Unnecessary tests, procedures major contributors to skyrocketing healthcare costs

Female doctor talking to male patient in hospital bed
Unnecessary tests are a major driver of increasing healthcare costs. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Pricey tests and treatments contribute to the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, but patients are often unaware that such procedures are unnecessary. 

Indeed, wasteful testing or treatments are so common in the industry that doctors and patients alike don't even recognize it anymore, Vikas Sinai, M.D., president of the Lown Institute, a think tank aimed at making care more efficient and affordable, told ProPublica. 

RELATED: U.S. healthcare spending skyrockets to $10K per person

Free Daily Newsletter

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceHealthcare!

The healthcare sector remains in flux as policy, regulation, technology and trends shape the market. FierceHealthcare subscribers rely on our suite of newsletters as their must-read source for the latest news, analysis and data impacting their world. Sign up today to get healthcare news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

The article included several examples of overtreatment from Medliminal, a group that challenges false or inflated medical bills in exchange for part of the savings. For instance, an 82-year-old woman was charged for a pregnancy test, as was a woman who had undergone a hysterectomy. 

RELATED: Hospitals' wasted supplies may contribute to growing healthcare costs 

Although doctors are aware of the harm that unneeded procedures and tests can cause, many continue to order them anyway, according to the article. In many cases physicians are under pressure to increase profits or fear they will be sued for malpractice due to a possible missed diagnosis, particularly of cancer. A study published earlier this year found that hospital-based primary care clinics are more likely culprits and tend to order unnecessary tests and procedures more often than community-based clinics. 

Yet, in the case of unneeded procedures that patients request, saying "no" can be harmful for physicians, as doctors who refuse to order them often see a decrease in satisfaction scores.  To address this problem, physicians should encourage patients to ask questions and engage in shared decision-making.