Unnecessary medical tests have potential to harm patients

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Although doctors order extra tests in an effort to avoid missing a diagnosis, unnecessary medical tests could impose risks as well as higher costs on New York patients. Unnecessary testing appears to be prevalent, especially in emergency rooms. A survey of 435 ER physicians showed that 97 percent of them admitted to ordering advanced imaging scans like an MRI or CT scan even though they thought it was not needed.

The lead author of the survey report published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine said fear of medical malpractice lawsuits drives physicians to order tests when any doubt exists. He added that this attempt by physicians to be thorough overlooks the potential harm to patients. Tests that are not needed might deliver a false positive, he said. Inaccurate diagnoses based on unnecessary tests sometimes result in people getting biopsies and other treatments they never needed.

Even before counting the costs of physical harm and medical bills attributed to false diagnoses, the unnecessary tests themselves are estimated to add an extra $210 billion to medical bills every year. The study’s author advised patients to discuss with their doctors how likely it was that extra testing was needed.

When a person believes that he or she has suffered because of medical errors or a missed diagnosis, the potential for a medical malpractice lawsuit is present. An attorney familiar with medical cases could examine the medical records of the person and offer an opinion on whether the situation involved negligence. A lack of a reasonable effort to diagnose or treat the patient could indicate liability for medical mistakes. If the evidence points to negligence, an attorney could prepare a lawsuit seeking compensation for medical bills and other damages such as lost income.

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