Posted on Apr 18, 2012
On April 5, a collaborative group of doctors and consumers published a list of what they asserted were medical tests and screenings that were commonly being administered without just cause or provocation. These instances of so-called “defensive medicine” have been spreading in recent years and have led to an estimated accruance of $13 billion in unnecessary medical costs to Georgia residents, reflected by an estimated $2000 per policy in additional premiums paid on Georgians’ health insurance every year.

The group is not suggesting that these tests are performed out of a profit motive. Rather, they say that doctors assume that they are protecting themselves from lawsuits by prescribing unneeded work. Patients, however, express resentment for the fact that such overactive testing contributes to driving up the ever-rising cost of medical insurance and care, all while subjecting them to costly and often unpleasant procedures.

What sorts of procedures are being over-prescribed? Expensive, uncomfortable ones such as MRI’s for lower back pain and EKG stress tests in patients at low risk of heart problems top the list. Beyond those are antibiotics to treat simple sinus infections, CT scans in patients who faint without any other symptoms, and cardiac stress tests and chest X-rays for patients about to undergo non-cardiac surgery.

How do you know when such tests should be administered? Prudence suggests a high degree of self-awareness, recognizing and addressing problems as they arise, and conducting your own research on conventional medical advice pertaining to your set of symptoms and conditions.