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The reasons, consequences for numerous medical tests

Apr 8, 2015 | Doctor Errors

Physicians must find a balance between not investigating enough potential problems and going overboard when diagnosing a patient. An overwhelming majority of emergency room physicians who took part in a recent survey reported that they order tests that patients likely do not need in order to protect themselves against malpractice suits. This can lead to higher costs of medical treatment and worse patient care in New York and other states.

When 435 ER physicians took this survey, 97 percent reported that they ordered advanced imaging scans like MRIs or CT scans even when they were not medically necessary. Physicians said they ordered the tests to avoid being sued for missing illnesses that were unlikely but possible causes to patient problems. Overall, as much as $210 billion could be wasted each year on unnecessary tests, procedures and treatments.

Ordering tests simply because there is any possible chance of another answer can have negative consequences. Additional testing could lead to false positives that can, in turn, lead to tests and treatments for something a patient does not have. Additionally, some tests may reveal an undetected disease that is not causing a patient harm but might lead to a treatment that negatively influences the patient’s quality of life.

Doctor errors can occur in many situations, even while they are trying to act in the best interests of a patient. If a patient suffers due to physician negligence, they may be entitled to compensation for the expenses and emotional pain and suffering that resulted. However, winning a medical malpractice suit might be difficult because several rules already protect medical staff, so an attorney might be needed when considering a suit.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Malpractice Fears Spurring Most ER Docs to Order Unnecessary Tests," Dennis Thompson, March 24, 2015