Doctors and Patients’ Ideals of Unnecessary Medical Testing

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Table of Contents

  • Unnecessary Care or Treatment
  • Doctor and Patients Point of View
  • Doctors’ Reasons for Overtreatment of Patients.
  • Illnesses Due to Unnecessary Care
  • Conclusion

A Doctor is always supposed to give the best care necessary and to be putting the patients wants and needs first. The patient always wants to receive the best care necessary and have doctors show them their different options of what is available to them. Sometimes doctors may want to give extra medical tests in order to find the problem, but giving too many of these tests can harm and create more illness for the patient as well. Patients do not know that if given too many of these tests that is cause extreme harm, for most tests give off radiation and too much radiation can cause melanoma (cancer of the skin). Most of the time physicians use different types of tests to diagnose patients which could be very costly for the patient. Doctors should put themselves in the patients’ point of view to evaluate and diagnose differently, also to see if the patient is financially stable in order to pay for the different types of screening. Every patient a doctor sees is unique and they should be treated that way as well. Patients should not be treated like they are test rats in order to find what is wrong with them. Instead, doctors should evaluate in a more elaborate way or use the many new kinds of technology to help physicians with diagnosing a patient without using unnecessary medical testing. In the medical field, unnecessary medical testing should be cut back: doctors and physicians need to re-evaluate the different ways MD’s diagnose and screen patients.

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Unnecessary Care or Treatment

Unnecessary care or treatment is testing, prescribed medications, procedures, specialty referrals, the use of durable medical equipment, and screening. All of what is listed can either cause further damage to the patient or it will just be pulling money out of the patients’ pockets for no good reason. Overdiagnosis can result in even more tests or screening, which causes an increased amount of unnecessary imaging and procedures. Physicians should consider the number of consequences the over-treatment can cause rather than increasing screening or taking more advanced procedures for a simple diagnosis. Doctors are hypothetically are causing more harm than good when it comes to overdiagnosing or over treating a patient, professionals say that physicians, doctors, or MD’s should focus more on the quality of care that they are giving patients and should they spare patients of unnecessary care and unnecessary medical treatments.

Johns Hopkins and Harvard Survey. “A study conducted by Johns Hopkins and Harvard surveyed 2,106 physicians and found that 20% of medical care provided today was unnecessary.” The study was published by PLOS One, the cause for this survey was to better understand the reasons behind unnecessary medical care in the medical field. All of the 2,106 physicians surveyed were from the American Medical Association master file and were asked of the reasons for overtreatment as well as its causes in the health care system. It is said to be that about $105 billion could be saved if unnecessary care were to be cut in half, meaning doctors would not be over treating patients as much as they are now. Also, 4% of the healthcare costs could be used to provide better and quality care that is needed in the system.

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The American Academy of Family Physicians says that unless it is a really serious condition, for example, back pain, that doctors should wait to test or order a type of imaging for the patient. The types of imaging that may be used could be a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) or a Computed Tomography scan (CT). Professionals say that Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computed Tomography scans do help the outcomes of a patient in any way, but if anything it leads to the exposure of radiation at very high means. Radiation can affect a patient in either small amounts over a long period of time, which can raise the risk of cancer in a patient, or a lot of radiation over a short period of time. Symptoms of radiation vary from skin burns, nausea, weakness, hair loss, and reduced organ function.

Screening Leading to False Positives. An example of a false positive is by Charles Tullius, an anesthesiologist at South Pittsburgh Anesthesia Associates. Tullius says that himself and others at his profession had stopped doing the routine preoperative tests a decade ago, reason being is that it led to too many false positives, in which led to delaying surgery. A false positive is when the result of a test for a condition comes back positive, but the physician knows that it is supposed to come back negative. “Sometimes a screening leads to a false positive, after which additional tests can expose patients to unnecessary radiation or even biopsies, which carry their own risks. Other times an imaging test may pick up an abnormality or even cancer that simply is not life-threatening.” One may think that the doctors know what is best, in which they do, but some people may say they are just in it for the money not for the care and health of patients.

Doctor and Patients Point of View

Patients go to a doctor for a couple of reasons, one is for doctors to find out what is causing their sickness, and two is to see what the doctor can do to stop the sickness from developing further. Patients do not go into a doctor’s office to find that a doctor does not know what is going on with the patient or to find that they will just test the patients over and over again until they come to a conclusion. Essentially this leads to doctors giving an amount of screening or tests which are mainly “fishing expeditions” in a patient.

Doctors’ Reasons for Overtreatment of Patients.

The main reason doctors claim for the reason of unnecessary procedures is the fear of malpractice. Others reasons could be there was pressure from the patient and difficulty accessing medical records of the patients. Some solutions suggested by healthcare professionals would be easier access to health records and more practice guidelines. Already there are more efficient ways to access health records such as Electronic Health Records (EHRs). EHRs provide the access to a patient’s complete health record which helps provide the information that is needed to diagnose a patient sooner and efficiently. If doctors could better understand these new technologies and that there are better and easier ways to help patients then there would be a huge decline in overtreatments in the medical field.

Patients’ Demands. Many patients believe that they have no say in their care of what is suggested to them by a physician. The truth is that patients have every right and every say in their health care, the reason being is everytime a patient goes to the doctor, everyone signs a consent form for treatment by the doctor, but what most do not understand is that patients still have a right to refuse treatment if they do not want to go through with it. Doctors really just give suggestions on what can make the patient healthier and then the patient chooses whether they take the suggestion or they don’t.

Seeking a Different Kind of Treatments. A woman named Kathi Kolb, age 63, was diagnosed with early breast cancer and was starting 35 radiation treatments over seven weeks in 2008. Kolb did not want to go through with so much radiation though, so she became determined to find herself a better treatment option that was safer and more affordable for herself. “I had bills to pay, no trust fund, no partner with a big salary,” said Kolb. She found a physical therapist from South Kingstown and had asked him about a 2008 Canadian study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that three weeks of radiation was safe. The doctor agreed to try this treatment plan but explained there would still be risks. Kolb tried the three-week course and it still had left her with painful skin burns, blisters, swelling, respiratory infections, and fatigue. Kolb said that she fears that if she had tried the seven-week course that the symptoms and end result would have been twice as worse than the three-week course.

Illnesses Due to Unnecessary Care

Most of the patients that are given unnecessary treatment are those who are diagnosed with non aggressive cancer. Though the cancer is non aggressive, these patients still get treated as if they had cancer. Unnecessary care is not just of those who are diagnosed with cancer, it also includes lower back pain so MRI’s are given to find the location of where the pain might be. Illnesses that do occur after treatments may go away over time but most of the time the illness or symptoms stay with the patient. Another way a patient may become ill is through the emotions such as anxiety. There are many patients who are afraid of testing and or needles so they do not underg treatments or the are forced to to test or recieve treatment. A patients state of mind is second most likeely of what would be harmed by unnecessary testing in a patient.

Types of Testing or Treatments. Dr. Christine Cassel, chief executive officer, ABIM, says “Some of the tests that have been noted are things like CT scans or MRI scans of the head after an uncomplicated fainting spell without any other symptoms, an annual cardiac stress test for a person who has no sign of cardiac disease and no risk factors, or routine chest x-rays or EKGs as part of an annual physical or before outpatient surgery or minor surgery, and then a very common one is MRI of the spine within the first six weeks of the onset of lower back pain.” Meaning that some doctors, even though the signs and symptoms of a patient are not outstandingly significiant, the patient still gets tested as if the signs and symptoms were extreme. Virginia Moyer, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, points out that women have gotten mastectomies to treat small, non aggressive cancers that were never going to affect them. “That’s a huge harm,” she says.

Screening the elderly. “Overzealous screening for cancers of the thyroid, prostate, breast and skin, for example, leads many older people to undergo treatments unlikely to extend their lives, but which can cause needless pain and suffering”, said Dr. Lisa Schwartz, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. Again, even though most doctors think they are doing good for the patient screening a patient a no matter what age can still damage to the human body. Those who seek in treatments for early breast cancer most likely unextend their lives, in which again is harmful to the patient. “In 2012, the American Society for Clinical Oncology, the leading medical group for cancer specialists, explicitly told doctors not to order the tumor marker tests and advanced imaging, such as CT, PET and bone scans, for survivors of early-stage breast cancer.” Those who do get a screening or test do know that they are exposed to extreme radiation so they are able to sort of conquer the few symptoms they may recieve. Those who are not familliar with tests will more than likey get sick from it, especially in elders since their systems in their body may be even more severe.

Treating for “Borderline” Conditions. Dr. Ranit Mishori, associate professor of family medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, said “One of the other problems is that doctors often treat patients and order extra tests for even “borderline” conditions. So now, we’re treating pre-diabetes, we’re now treating prehypertension. We’re now treating osteopenia. That’s the pre-osteoporosis.” Mishori said that “Life is pre-death and that doctor can choose to treat many things, but that they need to better evaluate which tests are really worth doing and which ones cause more harm than good.” Daniel Barocas, an assistant professor of uruology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center says, “If you tell someone they have what they perceive as a lethal disease, they’re going to seek treatment. This effort encourages discussions where doctors and patients can let data and evidence run the show a little instead of emotionality and fear.”


The people in the medical field are very rigorous and competitive people, especially those who become doctors or physicians. Doctors and physicians must always do the best their very best can provide the best and most efficient health care that they can give. Some though can go over the top and overtreat patients thinking that they are doing the right thing, though most are in the wrong. Over-diagnosing, over treating, or over testing patients can be very harmful to the patient. Giving unnecessary treatments does not help or benefit the patients needs to get better and healthier. Instead, it exposes patients to radiation, which is extremely harmful and could cause burns, blisters, and respiratory infections. Doctors should be thinking of different ways to be diagnosing a patient, not just by testing a patient in hopes that they find something wrong with the patient. Most people who go to the doctor cannot afford most tests that are given to them anyways, so they refuse to take the test and get even iller from not taking it. By cutting back the over treatments and testing, it would cut down the cost of tests in general and it would help better the different and multiple ways to diagnose and treat patients as well, which is the main concern.

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