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Study: ER MDs are ordering too many advanced diagnostic scans

A recently published study in the medical journal Academic Emergency Medicine made some truly eye-opening findings concerning the practice of defensive medicine, meaning when physicians order an excess of diagnostic exams out of concerns over a possible misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 97 percent of the 435 emergency room physicians who took part in a survey indicated that they had ordered advanced diagnostic scans -- CT scans, MRIs, etc. -- that were medically unnecessary, and that over 85 percent believed this practice was widespread.

While there's no question that ordering unnecessary diagnostic testing has a financial impact -- the American College of Emergency Physicians indicates it's the second costliest decision behind admitting a patient -- it can also cause unnecessary harm to the patient.

Specifically, unnecessary diagnostic testing can do the following:

  • Expose the patient to high levels of radiation.
  • Lead to a false positive, such that the patient could end up undergoing a multitude of tests and biopsies, and even start potentially dangerous treatment for a condition that doesn't exist.
  • Expose an underlying medical issue that has yet to manifest itself, leading to treatment that affects quality of life more than the undetected condition.

Some possible solutions advanced by the researchers for addressing the problem of unnecessary diagnostic testing include involving the patient more in the decision-making process when it comes to these scans, and having hospitals supply reports to ER physicians showing how many scans they are ordering compared to their colleagues.

If you or a loved one believes that you have been victimized by any sort of medical malpractice, be sure to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your options.

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