The face of medical care in the world is changing. As drugs get more precise with treating disease due to a better understanding of the human body, patients may soon be getting fewer medical tests and procedures. This is what is currently evolving in Canada. The questions by healthcare advocates for a long time was: are we doing more harm than good with all these tests?
Patient and Doctor Questions
In a new way of treatment, hospitals, doctors and insurance companies are in the process of coming up with lists of things physicians and patients should question. The goal here is not to avoid these tests or procedures but not to automatically order them. Keep in mind that sometimes specialized tests can do more mental harm than good.
An unnecessary test could yield a false positive result, which means that you need more tests to confirm what the result was like a biopsy. Not only is a biopsy invasive with a long needle being inserted into your body, but the patient involved would be exposed to unnecessary anxiety. The immediate questions would be what did they find?, is it cancer? or is my life over?
Now, this is not just related to procedures or surgeries but an unnecessary treatment might be a prescription for a drug. All drugs come with side effects. Although, they are getting more complex, the side effects are still there. Then add the expense of a prescription drug. Not all patients have insurance to cover the cost. Even if you do, I would rather use my copay for other things. And who wants to be taking medications on a continual basis? I think most of us want to be able to go around as we please without worrying if I took my medication.
Then there is unnecessary exposure to radiation. There is a growing concern among doctors over the long-term effects of radiation from CT scans. You are exposing your body even for a small amount of time to a cell killer to take a picture of your body. We all fear nuclear radiation from bombs but CT radiation is very similar on a much smaller scale.
One example is a recommendation by the American College of Physicians to reconsider ordering brain imaging (MRIs or CT scans) for simple syncope or blacking out, if there are no neurological symptoms. That’s because scientific evidence shows there is little likelihood this would have anything to do with the central nervous system.
Money Saved for Better Healthcare
Think about this, money saved from unnecessary tests could be used to fund more pressing health-care needs. We have to change the mindset that we need blood work if we have a bad back. If we could divert a billion dollars from blood tests that might not be all that helpful, we can have more psychiatrists or build new long-term care facilities. That is money being drained from affording better healthcare. It is starting in Canada and let’s see how it goes.
Do you get too many tests?