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Is American Medicine Too Test Happy?
Date:12/29/2011

sed and explore the evidence behind why they are overused," Weinberger said.

Shih said that people who are facing diagnostic tests should use such resources to educate themselves and then feel free to question their doctor about the tests that have been ordered.

"The patient should always ask what the test is looking for, what the potential harms are for the test, and what the next steps are if the test finds something," he said. "As the tests get more invasive and more complex, I would be more careful about asking for the reasoning behind each test."

Ultimately, however, both patients and doctors need to keep in mind that the necessity of tests is a very specific and personal matter, Shih added.

"It's important to recognize that for any given patient, even with the exact same condition, the decision may not be the same," he said. "It depends on the values and preferences of each patient."

"Some patients want to be absolutely sure, while other patients may be more comfortable with uncertainty," Shih explained. "There is no hard-and-fast rule for which tests might be appropriate for each situation."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more on communicating with your doctor.

SOURCES: Steven E. Weinberger, M.D., executive vice president and chief executive officer, American College of Physicians, Philadelphia; Anthony Shih, M.D., M.P.H., executive vice president for programs, Commonwealth Fund, New York City


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