Survey: Docs order needless tests weekly

Three out of four physicians polled said their colleagues prescribe an unnecessary test or procedure at least once a week, according to results of a survey commissioned by the Choosing Wisely campaign. Fear of malpractice litigation and doctors' desires to reassure themselves about assessments reportedly motivate needless ordering.

Forty-seven percent of doctors surveyed said one patient each week requests an unnecessary test. Almost half the respondents said that when facing an insistent patient, they'd advise against the test but order it anyway; another 5 percent of respondents would just cave in and order it.

"I think we're afraid of not being liked," Donald Ford, a Cleveland Clinic Health System physician, told National Public Radio. "We want to be the hero to the patient."

Doctors said having specific, evidence-based recommendations on unnecessary care to discuss with patients would help curb overutilization. Eighty-four percent of polled physicians expressed interest in learning more about these recommendations. And 91 percent of respondents said malpractice reform would reduce needless tests.

The telephone survey--conducted in February and March--polled a nationally-representative sample of 600 U.S. practitioners. The margin of sampling error is +4.0 percentage points.

Choosing Wisely is a national campaign that's convinced nearly 60 medical societies to identify overused healthcare services. These squander an estimated one third of the $2.8 trillion the United States spends on healthcare annually, NPR reported.

"Physicians who reported having exposure to the Choosing Wisely campaign are significantly more likely to have reduced the amount of unnecessary care they have provided in the past year compared to those who have not seen or heard of the campaign," the survey report states.

But the Choosing Wisely initiative came under fire recently when some specialists left costly procedures off their unnecessary services lists. When joint surgeons listed unnecessary procedures for their specialty, for example, none of their choices included high-dollar surgeries commonly performed despite lack of evidence for their use, as FierceHealthPayer: Anti-Fraud reported.

For more:
- read the survey (.pdf)
- here's the NPR article