Consumer News

Doctor Panels Identify 45 Unnecessary Medical Tests and Procedures to Cut Costs

Doctors from nine medical specialty boards in the U.S. are warning patients and health care providers to choose wisely when it comes to 45 common medical tests and procedures.

Nine leading medical specialty societies, including the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology made lists of "Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question," which came after a two-year effort, similar to what eight other medical specialty boards are preparing for, that aimed to identify routine unnecessary procedures that do not help patients live longer or better or may even be more harmful. 

A 2008 report the Congressional Budget office shows that as much as 30 percent of health-care spending foes to profitable tests and procedures are performed unnecessarily and may harm patients.

"Today these societies have shown tremendous leadership in starting a long overdue and important conversation between physicians and patients about what care is really needed," Dr. Christine K. Cassel, president and CEO of the ABIM Foundation, said in a written statement released on Wednesday.

"Physicians, working together with patients, can help ensure the right care is delivered at the right time for the right patient. We hope the lists released today kick off important conversations between patients and their physicians to help them choose wisely about their health care," Cassel added.

In 2010, a Consumer Reports survey consisting of 1,200 healthy 40-to 60-year-old men and women showed that 44 percent of them had received screening tests for heart disease that were considered "very unlikely or unlikely to have benefits that outweigh the risks."

“By identifying tests and procedures that might warrant additional conversations between doctors and patients, we are able to help patients receive better care through easy-to-use and accessible information,” said James Guest, president and CEO of Consumer Reports said in a statement. 

Another study in found 80 percent of surveyed doctors reported that they order some unnecessary tests because they fear they might get sued for malpractice, according to a study in a September 2011 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"I would say most doctors probably feel somewhat helpless when they're expected to practice defensive medicine and check off a whole bunch of boxes," Dr. Calvin Chou, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said at the time.

"Overuse is one of the most serious crises in American medicine," Dr. Lawrence Smith, physician-in-chief at North Shore-LIJ Health System, who was not involved in the "Choosing Wisely" initiative, told the New York Times. "Many people have thought that the organizations most resistant to this idea would be the specialty organizations, so this is a very powerful message."

Some of the Recommendations from the List

Low-risk patients or those who don't have a family history of colon cancer should not get screened again for 10 years after a high-quality colonoscopy comes back negative, the American Gastroenterological Association recommended. 

Doctors shouldn't order a CT-scan or "indiscriminately prescribe antibiotics" for sinus infections, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommended. 

The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommended against doctors prescribing chemotherapy for patients with advanced cancers who are unlikely to benefit.

The complete lists of all the 45 tests and procedures doctors and patients should question can be found here

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