Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual report on the nation's health that found a dramatic increase in the use of medical technology, particularly MRI and CT/PET scans. This week, two consulting firms—Newt Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation and Jackson Healthcare—are scheduled to release a damning report on defensive medicine.
Yet, when other groups recommend less testing and screening, as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force did this past November regarding mammograms to screen for breast cancer, patients and patient advocacy groups take to the streets in opposition. They accuse the researchers who made the recommendations of attempting to save money by rationing care at the expense of patient lives.
This is the unfortunate side effect of what happens when you mix politics with medicine. The last time we checked, Gingrich doesn't have a medical degree, yet his fist-pounding may alter the direction of the testing and screening debate. Sorry we missed your cancer, but Newt thought the chances of detecting it weren't worth the cost.
Now is the time for the physician community to stand together and advocate for their constituents—their patients. If testing and screening save lives, then now is the time to tell that story before testing and screening are regulated by politicians.
You can tell us what you think by taking this issue's reader poll on the use of disease screening. We'll report the results in an upcoming issue of Modern Physician.
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