in New York Times by an emeritus professor at Weill Cornell Medical College explained why doctors often choose to prescribe seemingly unnecessary tests: liability.