A recent study from Duke University showed that doctors who charged for test time were more likely to test. Asking your doctor a few simple questions can help you and your doctor decide if a test is really necessary.Photo by The US Army.
The question of testing goes both ways. Often, when a patient goes to see a doctor, they’ve already read about their symptoms online or seen ads on TV, so they go in asking for a test. Much of the time, a doctor may have already had the same idea, but just as likely, the test won’t have any relation to the problems. Dr Brian N Bowes adds:
The problem is that if they get the test it can actually lead to bad outcomes (like the patient who gets antibiotics but doesn’t need them) because further unneeded tests are done. The second problem is that if you are pushy with your doctor it can undermine the mutual respect in that relationship by showing a lack of trust.
His solution is simple:
Just come out and say it, “Doc, what do you think about ordering test X for me?” If the doctor says, “bad idea,” say, “Thanks, I appreciate you considering it.”
Dr Dan Weiswasser, a physician in Massachusetts, suggests a similar method for dealing with a test you might think is unnecessary:
The best way would be to express your concern and to explain why you’re concerned. Ideally, you’re not questioning the doctor’s competency, but rather are concerned about issues of cost or unnecessary testing. Ask the doctor to provide some explanation for the test and ask what your alternatives are. If your main concern is cost, ask about less costly alternatives, but keep in mind that costs are typically determined by insurers and can vary greatly.
So the best way to handle both situations is to ask nicely and explain why you’re concerned, but don’t get upset if the doctor disagrees with you. By the end of the conversation, you should have an understanding of why the doctor suggested the test and what results will be gathered from it.