U.S. spends $700 billion on unnecessary medical tests

“Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that 5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product-—$700 billion per year –goes to tests and procedures that do not actually improve health outcomes…The unreasonably high cost of health care in the United States is a deeply entrenched problem that must be attacked at its root.”

Medical Tests - What You Should Know

What your health care practitioner must tell you about medical tests - Your health care practitioner has an obligation to tell you everything about each test, both good and bad, before you undergo it. That means you can ask about how reliable and accurate the test is, any harm or negative effects of the test such as pain or additional conditions that could occur as a result of the test, what he hopes to accomplish by having you take the test. Also ask: “What will you do if the test is abnormal?” and “What will you do if the test is normal?” If you get the same answer to both questions, then ask, “Then why do the test?”

What can affect the outcome of medical tests? - Because certain foods, medicines, and/or vitamins can have a negative effect on the test. Your health care practitioner should ask you about each of these prior to telling you to have a test. This is not always done and the results can be disastrous. Always ask if what you’re eating or taking can affect the results of a test if your health care practitioner doesn’t bring it up.

How reliable are medical tests? - Be aware that tests vary in reliability. Some tests have very low reliability. That means you can’t rely on the results. You can never be sure that any single medical test, or even a single battery of medical tests, is reliable. Reliable means you get consistent results over time or over tests or over people doing the tests. No test is 100% reliable, so you can get a false positive (showing you have something when you don’t) or a false negative (showing you don’t have something that you do).

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