The Ten Most Overused Medical Tests and Treatments

I often write about how difficult it is to evaluate the quality of health care.  There is no Consumer Reports (CR) for healthcare, I argue, because while CR can rate mid-priced refrigerators briskly and clearly, in a way that makes comparisons easy, it is often all but impossible—even for a physician—to be positive of the relative benefits of a great many medical treatments. 

But if it’s hard to sort out the “best” healthcare, it may be easier to spot both negligent and unnecessary care.  As a hospital CEO once told me, “Our patients know whether they like the food, and the views, and whether the nurses are pleasant. They really have no way of knowing whether they are getting very good care or mediocre care . . . Though,” he added, “they are more likely to be able to tell if they are getting bad care.”

With that thought in mind, it might be worth taking a look at Consumer Report’s list of the 10 most overused medical tests and treatments. Thanks to  Gary Schwitzer of the University of Minnesota’s  School of Journalism and Mass Communication for calling attention to this list on his always interesting Schwitzer Health News Blog.
As Schwitzer points out, “You can quibble with the list, but you can’t help but commend CR for raising public awareness about the medical arms race.  And this list is just part of a broader special section on overspending on overtreatment.”

To see CR’s explanation below each item on the list, click here. In general, CR is focusing on cases where we’re not certain
whether the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks. For any
particular patient, the test or treatment might make sense, but there
is a consensus among physicians and health care experts that we are
doing far too many of these procedures.


3 thoughts on “The Ten Most Overused Medical Tests and Treatments

  1. Maggie;
    On target.
    Efficacy(DOES IT WORK?)is way understudied because much of what we do in Medicine doesn’t work at best- at worse-does harm.
    We must define efficacy as improving quality or length of a quality life-not changing a lab value.We are measuring the wrong outcomes!. You know the old joke- The operation was a success but the patient died.
    My favorite writer in this arena is Dr. Nortin Hadler who wrote the most important book since Illich’s “Medical Nemesis”.Hadlers book is “The Last Well Person”
    We need to read and listen to Hadler.
    Dr. Rick Lippin

  2. it’s tough, let’s say someone ‘qualifies’ for and ICD, if you do not offer it and implant it then you can be sued.