Medicine and Diagnosis: Do Doctors Order Too Many Tests?
written by: Angela Atkinson•edited by: lrohner•updated: 6/25/2008
We often visit a doctor for simple ailments like the common cold, but sometimes we run into a situation where we need to take many tests. Why do doctors order so many tests? This article explains the state of medical diagnosis today.
slide 1 of 1
How true it is today that a visit to a
physician invites a comment like “well you are in for a lot of tests" and the
end result will be zero! It causes you to wonder if doctor's order too many tests.
The doctor's role in diagnosing ordinary
ailments such as cough, cold, fever, even a mild headache, though persistent,
results in getting blood tests done, sometimes urinary analysis and even stool
analysis. Of course this is an exaggeration. If the net result is zero, then it is now
up to the treating physician to prescribe medication that would help relieve
In the good old days, the doctor would come
in, check your temperature, take your pulse and
look at your tongue. If necessary they might take your blood pressure, check your
throat, listen to your heart, palpate
your organs, and ask you about your water intake, urine, and stool. If any other issues came up they might ask you what you ate the previous day, nausea,
vomiting episodes, and so on.
On that basis alone he would diagnose
whether your fever was viral, plain flu, possibly typhoid, throat infection or whatever.
He would prescribe a round of medication, which mostly he would himself hand
out, take his fees, and say he would later drop in to check.
Today however the trend has changed. Once
you go in, generally speaking, you are in for a battery of tests, and till
then, you are put on palliatives or painkillers. The doctor can't arrive at a conclusion until the reports of x-rays,
blood samples, ECGs, etc. come in. And most probably none of these tests
would have any relevance to the health condition you have.
This is not to deride the doctor’s way of
working. In fact, circumstances have so forced the physician to insist on these
tests. Today a doctor’s liability under law is so high, that they are afraid of
not documenting everything systematically or they may be sued for malpractice.
Imagine standing in Court as a Doctor, and being asked what you knew of your patient's previous
history and why did you not prescribe so and so, or test for something?
So the physician falls between two stools.
Further it has become easier for the doctor
to come to a more clear diagnosis than earlier – although how much is yet to be
substantiated – that he is able to prescribe the right medication, rather than
having to experiment with this drug or the other. It helps him, and it helps
the patient in getting faster relief and quicker recovery.
Yet the fact remains that in those good old
days, doctors were able to diagnose medication quite promptly and rightly too,
without use of modern gadgets. It is for the medical fraternity to consider
this facet of medical practice.