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Beware: Unnecessary tests may do more harm than good

Written by Diane Archer

Beware of excessive testing by doctors. Many tests are unnecessary. And these unnecessary tests may do more harm than good. However, researchers are finding that some doctors, particularly doctors practicing in retirement states, are increasing their income by giving older adults too many tests. One study shows excessive use of echocardiograms and stress tests with nuclear imaging by cardiologists treating Medicare patients.

How can you know whether a test is unnecessary?  You can and should ask questions if you think your doctor is prescribing too many tests.  Ask whether the test is based on evidence-based guidelines. The American Board of Internal Medicine has a web site, Choosing Wisely, which highlights tests and procedures that doctors in different specialties advise are generally wasteful and unnecessary.

And, if you are leaving your home over the winter to live in a warmer climate, talk to your doctors before you leave about doctors they recommend in your area as well as tests and medical services you might need while you are away. Medicare patients in Southern California, Arizona, Texas and Florida receive more tests than in other parts of the country. If you are living in Florida over the winter, keep in mind that Florida is a prime location for Medicare fraud and abuse. A review of Medicare data by The New York Times revealed twice the number of nuclear stress tests and echocardiograms in Florida than in Massachusetts.

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