Doctors: Chill With All the MRIs, EKGs

With so much unnecessary testing, doctors try to rein in excess
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2012 7:15 AM CDT
Doctors: Chill With All the MRIs, EKGs
FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2009 file photo, a man sits on an ergometer during an electrocardiogram in a doctor's surgical office in Stuttgart, Germany.   (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle, File)

US doctors need to scale back on 45 of the most common testing procedures and treatments—such as EKGs for physicals when there's no sign of heart trouble, MRIs for routine back pain, and antibiotics for mild sinusitis. A panel of nine medical specialty boards is to make the recommendations today, and eight more boards are preparing to give similar recommendations, reports the New York Times. Indeed, with unnecessary (but lucrative) treatment accounting for up to one-third of the $2 trillion in annual health-care spending in the United States, medical professionals say these sorts of cutbacks make sense.

“Overuse is one of the most serious crises in American medicine,” says a New York medical school dean. “Many people have thought that the organizations most resistant to this idea would be the specialty organizations, so this is a very powerful message.” One Heritage Foundation analyst warned the new policy would take away patient choices, but leading doctors pushed back against that. “In fact, rationing is not necessary if you just don’t do the things that don’t help,” says the head of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation. (More health care costs stories.)

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