The best hope for achieving significant savings in medical costs is through the elimination of unnecessary or duplicative procedures, which waste hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Government attempts to set boundaries inevitably run into cries of “death panels” and rationing, along with prideful reactions from many doctors, who assert the right to test patients as they see fit. But so many factors complicate that decision — from patients’ demands to doctors’ financial interests and fear of lawsuits — that a system without limits is untenable. It’s also unhealthy, in the sense that some patients are exposed to unnecessary risks.
That’s why it’s welcome that the medical profession — encompassing the people best qualified to set guidelines — is starting to take responsibility. Nine medical specialty groups, including the American College of Cardiology and the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, recently released a list of 45 tests and procedures that patients usually don’t need. Other medical specialty groups must follow suit, and even then those who’ve already weighed in should dig deeper for workable best-practice guidelines.