ACP aims to limit excessive testing

Both physicians and patients should use a more critical eye in determining whether certain diagnostic tests might do more harm than good, Dr. Steven E. Weinberger, executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Physicians (ACP), told HealthDay News.

"There needs to be an honest conversation in both directions, with a clear understanding about what is and isn't necessary," Weinberger said.

While some experts estimate that excessive testing accounts for as much as 10 percent of the nation's spiraling healthcare costs, the ACP's most recent ethics manual recommends that physicians take a more "parsimonious" approach to deciding how to treat their patients in general, notes National Public Radio's Shots blog.

But when it comes to testing in particular, Weinberger and Dr. Anthony Shih, executive vice president for programs of the Commonwealth Fund, agreed that more discussions should take place regarding the three main risks of diagnostic testing, which include:

  • Risks related to the test itself, such as radiation exposure caused by imaging equipment
  • The risk of a false positive, which can cause patients undue stress and lead to a series of additional unnecessary tests with their own risks
  • The risk that an unharmful condition will be identified and unnecessarily treated, such as a nonspecific condition found during a routine electrocardiogram that leads to an invasive and potentially risky cardiac catheterization

Thus, the ACP has launched its High-Value, Cost-Conscious Care Initiative to educate physicians and patients about the benefits, harms and costs of tests linked to specific ailments, HealthDay reports.

"We're basically trying to develop a list of those types of things that are overused and explore the evidence behind why they are overused," Weinberger said.

To learn more:
- read the HealthDay News article via USA Today
- read the post from NPR's Shots blog