Last year when discussion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was going hot and heavy one piece of information that was absent from the discussion was input from physicians on how to control the cost of medicine. At the time I argued that tort reform and better protection for physicians was needed to help protect against practicing defensive medicine because defensive medicine tends to drive up the price of health care.
Nine major physicians’ groups have come forward and identified 45 tests and procedures that are commonly used but have no proven benefit for many patients and sometimes cause more harm than good.
You may be surprised about the tests and treatments that these expert groups now question. They include, for example, annual electrocardiograms for low-risk patients and routine chest X-rays for ambulatory patients in advance of surgery.
The nine specialty physician groups making recommendations, include cardiology, oncology, radiology and primary care, and all issued “top five” lists last Wednesday. Among items on those lists are: cardiac stress tests for annual checkups in asymptomatic patients; brain imaging scans after fainting; antibiotics for uncomplicated sinus infections that are almost always caused by viruses, which are not treatable with antibiotics; imaging of the lower spine within the first six weeks after suffering back pain; and bone scans for early prostate and breast cancer patients at low risk of metastasis.
I have no idea if these recommendations will gain traction but they are obviously a great first step to control health care cost based on science and professional knowledge and not on politics. I will be following this topic closely and I will try to keep you informed.