When we go to the doctor we want to know that the physician is always making the best decisions and running tests based on actual need. But, many claim this is not always the case, and in fact, many doctors overprescribe and run tests that are not medically necessary. This in turn can lead to injuries and even death for patients.
According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, in 1999 there were roughly 98,000 Americans a year who died due to medical mistakes. And while there is no number now as the state reporting guidelines have changed, one estimate is that as many as 200,000 people in the U.S. die a year due to medical mistakes.
When looking at what is causing so many mistakes, one idea is that in an effort to avoid medical mistakes doctors are practicing defensive medicine by overprescribing and ordering unnecessary tests and procedures. Many times this do-more approach actually results in what would have been avoidable harm to the patients.
For example, let's say a doctor orders an MRI scan, which wasn't really necessary, and the test gives a false positive. This results in a surgery being ordered -- that again -- wasn't actually necessary. With all surgeries, there is a risk of complications, like an infection. This means that a patient can end up with an infection that can lead to further medical complications or even death all stemming from an original MRI scan that really should have never even been ordered in the first place.
Of course, there's always the flip-side of the coin that not ordering a test can result in a delayed diagnosis, which too can lead to harm for patients. But what do you think is better? Overprescribing or under prescribing? And what can be done to reduce these types of medical complications?