Unwarranted medical testing may be harmful

As many Florida residents know, the cost of health care has escalated in recent years. Included in the cost is the expense of unnecessary procedures and treatments. A recent study explored the use of unneeded tests performed in the emergency room. Researchers found that, out of 435 emergency room physicians who responded to the survey, 97 percent reported ordering unnecessary radiographic scans such as CT and MRI imaging. Relying less on a physical exam and the patient’s history to form a differential diagnosis, the doctors said they ordered the tests due to uneasiness over missing something. This fear may translate into part of the nearly $210 billion spent yearly on unnecessary procedures, tests and treatment.

Many experts believe that unnecessary tests and procedures may result in physical harm to the patient. Unnecessary testing may provide a result that could point to a possible illness. Still undocumented, an additional procedure such as a biopsy might be done to confirm the initial test was positive. The procedures may be invasive and might lead to unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatment.

Although doctors are trained to treat disease before it becomes incurable, ordering tests to prevent future questions may be unwarranted. Informing the patient by presenting the reasoning behind testing might help. Defensive medicine, according to a representative of an emergency physician organization, may not be an appropriate medical treatment.

If a patient undergoes a diagnostic procedure that carries a risk and is then harmed, the physician may be held liable if the test was outside of the pervading standard of care. The patient may incur medical bills or lost wages, and speaking to an attorney may help in determining the remedies that are available.