In a recent survey, three out of four physicians said the average medical doctor orders unnecessary medical tests and procedures at least once a week. Why? More than half said that even if they know a test is unnecessary, they order it because the patient insists.
How does this affect you?
Not only can unnecessary tests cost you money, they also expose you to risks and potential harm. If you have lower back pain, for example, ordering imaging may not affect treatment or improve outcomes any faster. However, it can lead to radiation exposure and unnecessary surgery. And depending on your insurance coverage, you’ll have to pay for some of the cost of that imaging test.
In 2012, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) launched the Choosing Wisely© campaign to encourage doctors and patients to talk through potential tests and procedures in order to ensure the right care is delivered at the right time.
Here are some questions they encourage you to ask your doctor:
- Do I really need this test or procedure? Tests should help you and your doctor decide how to treat your problem, and procedures should help you live a longer, healthier life.
- What are the downsides? Discuss the risks as well as the chance of inaccurate results or findings that will never cause symptoms but may require further testing. Weigh the potential complications against possible benefits and the symptoms of the condition itself.
- Are there simpler, safer options? Sometimes lifestyle changes will provide all the relief you need.
- What happens if I do nothing? Ask if your condition might worsen—or get better—if you don’t have the test or procedure now.
- How much does it cost? Ask whether there are less expensive alternatives, or generic versions of brand-name drugs.
Medical tests and procedures are important, and can even be life saving, but they also may expose you to risks and costs that are not necessary. For consumer friendly Choosing Wisely© information, go to ConsumerHealthChoices.org and aHealthierMichigan.org/smartER.
Photo Credit: A Healthier Michigan