Too Many Medical Tests Stressing The System

Looking at selected medical tests, treatments and procedures in Canada, a new report finds that up to 30% of them could be unnecessary.

And it finds that unnecessary tests and treatments waste health system resources, increase wait times for patients in need and can lead to patient harm.

The report is called Unnecessary Care in Canada, released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Dr. Gary Ing is Chief of Staff at Windsor Regional Hospital.

He says investigating back pain is an area where over-testing is common, X-rays MRI and Cat Scans yield minimal information so patients really don't need that particular investigation.

Dr. Ing says there can be dangers to the patient if too many tests are done:  "if we over investigate a patient will be exposed to radiation and also many times you get ambiguous results, the you do further testing and some involve biopsies of tissues and that can cause side effects, harm, infection and complication"

He says there can sometimes be a legal reason why a doctor orders more tests than necessary because if a patient requests a specific test and the doctor doesn't do it, then something shows up later, the doctor is liable.

Dr. Ing says the Internet and search engines like Google are part of the picture because patients sometimes ask for tests based on what they self-diagnose they may have.