Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients

An article in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients” by Roni Caryn Rabin appears to be a step in the right direction, albeit a controversial one. You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/health/doctor-panels-urge-fewer-routine-tests.html.

Who, among us, doesn’t know someone who went to a doctor to check on one medical issue and came out with a litany of tests allegedly needed for something else entirely? Frequently, these tests examine issues that do not negatively impact a person’s health – they turn up things like cysts that are common-place and completely benign, but which must be poked and prodded to confirm their innocence; and then the medical bills pour in.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that in a small number of cases, these tests save lives and can identify disease that would likely not have otherwise surfaced until the disease had progressed.

There seems to be a general consensus on a rational level that the US medical system, or at least how it is financed, is broken. The Supreme Court issues of this past week notwithstanding, there will continue to be a pressing need to discuss how to contain costs and how to keep healthcare from further plunging the US economy into further debt.

But these issues are also deeply personal, which is what makes them so complex.

Questions for Discussion: What do you think about the new push to reduce the number of tests and medical procedures? Have you had an experience where you have been subjected to endless, needless tests which turned out to be of no benefit to your health at all? Have you had tests or procedures that actually ended up harming your health in the long-run? Have you been one of the lucky few who may have been saved by one of these tests of procedures? We all know that medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the US; where does that fit into this discussion? And how can we help quiet the political rhetoric surrounding this deeply personal, but financially consequential issue to enable politicans and health experts to look for realistic and meaningful solutions to these issues?

Please share your thoughts! And thank you for reading.

8 Comments

Filed under End of Life, Health

8 responses to “Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients

  1. Merald Conn

    I believe the over prescription of drugs and medical tests is due in part to the medical profession’s fear of the possibility of being sued for malpractice. This type of litigation is all too common in this country and perhaps this aspect should be addressed as well in seeking ways to lower the incidence of unnecessary testing.

    • Good point. That likely needs to be part of the dialogue as well. Any thoughts on how to handle that part of the problem? More immunity for doctors? Caps on compensation in lawsuits? And how do you make sure that people have a recourse if the doctor is truly negligent? Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Jennifer

    From a friend who is having trouble logging in: I think it was a similar article I read that said that “prevention” as we now know it was part of Nixon’s health plan. But pr…evention doesn’t really cost a whole lot…the medical industry can’t really charge to just help someone eat better or exercise more or quit smoking (as we’ve heard a lot in the tobacco control movement…there is no bill-code for cessation in a doctor’s office).

    So instead “prevention” became early and often screenings and the procedures that followed. This effectively did two things: it overdiagnosed and it gave doctors something to charge. Plus it made people feel like all they had to do was get screened and not actually do the hard work of “real” prevention. I mean, getting a blood test done, laying in an MRI machine, etc is way easier than not eating that donut or working to remove smoking in bars and restaurants, right? And then if you just put it in the hands of the doc no one need look at the larger picture of the environment, policies, access and personal choices. Just go to the doctor when you are sick. Isn’t that what our health -er- sick care has become all about?

    Obviously some screenings, tests and procedures will always need to be around. But I agree that much more could be done outside of the doctors’ office than in it.

  3. Sina

    Our whoe medical field and health insurance is a mess. The suprem’s decision this summer on Obamacare will either lead to social medicine or the collapse of the current dysfunctional system.
    We will know more soon, cuz what we’ve got ain’t working no more!
    Sina

  4. Jennifer

    It certainly is complicated. But it is made more complicated by the political posturing so common in the current debates. It will be very interesting to see what the Supreme Court decides, and then what impact that will have on the law as a whole. I find it interesting that support for a single payer or “Medicare for All” is considered such a fringe position and is not at the center of the conversation. Personally, I think that has to do with the influence of money in politics. But it does seem that we are getting to a place where the costs of maintaining the current system are simply unsustainable.

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    • Hi there! Thanks so much for the comment! I actually have no idea, although I think it has something to do with how you tag your posts. I think you want to look into Search Engine Optimization, but I really don’t know how that works. Thanks so much for stopping by and eaving a comment! Good luck!

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