Unnecessary Tests - Part A

Experts say that billions of dollars are wasted every year on unnecessary medical tests. As our series on cutting health costs continues, Dr. Art Ulene has some advice that can help you avoid this problem.

Modern medical technology, like the cyber knife at Norris Cancer Hospital - has dramatically increased our ability to diagnose and treat many diseases. Unfortunately, that technology comes with a high price tag.

A thousand dollars for a cat scan is well spent, if it could lead to a significant change in the way your doctor treats you. But studies show that many medical tests ordered by doctors are unnecessary.

When Ruth Jacobson suffered an episode of back pain, one of her doctors scheduled blood tests, x-rays, a bone scan, a pet scan, even a bronchoscopy. The total cost of those tests would have approached $10,000.

Concerned not only about the cost of the tests, but also the inconvenience, the discomfort, and the risks, Mrs. Jacobson challenged her doctor with one simple question: "Supposing I said I'd rather not go through the tests. Would your treatment of me be any different then it would be if you were doing the tests?"

Her doctor said, "No, it would not."

When the doctor could not justify the tests he ordered, they were cancelled. "Iit took about a week or so for the pain to subside, but it did gradually and after about a week, it was completely gone," says Mrs. Jacobson.

Don't be afraid to question the need for tests when the doctor orders them. You could save some money – and you'll feel better knowing that the test you do get are really necessary.

Tips On Eliminating Unnecessary Medical Tests
  • Question your doctor about the need for any tests he orders.
  • Having a regular doctor who is familiar with your health history and risk factors can help ensure that you get the appropriate tests at the appropriate time.
  • Before agreeing to any test your doctor orders, find out the limits, merits, risks and cost of the test.
  • Always ask your doctor this question: How will this test change my care?