The news came like a gut-punch. Americans are spending $200 billion every year for unnecessary medical tests and treatments. And it’s not just hitting us in the wallet.
Because these pointless procedures lead to an avoidable 30,000 deaths each year!
These wasteful tests and treatments have another effect. They may cause delays in needed treatment. When Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center recently eliminated pointless testing, it made a huge difference.
The hospital cut the waiting time for cataract surgery by six whole months!
Unnecessary tests and treatments are a major sticking point across the entire U.S. healthcare system. Doctors often say they’re a sign of cautious treatment… That they lower risks and save money in the long run.
But the truth is… they do just the opposite.
Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself…
More Care… More Cost
According to PBS News Hour, overtreatment and over-testing occur for complaints ranging from C-sections to blood draws.
Over-cautious doctors order more tests to “cover their butts”… and use aggressive treatment options to ensure a positive outcome. Even when they’re not called for. It’s called “defensive medicine.”
Plus, some hospitals see a financial incentive to run more tests more often.
The result is shocking. According to a self-study at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, their doctors only treated 6% of patients reviewed over 3 years according to medical standards.
The rest were over-tested or over-treated.
Patients whose doctors didn’t follow the guidelines were more likely to be re-admitted, suffer with complications, and spend more time in the hospital.
That’s right. More care led to even more care. And more cost. And the bottom line comes down to you paying more out of pocket.
Caution is one thing. But you’re paying for laziness in far too many cases.
Same Day… Same Test… Double the Charge
Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital looked at tests ordered in emergency rooms… and then ordered when patients were moved out of emergency to a tertiary hospital.
On average, each patient had one test performed in emergency ordered again when they were moved out of emergency. These unnecessary duplicate tests were all ordered within 12 hours of the originals.
And here’s the shocker: These tests were ordered even though the results of the original tests came back “normal.”
A 2014 study found 41% of tests ordered in intensive care units (ICU) were unnecessary. The lion’s share was ordered on Mondays. The researchers also found some other surprising results.
Older patients accounted for more than half of ICU patients – and 63% of the deaths. Yet patients under 59 accounted for almost half of the tests ordered. And the number of unnecessary tests appears linked to the length of stay in the ICU.
Patients in the ICU for more than 10 days averaged 31 unnecessary tests. Those in the ICU for less than 10 days, averaged only 19.
In other words, people stuck in the ICU for over 10 days had an average of 3 tests they didn’t need per day… while those who spent less than 10 days “only” suffered through an average of 2 unnecessary tests per day.
A Middle Eastern study found 3 tests accounted for 11% of all the unnecessary tests…
Your Dollars at Waste… And a Solution
U.S. News and World Report found Americans waste at least $500 billion on unnecessary breast cancer treatments alone. Every year.
According to the authors, experts caution that the more tests taken, the more likely one will result in a false positive. Which results in billions in unnecessary treatments.
U.S. News also warns against multiple referrals. The more referrals to specialists, the more likely a “problem” will be found. They also note multiple referrals may be a sign your primary care doctor is overwhelmed.
AARP also suggests the following tests may be unnecessary…
- Yearly stress tests and electrocardiograms
- PET scans for Alzheimer’s disease
- Annual PAP tests
- Testosterone for erectile dysfunction
- Upper-tract imaging for enlarged prostate
And these are just a drop in the bucket. Doctors estimate more than $80 billion dollars are wasted on pointless back pain treatments every year. Along with billions more on PSA screens and colonoscopies.
The bottom line – as with so many other medical situations – is to ask, “Why?”
If a doctor orders a test already given recently, ask, “Why?” If a doctor orders a test that doesn’t seem related to other tests, ask, “Why?”
Don’t accept, “Just to be safe,” as a reason. Every test should be for a reason. And every treatment should have a specific cause.
Defensive medicine protects doctors from lawsuits. But it also costs ordinary Americans like you billions of dollars. And potentially exposes you to unnecessary risk.
Don’t let a loved one become one of the 30,000 a year slain by unnecessary tests and treatments. Simply asking, “Why?” could lead to a different – and healthier – outcome.
Many healthcare organizations are fighting the scourge of over-testing and overtreatment. Help them by asking the questions they’d ask if they were there.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
“The $200 billion perils of unnecessary medical tests,” PBS News Hour. May 24, 2017.
Rogg, J., et al, “The Frequency and Cost of Redundant Laboratory Testing for Transferred Emergency Department Patients,” Oct 2012; 60(4): S13.
Anderson, M.O., et al, “Prevalence of unnecessary laboratory tests and related avoidable costs in intensive care unit,” J Bras Patol Med Lab. Dec 2014; 50(6): 410-416.
Khalifa, M. and Parwaiz, K., Reducing Unnecessary Laboratory Testing Using Health Informatics Applications: A Case Study on a Tertiary Care Hospital,” 2014; 37: 253-260.
Schroeder, M.O., “Signs of Overtreatment: How to Avoid Unnecessary Care,” U.S. News and World Report. Aug 18, 2015.
Agnvall, E., “10 Medical Tests to Avoid,” AARP Bulletin. Dec 2015.
Mercer, M., “7 More Medical Procedures,” AARP. Feb 2013.
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