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Why Doctors Order Too Many Tests

The use of medical tests such as CTs and MRIs has become so routine that their benefits may have been surpassed by the risks of overuse. The value of so much testing has been widely questioned in scientific literature, and it increases the risk of cancer, false positives, more unnecessary invasive procedures, patient stress and higher costs.

So why do doctors order too many tests? Many doctors say it is "defensive medicine" -- the fear of being sued for failing to order a test that turns out to have been necessary.  But there are other motivators for overtesting, such as the simple fact that new doctors can't function without them. Doctors in training are no longer taught how to tell patients who need testing from those who don't.

What’s more, according to Time Magazine:

“... [N]o discussion of overtesting would be complete without a mention of the positive incentives doctors have to order tests -- such as making money ... in instances in which the doctor owns the radiology equipment, as dentists' offices do ... There is actually a more subtle positive incentive: ordering a test -- cost aside -- takes less effort than spending the time to think about whether it's really needed.”

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