An article in the Washington Post explored the practice of doctors going from one medical test to another to another at great expense when none of them may have been needed at all. The writer, a physician, tells of a woman named Lilly who had a slightly abnormal EKG result. She had no symptoms that would indicate
heart trouble. Despite this, her doctors went on a wild-goose chase that resulted in Lilly having to undergo a stress test. Of course, the stress test came back as normal. To get to that point took blood tests, office visits, and emails between various doctors. That's a lot of wasted time.
One Hundred Billion Dollars Wasted?
It's also a lot of wasted money. How do over one hundred billion dollars a year sound? That is was some estimate we spend on medical tests of very limited value. Do you think your health insurance premiums might be a little lower if we cut one-tenth of a trillion dollars of waste out medical care each year?
More Than Just Money At Issue
But, forget about the money for a second. We can always print more. Consider the stress this puts on the Lillys of the world (or the valley.) Think about how
discomforting it must be to shuffle from doctor to doctor and take test after test when nothing is wrong. Ponder, too, the potentially disastrous consequences of overdoing medical testing.
The article recounts the story of a woman who had a small mass appear near her kidney on a CT-scan. The doctors did every test they could think of before removing that kidney. The mass was nothing more than a bit of fat. But, shortly afterward, the patients remaining kidney failed.
Go Slowly And Ask Questions
The lesson here is to go slowly and question the need for medical testing. What seems like a routine x-ray could end up killing you after the doctors get done.
As always, never make any medical decisions without talking to your physician.