Docs Say Extra Tests Not the Key to Best Patient Care

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"This is not about controlling costs. This is about doing the right thing for patients in terms of medical testing," said Dr. Jay Siwek, professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Though tests are ostensibly performed to protect patients, most procedures come with some sort of risk, both from the procedure itself and from the steps doctors must take to follow up on a positive test result.

"If you order 20 blood tests on a patient, by chance alone, one will be abnormal. This leads to more testing to determine whether the abnormal test meant anything," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

But fewer tests will likely lead to patient frustration.

"Patients expect tests; when we try to reassure patients without testing, they feel cheated or inadequately evaluated," said Dr. Patrick Lyden, chair of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The risk is that some patients to go from doctor to doctor until they find one willing to perform the procedure or test they want.

Dr. Christine Cassel, president and chief executive officer of the ABIM Foundation, one of the organizations behind the Choosing Wisely campaign, said the point of the project is to educate patients about excessive testing and the importance of avoiding it.

"Patients can inform themselves. They can ask their doctor, do I really need this?" Cassel said. "Most physicians are going to be very pleased to hear that coming from their patients."

The ABIM Foundation and Consumer Reports are already planning a second phase of the project. They have invited eight additional specialty groups to make recommendations, which could be released as early as the fall of this year.

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