Doctors should perform 45 common tests and procedures less often, a group of nine medical specialty boards recommended today. The move will "likely alter treatment standards in hospitals and doctors' offices nationwide," reports Roni Caryn Rabin for The New York Times.
"Overuse is one of the most serious crises in American medicine," said Dr. Lawrence Smith, physician-in-chief at North Shore-LIJ Health System and dean of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, who was not involved in the effort. "Many people have thought that the organizations most resistant to this idea would be the specialty organizations, so this is a very powerful message."
Some estimates show unnecessary treatment accounts for one-third of medical spending in the United States.
The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation is advising against physicians testing with EKGs during a physical when there is no sign of heart trouble; MRIs ordered whenever a patient has back pain; and antibiotics for mild sinusitis. "The American College of Cardiology is urging heart specialists not to perform routine stress cardiac imaging in asymptomatic patients, and the American College of Radiology is telling radiologists not to run imaging scans on patients suffering from simple headaches. The American Gastroenterological Association is urging its physicians to prescribe the lowest doses of medication needed to control acid reflux disease," Rabin reports.
Oncologists will also be urged to reduce the number of scans for patients with early stage breast cancer and prostate cancers that aren't likely to spread.
Some specialists are cautious, however. "These all sound reasonable, but don't forget that every person you're looking after is unique," said Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer of Scripps Health. "This kind of one-size-fits-all approach can be a real detriment to good care."
Others applauded the effort. "It's courageous that these societies are stepping up," said Dr. John Santa, director of the health ratings center of Consumer Reports. "I am a primary care internist myself, and I'm anticipating running into some of my colleagues who will say, 'Y'know, John, we all know we've done EKGs that weren't necessary and bone density tests that weren't necessary, but, you know, that was a little bit of extra money for us.'" (Read more)