Think pieces

Seeing through useless scans

Healthcare costs are a massive part of the national budget

Avoidable costs in the public hospital system are conservatively estimated at around $928 million. Of the more than 314,000 CT scans of the lower back ordered in 2013-14, most showed no abnormalities but did expose patients to radiation.

Why do doctors continue to prescribe tests and scans they know are risky, costly and provide no meaningful information? For many, they simply don’t know how to say ‘no’ to patients.

BehaviourWorks Australia’s Associate Professor Peter Bragge has written an article for The Conversation on how behavioural insights revealed many GP’s report they lack the skills in communicating to patients that x-rays and CT scans are of little or no value.

And it’s not just doctors, of course – the public needs to understand some tests are unnecessary and potentially harmful.

New cures are found every day, but precious few trials are conducted to see if they’re actually applied to patients. We can, and must, behave better if we’re going to make the health system efficient.

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MRI by Liz West via Flickr