Unwarranted Medical Tests Are Wasting Money and Costing Lives!

The Los Angeles Times reported, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego, “Imaging tests such as MRIs and X-rays frequently are performed so that doctors can protect themselves from lawsuits”. A review of “2,068 orthopedic patients” showed that “19% of the tests were ordered for ‘defensive’ purposes.” Medical malpractice lawsuits “often hinge on charges that the doctor should have ordered more tests,” said lead author Dr. John Flynn of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Such a claim “may be the driving force of so much of the defensive test ordering,” he noted.

MRIs, like many other procedures are way over-used, but the explanation that the threat of malpractice is the cause is hardly credible. Remember, Texas has Tort reform, yet it still has the most expensive healthcare. Give them Tort reform and we will still have too many MRIs (because it’s a cash cow) and we won’t be able to get what we deserve when we’re left paralyzed after an unwarranted spinal surgery. It’s the best of both worlds, for the docs.

Ten million MRIs are done each year in the USA at a cost of $750 to $950 a piece. Nineteen percent of them are not justified. According to Health Day, researchers found that the tests ordered for “defensive purposes” (19%) accounted for about “35 percent of the patients’ total imaging charges ($113,369 of $325,309).” The most commonly ordered tests were “MRIs, which are more costly than X-rays.” To give you an example, it has always been assumed that  back pain is due to disc degeneration. If this is true, why has research shown that 40% of patients with advanced disc degeneration don’t have back pain?  Rather than performing an MRI, the experts in orthopedics recommend that patients with back pain be managed conservatively with analgesics for pain management to see if the pain goes away before performing an MRI. This does the trick for most patients. If the pain persists, further treatment may be warranted. This is what’s often referred to as “best practice”: experience and research resulted in a treatment that has been proven to reliably lead to a desired result. The more you know the better your care. Don’t be wasteful, your life may be at stake!

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