TODAY -

Needless medical tests
- Hueiyen Lanpao Editorial :: July 02, 2014 -



Coming on a day when the whole Nation was celebrating Doctors' Day in commemoration of the birth anniversary of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the legendary physician who went on to become the second Chief Minister of West Bengal; it is very interesting to know that doctors in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have taken up the initiative of launching a movement under the banner of 'Society for Less Investigative Medicine' (SLIM) to curb the growing menace of excessive medical investigations that the patients were forced to undergo by their attending doctors in this country.

With several studies conducted across the world conclusively establishing the fact that generalized annual health check-ups that the patients were made to undergo by the doctors are not just necessary but also add enormously to healthcare costs without any commensurate benefits, Prof Balram Bhargava of the Cardiology Department in AIIMS and his professional colleagues have joined hands to form SLIM for taking up the cudgel against this unhealthy practice of recommending unnecessary medical tests that makes little sense other than adding to the bank balance of diagnostic centres and doctors who get a cut for sending patients for such needless medical tests and investigations.

This movement, we feel, is a very significant one, the success of which could give a far reaching impact on the health care delivery system of the country.

Though the initiative of Prof Balram Bhargava and his professional colleagues may have come after the debate sparked by an article published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) on corruption in the Indian medical practice a couple of months ago, which was followed up by an editorial on the same issue in its latest edition, it is a well known fact how the patients are left at the mercy of the doctors who recommended them for various medical tests that are not just costly but also unnecessary at times just for their own purpose of getting a cut from the referral diagnostic centres or clinics.

This is a practice that the people in Manipur have also known and seen for long but none have dared to speak up. Even for prescribing medicines after some routine medical examinations, it is a normal practice here for the doctors to direct the patients to buy the medicines from some particular chemists or pharmacies which are linked up for economic incentives.

No wonder, Transparency International has described Indian healthcare sector as the second most corrupt organization that an ordinary citizen had to encounter (next to the police force) in the country. However, we also feel that doctors alone are not to be blamed for this kind of unethical medical practice that we see around us everywhere today.

Apart from lack of necessary regulations or audits on investigations to determine whether the medical tests recommended by the doctors are at all necessary or not, the Government as well as the health insurance companies are equally responsible for exacerbating the menace by way of offering tax rebate for regular healthcare checkups to its employees by the former while the latter ever ready to paying their customers to go for its numerous health check-up schemes on offer, thus, helping in creating a race of 'worried well citizens'.



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