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How some doctors thrive on patients’ fears…

grayscale photography of man opening his mouth

The ideal medicine is the one which eliminates the need of a physician, not which eliminates the greed of a physician!

Gone are the days when every doctor was considered to be God in the human form who cures an ailing person. Today, several doctors may be curing patients, but leave them more damaged, physically and financially.

Is it really ‘test’worthy?

Under normal circumstances, the doctor obtains a detailed account of the origin, duration and progress of the illness from the patient and his family. He then examines the patient thoroughly, after which he arrives at one or more possible diagnosis. In order to confirm the disease, the doctor prescribes medical tests of the possibilities concluded by him. After viewing the results of these tests, and confirmation of the disease, he then proceeds with the treatment.

Instead, several doctors have been prescribing tests for diseases that have been ruled out in the given circumstances, knowing that the tests results’ will be negative. Often, such tests, commonly called ‘sink tests’, are not even conducted and the extra blood is thrown in the sink. Doctors do this for earning a quick buck. When the patient goes to a pathology laboratory for these medical tests, they are charged a hefty sum for each test so prescribed. A part of these fees is then forwarded to the doctor, as his commission for prescribing the tests and recommending that particular pathology laboratory to the patient. Also, doctors who work as consultants in reputed private hospitals are, at times, under pressure to boost the income of laboratories in such hospitals, by sending all their private patients there. Some hospitals monitor the income generated by each doctor, for such departments periodically, and penalize those not sending ‘adequate referrals’ for tests. This further persuades the doctors to prescribe unnecessary tests. This problem is commonly referred to as ‘VOMIT’ i.e. Victim Of Medical Investigative Technology.

The patient – a helpless victim

These unnecessary tests drain patients in many ways. Firstly, they become a financial burden on the patients’ families, as most of these tests are expensive. Secondly, they may additionally lead to a further chain of unnecessary tests. For example, an unnecessary X-ray film of the chest may show a doubtful abnormal shadow near the heart. This shadow is not connected with the patient’s illness at all but since it has been noticed now, suddenly a further test is recommended – something as serious as, say an angiography. In several cases it has also led to avoidable operations such as an angioplasty. Doctors typically get Rs. 30,000 to 40,000 for referring patients for angioplasty. Thirdly, doctors refer the patients to those laboratories that offer the highest commissions, which in most cases, are not the most competent or reliable ones.

This is factually shocking…

Each year, approximately 3.9 crore Indians fall into poverty due to medical expenses. India spends approximately 10% of its GDP on healthcare, how much of it is necessary and effective no one knows.

Life doesn’t always give you second chance – Take a second opinion!

  • Beware of the doctor ordering a number of tests after a quick examination, insisting that you get them done at a particular centre.
  • When you are asked to get tests done at a particular private hospital to which your doctor is attached and he dissuades you from getting it done at a centre near your home even when getting it done at the hospital causes considerable inconvenience, you should question the choice of the laboratory.
  • Get a second opinion when in doubt, and before taking a major decision such as giving consent for a surgery.
  • Do not hesitate to demand your rights – on the time spent by the doctor with you, a proper examination, explanation of the rationale for each test requested and for any other information you may need.

AS A PATIENT – have you or anyone you know been a victim instead of a patient? Comment below so others can ‘beware and be aware’.

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