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Costly Overused Clinical Activities

A group of physicians, known as the Good Stewardship Working Group, identified the common medical practice as being overused. They found that diagnostic tests were ordered for patients without symptoms, CT scans or MRIs were ordered for patients with low back pain, antibiotic prescriptions were being written for children with sore throats who didn’t have strep, and imaging tests were ordered for kids who did not exhibit red-flag symptoms after a fall.

A recent study, led by physicians from the Mount Sinai Medical Center and the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, studied the top 5 overused clinical activities across pediatrics, internal medicine and family medicine. These activities are believed to be common tests that have little benefit to patients. Costs were determined based on both frequency and reimbursement rate.

The study found that doctors charge $6.8B in unnecessary medical tests. The most overused activity was the ordering of a complete blood cell count (frequency of 56%), which accounted for $32.7M. The least prevalent activity was bone density testing in women under 65 (frequency of 1.4%), accounting for $527M in costs. The highest cost activity was prescribing brand drugs rather than generics, resulting in $5.8B per year in excess expenditures (86% of total excess costs).

Read more from the Washington Post.