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The Accuracy and Significance of Medical Testing

Edward R. Pinckney, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(3):512-514. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350030126020.
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It reasonable to estimate that at least 10 billion medical tests are performed annually in the United States. By taking the figures offered by the National Center for Health Statistics1 on medical tests ordered or provided in physicians' offices, along with those offered by medical journal articles on the quantity of laboratory tests2-5 and in-hospital testing,6,7 it is also reasonable to conclude that of those 10 billion tests, 8 billion are laboratory procedures at an estimated cost of $30 billion, and 3 billion of these are performed in hospitals. The College of American Pathologists reports that there are now more than 850 different analytic procedures that can be performed on blood alone. Last year, more than 80 million chest roentgenograms were taken, at a conservative cost estimate of more than $2 billion; all radiological diagnostic usage came to $20 billion. Electrocardiography, endoscopy, biopsy, vision, hearing, and other


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