Study: $6.8B Spent on Unnecessary Medical Tests, Scans in 2009

A recent study analyzed data from federal medical surveys and found that 12 of treatments and screenings deemed "unnecessary" accounted for $6.8 billion in medical costs in 2009, according to a Washington Post report.

The study was led by physicians from Mount Sinai Medical Center and the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Researchers based their study on another study performed earlier this year in which physicians identified common medical practices that were overused.

These include imaging services such as CT scans or MRIs for low back pain, Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer in teens, and diagnostics tests ordered for patients who had no related symptoms or risk factors.

In the newest study, researchers found physicians ordering complete blood cell counts in 56 percent of routine physicals — accounting for $32.7 million in unnecessary costs in 2009. In terms of dollars, the largest cost was physicians ordering brand-name statins before trying generic drugs first. That cost $5.8 billion out of the $6.8 billion in 2009.

Researchers said the $6.8 billion estimate is conservative since the study didn't evaluate the cost of additional testing or procedures that might result from an abnormal blood test reading result or imaging scan, even though in the absence of symptoms or risk factors the follow-up may be unnecessary.

Related Articles on Healthcare Costs:

Do Physicians Get Too Much Flak for Healthcare Costs?
42% of Primary Care Physicians Say Their Patients Receive Too Much Care
Study: Physician Fees are Major Driver in Healthcare Costs

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