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Back Pain Health Center

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Many Medical Tests, Procedures Not Always Needed

New Public Service Campaign Questions Overuse of Commonly Ordered Tests

Questionable Tests, Procedures continued...

James Fasules, MD, agrees. He is the vice president of advocacy for the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in Washington, D.C. The ACC is one of the nine medical groups involved in this campaign. "You can make a diagnosis or treat a patient without ordering an imaging test," he says.

The new recommendations are "not absolutes, but they should give you pause."

Experience counts. "Experienced physicians always have the ability to step back and say in this patient, 'We should do this,' but don't have to do it in patient after patient after patient."

Some people come to their doctor wanting tests that he or she otherwise wouldn't have ordered. The new campaign materials can also help the doctor explain why they don't need the test and have the patient understand why.

Marie Savard, MD, says tests and testing are no substitute for a thorough physical exam by a skilled doctor. She is a Philadelphia-based internist and the author of several books, including How to Save Your Own Life. "We need to go back to the days of a good physical and medical history," she says. "A lot of these tests may not be necessary for people who have no findings on a physical exam."

"I am all for being much more intelligent about our use of unnecessary and expensive tests," Savard says. "Doctors have gotten away from physical exam. It is easier to order a blood test."

Her advice? "Be your own squeaky wheel. If you know something is not right or have symptoms, discuss your concerns with your doctor and make sure they are taken seriously.

"These tests may be overused, but they have their place and can be lifesaving," she says.

Who?s Involved in the New Campaign?

The other medical groups who are part of the campaign include the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Radiology, the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Nephrology, and the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology. On the consumer side, 11 groups, including the AARP, Alliance Health Networks, Leapfrog Group, Midwest Business Group on Health, and the National Business Coalition on Health, are working with Consumer Reports.

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