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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
Contributor •

The Guessing Game We Call The Practice Of Medicine?

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According to the American Prospect, your guess may be as good as mine (and your doctor’s) about your medical problem.

It’s easy to forget how much of American medicine is a guessing game, how your treatments are a composite result of your doctor’s experiences, biases, treasured anecdotes, and personal reactions to his own training. Most folks think medicine operates off a rigidly defined set of standards: If you have symptom A, your doc orders tests B, C, and D. Not quite. According to a new study, doctors are ordering useless tests for asymptomatic patients at staggering rates. Of tests that aren’t recommended for patients with a particular batch of complaints, we’re spending between $12 million and $63 million. Worse yet, for tests with risks that outweigh the benefits for certain patients, doctors are ordering them against recommendations over 40 percent of the time, for a total cost reaching into the hundreds of millions. And that’s not even getting into the ricochet tests and expenses that come from false positives found by unnecessary diagnostics.