Overused tests and treatments: When to ask for a second opinion

Medicine isn't always an exact science, but doctors and patients need to understand all of their treatment options. Medical overuse in America is on the rise, and it's important for doctors to ensure that they are delivering the most effective, efficient care while reducing the potential for supply waste. By knowing what tests are being overused, people will know when to ask for a second opinion and ensure the best treatment is delivered.

What tests to look out for

When patients receive unnecessary medication, have procedures that have more risk than benefits and get tests that don't reveal the problem, it can be dangerous to their wellbeing. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine delivered a report on the top 10 most overused tests and treatments, highlighting what each entry does and how it can be dangerous to healthy patients compared to alternatives. For example, the study found that 90 percent of carotid artery ultrasonography and stenting patients didn't have symptoms and is performed for uncertain or inappropriate indications, suggesting the procedure is unnecessary.

In another instance, Transesophageal Echocardiography was found to not improve outcomes any more than a simple test. It's an invasive test that requires sedation, posing a risk for patients that don't need it. These two treatments alone set the tone for other entries in the list. Each one demonstrates the need for better decision-making capabilities and knowledge on both the patient and doctor sides.

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Patients must be more active in their care.

Knowledge is power for medical care

Doctors and patients must be wary of the treatments that are being provided. Unnecessary tests cost patients money and can put them in danger. These procedures can also take up health institution resources and waste supplies that could be used on patients that need them. MinnPost noted that the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and Consumer Reports Magazine united in 2013 with their "Choosing Wisely" campaign, aimed at making recommendations to reduce or eliminate the use of common health care services that provide little to no patient benefit. This type of effort can help doctors better prescribe treatments and enable patients to take more responsibility for their own care.

When patients aren't comfortable with their diagnosis or recommended treatment, it's vital to get a second opinion. A 2011 article from KevinMD noted that some doctors might use MRIs because it's quicker than doing a full examination. Using an MRI for screening might not be as effective as other methods, and it costs patients and doctors necessary time and money. For health professionals, it's essential to ensure that you read the MRI yourself and thoroughly explain why the test is necessary.

There are a wide variety of treatment options in the medical world, and it's important for doctors to show how certain tests will impact patient health. Doing so will help lower medical supply waste and ensure that treatments and tests are only being given to individuals that need them.