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Doctors Advise Against Certain Routine Procedures

Update Date: Feb 21, 2013 12:37 PM EST

Before you say yes to a test, make sure the medical procedure is really necessary. Doctors from different professional sections gathered together to jumpstart the campaign, Choosing Wisely. Choosing Wisely was created by the American Board of Internal Medicine's foundation and its purpose is to inform both doctors and the public which procedures and tests may actually be unnecessary and possibly even hazardous. According to the list it released on Thursday, there are 135 procedures throughout 17 different medical specialties that are considered to be superfluous.

These procedures that stem from specialties ranging from pediatrics to neurology to thoracic surgery, are time consuming and unreasonably expensive. The doctors that compiled this list were not asked to nor did they consider the monetary values of these procedures. But if these 135 tests were eradicated, hospitals and patients will save billions of dollars. Director of Consumer Reports' Health Ratings Center, Dr. John Santa calculated the cost of two of the procedures listed, EKGs, which measure electrical heart waves over a short period of time, and bone density scans. Dr. Santa found that if these two procedures were erased from doctors' protocol at a standard medical practice with 300,000 patients, patients would save roughly one million and hospitals would save one billion a year. Not only will skipping these procedures put money back into the wallet, it will also make hospital and doctor visits more efficient.

The campaign also described specific cases in which these procedures could potentially be harmful. For example, pediatric doctors tend to order CT scans on children who complain of stomach pain or headaches due to minor injuries. CT scans do not prove to help doctors diagnose faster nor do they help them assess the situation better, but rather, CT scans will only increase the chances that the child may develop cancer in the future since CT scans use up to thousands more radiation than an x-ray. Another recommendation is to stop prescribing children under four-years-old cough medication and oral antibiotics for conditions that can heal on its own.

The recommendation to stop asking for these procedures and to stop performing these procedures will help both patients and doctors greatly. The 'more is better' concept may not be the best option anymore so make sure the tests and procedures are really beneficial before accepting them. 

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