Overused medical tests more common at nonteaching and for-profit hospitals, particularly in the South

Linda Brent, PhD

Executive Director, Parsemus Foundation

Doctor testing sick patient in health clinic

In its “Less is More” series of articles, the Journal of the American Medical Association documents the problems of overuse of medical care.

“Overused” procedures are those that provide little or no clinical benefit, are unlikely to have an impact on clinician decisions, increase health care spending without improving health outcomes, or risk patient harm more than provide potential benefits. A recent evaluation of the treatment of 1.2 million patients at 2415 U.S.-based hospitals revealed that head imaging for syncope (or the loss of consciousness caused by drop in blood pressure) were the most overused medical procedures, followed by coronary artery stenting for stable coronary disease.

Nonteaching and for-profit hospitals were shown to have a higher rate of overuse than teaching hospitals, and southern hospitals had a higher rate of overuse than hospitals in other regions of the country.

Despite the attention to overused medical tests and treatments over the past two decades, the problem continues. Make sure you are fully informed about any recommended medical test or treatment. Our evidence-based medicine page provides resources to quickly review lists of unnecessary or risky medical services.

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