From the Summer 2012 Issue of For Your Benefit Newsletter
Saying “no” to your doctor may not be easy. After all, he or she has a medical degree and you don’t. However, sometimes it’s important for your own health to question whether certain tests are necessary. And, it’s always good to have a dialogue with your doctor. Nine medical specialty groups, including the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and the American College of Cardiology, recently released a list of 45 tests and procedures that patients usually don’t need. Sometimes doctors recommend these tests because they have always suggested it and are not up-to-date on the latest research, some other times it’s because patients ask for the tests, and lastly there can be a financial incentive to the doctor to perform the test. If your doctor suggests one of these tests, questioning the need for the test is not only appropriate, it’s in your best interest.
Unneeded care harms your health and leads to more out-of-pocket health care expenses. For example, overuse of antibiotics can make you more vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant infections, and X-rays and CT scans expose you to excessive radiation. The top six procedures not usually needed include:
- Antibiotic prescriptions for mild to moderate sinusitis unless symptoms last for seven or more days, or get worse after getting better;
- Bone density screening for osteoporosis in women younger than 65 or men younger than 70 with no risk factors;
- Pap smears on women younger than 21 or who have had a hysterectomy for disease other than cancer;
- Imaging tests for low back pain within first six weeks, unless there are neurological problems or other underlying conditions;
- CT scans and MRIs for headaches; and
- Annual electrocardiograms (EKGs) or other cardiac screening for low-risk patients without symptoms.
Consumer Reports recommends that patients ask their doctor the following questions if he or she recommends one of the tests and procedures:
- Do I really need this test or procedure?
- What are the down sides?
- Are there simpler and safer options?
- What happens if I do nothing?
- How much does it cost?
For a complete list of the top five unnecessary tests and procedures for each of the nine physician specialty societies that contributed to this project and for Consumer Reports guidelines for when these screenings are appropriate, when they are not, and what the risks of performing these tests are, visit Choosing Wisely website.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.