Seventeen medical groups pooled their resources to identify medical procedures, tests and therapies that are frequently overused or ordered when not necessary. Ordering a test that is not indicated puts the patient at unnecessary risk and increases costs with no valid reason. The American Board of Internal Medicine’s ABIM Foundation was the group that developed the list. The goal was to help identify the reasons behind the massive increase in health care costs.
Costs are certainly a problem in the health care industry, but overused treatments have the potential to actively harm a patient. American doctors are much more likely to deliver a baby by caesarean section than those in other industrialized countries. Some have suggested that that may contribute to learning disabilities and death. A child born before 39 weeks of gestation has an increased risk of suffering these outcomes. The benefits, if any, of early caesarean should be weighed against these risks.
The fight over overuse of medical tests and procedures can be confusing to health care consumers. Politics may be defining the message, rather than the well being of patients. Some use these studies to advocate for a change from our current system of fee-for-service. At present, doctors are paid for every procedure they perform, giving them a financial incentive to order unnecessary tests. With medical malpractice lawsuits being hampered by tort reform in many states, patients are left with questionable protection when a needless test causes them harm.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Doctors list overused medical treatments,” by Noam N. Levey, 20 February 2013