A young colleague approached me about how to conduct an infrequently ordered and challenging diagnostic test for pancreatic insufficiency. When I asked about the indication, I learned that mom was a worried. The drive to test was really about reassurance. Not an uncommon scenario.
I’m shaping some ideas on tests. A few thoughts:
Testing is a small part of reassurance. Patients don’t want more tests, they want to be well. Performing a diagnostic test for reassurance can play a role in demonstrating that all’s well.
If tests told us everything we’d need fewer doctors. Diagnostic testing is doing more of what I used to do with my eyes and ears. So the question I need to ask myself is, what can I do that the next test can’t?
The nature of testing will shape the future of the medial profession. You can hire a provider to get a test ordered. You can hire a provider to help work through why a test may or may not be a good idea. These are different things. This very difference will define the role of doctors going forward.
It’s easier for me to order a test than think and translate. Testing is a kind of escape. With a test I’m in and out and off the hook. And to the young mother it makes me look like a man of action. But I’m not a man of action. I’m inclined to do less, really. Contrary to popular belief, anxious mothers don’t necessarily want a lot done.
Going forward there will be more tests. The direct-to-consumer market is forcing the issue of when and how patients independently choose to explore their insides. And the marketing is slick. But the consumer doesn’t know this. They think they’re empowered. Some tests empower you. Others don’t. The problem is we don’t know which one does what.
I’ll build on this. Talk amongst yourselves.
Image via Anyjazz65/Flickr