Test 101

Medical Tests

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There are as many medical tests as there are diseases and conditions to test for. The primary purpose of most medical tests is to diagnose a problem. However, one concern regarding medical tests is the results are not always 100% conclusive and the results can sometimes be interpreted differently by different doctors. Further, not all health insurance companies allow all medical tests to be covered, or they may at least demand prior authorization for coverage of certain medical tests. When it comes to medical tests, there are a few things most patients could benefit from understanding.

Never underestimate the value of a second opinion. Most medical tests are ordered by a primary care physician, but are often administered by a specialist. For example, if your chief complaint to your family doctor is stomach problems, they may refer you to have any number of medical tests performed by a gastroenterologist. The specialist typically makes the diagnosis, but the referring physician sometimes manages treatment. Many people’s health coverage doesn’t allow coverage for a specialist unless the primary care physician deems it medically necessary. So as the patient, you will be best served to make sure the specialist and your primary care physician are in agreement regarding treatment.

Some patients undergo a series of medical tests without a firm diagnosis. If you are having persistent problems and can not get a firm or sensible diagnosis, take your test results to another physician for interpretation.

If your physician has referred you for medical tests, it is your responsibility to make sure that the facility or practice you are being referred to will be covered by your health care insurance. Do not assume that because a facility is covered, any doctors or technicians will be covered as well. This is a common situation with PPO health care plans. HMO health care plans often won’t cover anything that is not done with a proper referral. You will save yourself time and money in the long run if you make a few quick phone calls prior to scheduling your medical tests.

Medical tests are essentially necessary for a physician to give proper care to a patient, but often times, patients do not take the initiative to be sure they are getting the most for their time and money. Without taking the initiative to monitor your health care, you are risking not only unnecessary out-of-pocket expense, but also misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a problem. Finding the definite cause of a medical problem is the first and most important step to treating one.

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