We all hope our doctor will be trustworthy, honest, and ethical when working with our own health. However, there are plenty of things your doctor is hiding from you. While they aren’t necessarily risking your health, they could be wasting you a lot of time and money.
These doctors and studies have revealed common practices doctors take that they’d never tell you about. One thing that doctors commonly do is just another way to shorten a patient visit (page 6).
I’ll almost always push surgery
A USA TODAY review of government records and medical databases discovered that tens of thousands of surgeries performed each year are unnecessary. Take Jonathan Stelly, 37, who at 22 had his baseball dreams crushed when a doctor put in a pacemaker when all Stelly needed was blood pressure medication.
“In many doctors’ value systems, surgery is the default,” said Christopher Meyers, Ph.D., head of the Kegley Institute of Ethics at California State University. Studies have found that surgery often isn’t the best option. For example, some have found that taking the “wait-and-see” strategy when it comes to hernias may be just as effective as going under the knife.
There is often a cheaper pill than what I’ve prescribed you
While the generic pill isn’t always right for every patient, the typical brand-name pill is equally as effective to its significantly cheaper generic counterpart. “Most doctors aren’t prescribing generic medicines because there are rewards to be had from the pharmaceutical industry,” said Evan Levine, M.D., author of What Your Doctor Won’t (or Can’t) Tell You.
While federal law prohibits pharma companies from compensating doctors, there are loopholes. An internist in Rochester, Minnesota, told Reader’s Digest that 94% of doctors take gifts from drug companies, even though research has shown that the gifts bias their clinical decision making.
You don’t need this test
A nationwide sample of “surveillance” colonoscopies found that nearly 50% of doctors recommend these tests unnecessarily. This better-safe-than-sorry mindset isn’t limited to colonoscopies: The most overused procedures include MRIs, CT scans, echocardiograms, and stress tests.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the potential for being sued. It makes me give patients a lot of unnecessary tests that are potentially harmful, just so I don’t miss an injury or problem that comes back to haunt me in the form of a lawsuit,” an ER physician from Colorado told Reader’s Digest.
I can only fix problems, not prevent them — and I can’t fix them all
“I wish patients would take more responsibility for their own health and stop relying on me to bail them out of their own problems,” an ER physician from Colorado told Reader’s Digest. The trend to rely on physicians to fix problems, especially those associated with weight gain, while taking no steps to do so, is one that doctors notice more often than patients think.
A cardiologist from Brooklyn explained his frustrations with being his patients’ “mother.” “Every time I see you, I have to say the obligatory, ‘you need to lose weight.’ But you swear … ‘the weight just doesn’t come off,’ and the subject is dropped … So I’m supposed to hold your hand and talk you into backing away from that box of Twinkies. Boy, do I get tired of repeating the stuff most patients just don’t listen to.”
Taking psychiatric drugs can affect your insurability
If you require psychiatric drugs like Prozac, Lexapro, or Valium, your doctor recognized you need the drug’s assistance for a mental health condition; by no means should they hold off prescribing the medication if they find it the best option for your health. However, it’s unlikely that your physician will tell you how this drug will affect your insurability.
“If you take Prozac, it may be harder and more expensive for you to get life insurance, health insurance, or long-term-care insurance,” Daniel Amen, M.D., a psychiatrist from California told Reader’s Digest.
I’m essentially prescribing you a placebo pill
According to Howard Brody, M.D., director of the Center for Ethics and Humanities at Michigan State University, while doctors aren’t actually prescribing you sugar-filled pills, they may be prescribing you essentially ineffective ones. He said 40% of patients with colds who go to a doctor get an antibiotic — the doctor can choose to spend 15 minutes explaining to the patient why they don’t need the meds or take one minute to write the prescription.
A cardiologist from Maine agreed with Brody. “Sometimes it’s easier for a doctor to write a prescription for a medicine than to explain why the patient doesn’t need it.”
They get rewarded if you join a clinical trial
Clinical trials are entirely experimental, however, there’s a major payoff for doctors: They can make nearly $5,000 for each patient they recruit. “The drug is being tested precisely because we don’t know how it will work,” said Steven Joffe, M.D., a researcher at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Ask your doctor to explain any benefits of existing medications compared to the trial drug. You can also visit clinicaltrials.gov to research the study in question as well as contact the trial’s organizer to find out about any potential incentives doctors are receiving for their recommendations.