X-ray of the human knee
Our healthcare system is broken and patients are paying a larger portion of the bill thanks to high deductible plans. This forces us to become smarter patients in order to keep healthcare costs down. Unfortunately, the medical industrial complex continues to find ways to make money, and unnecessary maintenance is one way to brush the dough.
One way to bill medical bills is to order unnecessary x-rays. How does this happen and what can you do to avoid the waste?
When you make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, the receptionist will ask what is bothering you. For example, if you say it is your left lower leg, an X-ray of your left lower leg may be ordered when you enter the office before the doctor examines you. More and more offices are doing this in the interests of “saving time” – theirs, not yours. And it costs money! X-rays can easily cost a few hundred dollars and there is no need to expose yourself to unnecessary X-rays.
An X-ray is a diagnostic test that should be ordered based on the medical history and physical exam. Not every musculoskeletal injury needs x-rays – we even have rules for how to do this ankle, knee, and back Injuries specifically designed to reduce unnecessary x-rays. People also visit the orthopedic surgeon for muscle problems that may not involve bone structures.
If you see a doctor about a musculoskeletal problem and don’t know if an X-ray is appropriate, it is important to speak up and ask why an X-ray is being done before the doctor sees you.
If you do dispute the problem, always be nice. Just say, “I’m not sure I need an X-ray and I want to see the doctor before an X-ray is taken.” If there is a pushback, let the technician know that you have a high deductible that you do do not believe that the problem is with the bone and that you want the doctor to examine you to see if the x-ray is really necessary. The technician is unlikely to be paid a high salary, so they may understand your situation. Of course, if you think you need an X-ray, be sure to get it before the doctor sees you.
I recently had to see an orthopedic surgeon about a longstanding problem with a bicycle injury years ago. The technician called me from the waiting room. I assumed I was being led to a patient room and lo and behold, she led me to an X-ray room. I immediately said, “I don’t know why you are ordering an X-ray. I don’t need one because this is an old problem and the doctor has seen me before. ”She immediately took me back to the waiting room and no X-ray was taken.
There is a concern about not going through the “process” of ordering x-rays prior to the visit – the medical service providers may resent your authorization. This is your problem, not yours. If they take their frustration out on you, repeat that you are trying to keep your costs down and that you know that x-rays should generally be ordered after the doctor visits the patient. Hopefully they will respect that and give you the care you deserve. If it doesn’t, write a review and find a new doctor.
Getting the health care you need and not driving up costs with unnecessary testing and treatment can be difficult, but it is important to do so. If enough people question the system, maybe one day we’ll get the health care we deserve at a price we can afford.