Interview with DR B M Hegde

Dr B M Hegde, a renowned cardiologist and former Vice-Chancellor of the Manipal University has been vocal in his criticism of medical malpractices that persist. Excerpts from an interview...

Why do doctors prescribe unnecessary tests / scans for simple ailments?

Simply put, to make money. Most of the time, these tests are unnecessary and doctors only try to scare the patients advising them to undergo tests and scans. It is a waste of money, time and resources, which only burns a deep hole in the patient's pockets but fills the doctors'.

Recently, about 2,500 American doctors were interviewed. More than half of them admitted that about 50% of the investigations and interventions are useless and unnecessary. If this is what the practice is in the US which is so regularised, think of the hapless Indian patients. Money alone runs the show here.

Do doctors get any incentive for prescribing these tests/scans?

Doctors practice what is called as "medical scare system", instead of the medical care system. There is no doubt that the doctors get a share from the unnecessary tests / scans prescribed. Most of the CT or the MRI scans will not show any results. Since the patients do not know how to check these reports, the doctors take advantage of them. There are doctors who perform surgeries for backache. These are extremely dangerous.

Why do they ask patients to undergo tests? Is it to pay for investments made on specialised medical equipment?

Yes, of course. The hospital would have spent a lot in importing specialised machinery to diagnose certain ailments. To recover the cost, they have to use the machinery and impose that cost on the patients. The doctors have targets to achieve and are forced to prescribe patients to conduct the tests and the patients, very innocently undergo the tests.

What about unnecessary admissions and procedures, especially for heart related problems?

Yes, most of the private hospitals have this unethical practice of asking patients to undergo angiograms. Any normal person can have blocks in the heart, even children too have minimum blocks. When the angiogram reports are out, they show the blockages and perform angioplasty. It is totally unnecessary.

What should patients do to avoid being cheated by such doctors?

Go to your family doctor, who you have seen since childhood and the one who is close to your family. The doctor would know your family in and out and would give the right advise for all the health ailments. Going to a doctor is like visiting a temple or going to an astrologer. Patients blindly believe whatever the priest or the astrologer says. Unless people revolt against this malpractice, it will continue to exist.

How can one avoid these tests and scans?

Most of dengue-like fevers and viral fevers can be treated at home. A patient doesn't die of dengue but due to lack of immunity. Most of the illnesses can be detected through clinical examination, there is no need for any test. Viral fever, if untreated will cure in seven days and if treated, will take a week's time. This means, a person has to take care of his / her illness by resting and eating good food instead of spending on doctors and medicines.

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