Below, a guest-post by Dr. George Lundberg, Editor-at-Large of MedPageToday; Editor in Chief of Collabrx; President and Board Chair of the Lundberg Institute. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the Lundberg Institute’s Board)
What Lundberg says is not meant to be news. Today, physicians tend to agree that many of the tests that patients undergo are unnecessary. Three years ago, one hospitalist shared a story on HealthBeat, describing how he warned his residents about over-testing. His hospital may not have been happy about his disclosure: tests boost revenues.
But in some cases, we have solid medical evidence showing that for certain patients, these tests do more harm than good– though vested interests may try to bury that evidence. (See Dr. Hoffman’s post below.)
Yet doctors continue to order the tests– why?
George Lundberg brings a unique perspective to this problem. Drawing on his wealth of experience, both as a practitioner and as a teacher, he puts it in a historical context. For 40 years, he has asked physicians why they perform so many tests. The frankness of their responses is matched only by Lundberg’s own candor as he diagnoses the excesses in our medical system .
How to Avoid Avoidable Care
Why do physicians order laboratory tests? The traditional reasons are: diagnosis 37%, monitoring 33%, screening 32%, previous abnormal result 12%, prognosis 7%, education 2%, and medicolegal 1%.
In order to confirm these data, I began to ask the same question of many groups of clinical and laboratory workers over three continents in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s during Socratic teaching sessions on how to use the clinical laboratory correctly. And I began to get very different answers.