Woman Talking With DoctorHow common is this? You go to a doctor for your annual exam and routinely take a bunch of tests that end up being expensive and time- consuming. Well, soon that may change. Now doctors from nine top medical societies are telling patients and their medical providers to be more discerning when it comes to 45 of the most common medical tests. The campaign's catchy title is: "Choose Wisely."
There's plenty of evidence to back up their new advice. A 2010 "Consumer Reports" survey of 1,200 healthy adults showed that almost 50 percent of them had received screening tests for heart disease that were considered "very unlikely or unlikely to have benefits that outweigh the risks." And, a study in the September 2011 issue of the "Archives of Internal Medicine" found 80 percent of surveyed doctors said they order unnecessary tests just because they are afraid of being sued for malpractice.
Plus, according to "The New York Times," up to one-third of the $2 trillion of annual U.S. health care costs is spent on unnecessary hospitalizations and tests, ineffective new drugs and medical devices, unproven treatments, and unnecessary end of life care. That's a lot of waste.
So what tests and treatments should you question? Well, you may be surprised. Here's a list of the eight most common tests and treatments you may be able to forgo:
1. Question colon cancer screening if you're a low-risk patient (who doesn't have a family history) and you had a negative colonoscopy report less than ten years ago.
2. Pass on any imaging testsfor low back pain within the first six weeks of the onset of your pain unless your physician identifies red flags.FYI: Low back pain is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits.
3. Nix routine antibiotics for acute mild-to-moderate sinusitis unless symptoms last for seven or more days or your symptoms get worse. That's because most sinusitis is due to a viral infection that will resolve on its own. Sinusitis accounts for 16 million office visits and $5.8 billion in annual health care costs.
4. Pass on dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) the screening for osteoporosis if you're a woman younger than 65 (or men younger than 70) with no risk factors. Caveat: this screening test is costeffective in older patients.
5. Question annual electrocardiograms (EKGs) or any other cardiac screening if you're a low-risk patient without symptoms. False-positive tests are likely to lead to more harm than good because they can incur unnecessary invasive procedures, over-treatment and misdiagnosis.
6. Pass on a Pap smear if you've had a hysterectomy for a non-cancer disease.
7. Question it if your doctor suggests a CAT scan (or any imaging studies) for uncomplicated headaches.
8. Don't agree to any unproven diagnostic tests when it comes to allergies such as immunoglobulin G testing or an indiscriminate battery of immunoglobulin E tests.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V Is For Vagina.'.