How can I try to avoid unnecessary or harmful diagnostic tests, screening tests, medications, or procedures?
Estimates vary, but many providers agree that 30-50% of diagnostic tests are unnecessary or even harmful. The numbers are similar for many cardiovascular and orthopedic procedures, and even higher for screening tests. Medications with high numbers needed to treat (NNT – the number of patients needed to treat in order to help one) mean that many, many patients pay for medications that don’t help and potentially harm them. The problem is exasperated by the extraordinary profitability of many of these services, which can result in a bias to overuse. Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are raking in huge profit margins, and spend more money ‘educating’ doctors to use their tests, procedures and medications than they do on research and development.
How can you avoid receiving and paying for ineffective or harmful treatments? It starts with having a collaborative relationship with your PCP so you can evoke their goodwill in being candid with you about only receiving high value care specific to you and your circumstances. It continues with your persistent commitment to asking basic questions to predict benefits and harms.
Remember: We coach, support, educate, and empower. We illuminate options you may not have known you had. But we don't decide what's right for you in your unique circumstances; only you can do that. And we don't provide medical, financial, or legal advice; nor do we replace the valuable counsel of those who do.