A recent harrowing case out of Michigan has cast the spotlight on a truly awful medical practice: doctors ordering unnecessary medical tests and procedures to make more money for themselves. A patient in Dearborn, Michigan sued her doctor,Yassar Awaad, alleging that he had falsely
diagnosed her as having epilepsy. A jury agreed and ordered Dr. Awaad to pay Mariah Martinez 2.8 million dollars. It turns out that Dr. Awaad has been diagnosing many, many people as having epilepsy so that he could make more money treating them.
A Rare Occurrence?
Obviously, this is an ugly story. One hopes that this is rare. But, the way in which insurance companies compensate doctors all but encourage this sort of behavior. Doctors get paid for the services they provide, not the outcomes they achieve. The more a doctor does, such as ordering tests and performing procedures, the more money she makes. Doctors have to be at least tempted to do more than is required given this incentive.
Hospitals Are No Help
You cannot count on the hospitals where doctors work to protect you. In Dr. Awaad's case, his salary kept going up as he billed for more and more procedures. The hospital where Dr. Awaad worked paid him a six-figure bonus for keeping his bills high, Everybody wins, seemingly, except for the poor
person needlessly stuck in the MRI machine.
Patients Are In No Position To Disagree
Patients are in a poor position to argue about what treatment they need. Those seeking help generally do not have medical training, so they cannot counter what their doctors suggest. Since patients are generally only responsible for copays, they are not that motivated to avoid big expenses such as MRIs. We are pretty much at the mercy of those folks in white lab coats.
No Easy Answer
There is no simple solution to this problem. You can question your doctor about the tests and procedures she is performing. But, that is about the extent of it. Unlike doctors, patients have no financial motives when it comes to medical care.
Questions To Ask
Never skip any treatment your doctor has prescribed based on a mere suspicion that the treatment may not be required. But, knowing that doctors can
be unscrupulous can make you a more informed patient. The next time your doctor orders an MRI or CT-Scan, you might ask if he has any financial interest in the company that would perform the tests. Inquire as to whether anyone is paying him a bonus based on the number of tests he orders. Find out if he thinks the test is still necessary if you go to a facility that the doctor does not own or otherwise profit from.