Repeat tests common among Medicare recipients

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Nov. 26, 2012

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Medicare patients frequently undergo repeated diagnostic tests, which contributes to rising health care costs and reduces physicians’ ability to see new patients, says a study published online Nov. 19 in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers evaluated 743,478 Medicare patients who underwent one of six common tests for which repeat testing is not routinely anticipated. The test evaluated occurred between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2006. They found that tests were repeated for a third to half of patients within three years, the study said. (link)

“Although the tests themselves pose little risk, repeat testing is a major risk factor for incidental detection and overdiagnosis,” the study said.

The highest rates of tests were seen among patients who had an echocardiography, with 55% having a second test within three years. Forty-nine percent of pulmonary function tests, 46% of chest computed tomographies, 44% of imaging stress tests and 35% of upper endoscopies were repeated within three years. The proportion of the tests repeated varied across metropolitan areas.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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