As you know, I like saving you money on your healthcare. I despise wasting healthcare dollars on things that don’t help you or me determine if you have some covert deadly disease lurking in the background, until it’s too late. Screening for deadly diseases is a very tricky business. As a patient, your gut instinct might be to say, “Hey, the more information I have about my health, the better, right?” The problem with this thinking is that you have to know what to do with this information once you have it. What if you have a positive result from a screening test? Now what to do? Do you go to a specialist and get further testing done? What about all the fear and worry that I have, that may end up being for no reason at all?
We spend hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending every year that accomplishes nothing more than a box to be checked, but don’t actually reduce disease and death. Where are our priorities? Part of this hesitation to make these changes involve “missing” out on the diagnosing that rare breast cancer, colon cancer, or heart disease. I get it. I don’t want to miss them either. But something has got to give and we need to start paying more attention to family history, and personal lifestyle choices. Just think about what we could do with a few hundred million dollars? How about teaching educational classes to minorities about the benefits of eating whole food, plant based diets?
So I have compiled a list of the top five most overused screening tests, ranked by how much money wasted, generally speaking, on these tests. Geez, if only we could save all that money to put it toward more important things! That is my dream, anyway. So here it goes, my top 5 list of overused medical screening tests. Thanks to Washington State Health Alliance and Lown Institute for their efforts to educate us all.
And finally number one (drum roll….)
1. Routine lab tests prior to low risk surgery (85% overused/$86 million). This garnered the highest amount of overuse, at 83%. If you are planning on a relatively low risk surgery, like cataract surgery, colonoscopy, gallbladder surgery, tissue biopsy, or appendectomy and otherwise have no other medical problems, you don’t need lab tests like a blood count, electrolytes, or urine testing. While individual tests don’t cost a lot, they do add up over time. In the Washington example I provided, it amounted to over $86 million.