Patients can avoid costly risks by questioning medical treatments, part two

Earlier this week on our Chicago medical malpractice law blog, we mentioned that a group representing more than 370,000 doctors from nine different medical societies recently suggested that too many U.S. patients are at risk of suffering health problems and financial consequences from overmedication and overtreatment errors.

The group of medical professionals — which includes heart, kidney and cancer specialists as well as family doctors — recently created a list of tests and treatments that they believe are often overprescribed. If more patients and doctors become familiar with this list, they may be able to better recognize when more questions should be asked in the doctor’s office or in hospital rooms in order to avoid medication errors or other overtreatment mistakes.

The group, known as the ABIM Foundation, say pre-surgery chest X-rays and EKGs may not always be necessary, and antibiotics do not always have to be a first-line defense for sinus problems. The director of the New American Foundation is especially concerned about children’s vulnerability to tests using radiation. The American College of Radiology said that many doctors use CT scans to diagnose appendicitis in children, but ultrasounds may be able to accomplish the same result without radiation exposure.

In addition to understanding some of the common ways in which doctors overmedicate or treat patients, folks should ask their doctors the following questions before agreeing to certain medical tests or treatments:

  • Are there other tests or treatments that will be just as effective or even safer?
  • What are the risks and benefits associated with each treatment option or test?
  • Is it safe to monitor symptoms for awhile before choosing to undergo a medical test or to start treatment?
  • What is the purpose of the recommended medical test and what will it measure?
  • Who will interpret the results of the test and how will the results be communicated to other doctors and to the patient? What is the next step if the results are not normal?

More doctors’ specialty groups are also compiling lists of procedures and tests that they hope patients will question during visits with their physicians and specialists. The lists are expected to be made public this fall.

Understanding drug, test and treatment risks and benefits allows Chicago patients to decide what is affordable, but more importantly, this allows patients to decide what is acceptable and safe for their health.

Source: Times Union, “5 questions you should ask to avoid overtreatment,” May 4, 2012


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