PEI

P.E.I. doctors encouraged to cut back on testing

Health PEI is discouraging Island doctors from ordering diagnostic tests which officials say are unnecessary, but some people think the health authority is going too far.

Health PEI is discouraging Island doctors from ordering diagnostic tests which officials say are unnecessary, but some people think the health authority is going too far.

Thirty-one-year-old Story Wight asks every year to be tested for HIV and hepatitis. She's had multiple sex partners, frequently gets tattooed and believes she's at risk. But this year her doctor told her the annual testing would stop.

Processing tests where the results will be normal is not the best use of medical resources, says Marilyn Barrett of Health PEI. (CBC)

"I was told this would be the last time that they would do it for me, because it was really expensive, and they didn't feel that I was high-risk enough to get that test," said Wight.

"I shouldn't have to try to convince my doctor that I deserve to be able to be responsible."

Marilyn Barrett, director chronic disease prevention and management at Health PEI, said the agency is trying to clamp down on doctors who order unnecessary tests, and that it's not specific to HIV or hepatitis.

"Processing a number of tests which essentially are going to be normal is probably not where we want to spend our effort," said Barrett.

A memo this spring headlined "Using healthcare resources wisely" cautioned doctors about PSA testing to detect prostate cancer.

"PSA testing is commonly performed in PEI, not infrequently on individuals for whom the results have no clinical utility," the memo read.

"Testing requests for individuals ranging in age from 12 - 100 years, some of whom were female, were received."

The memo said there should be no testing of men under 40 and testing of men over 75 only under limited circumstances. It said about $200,000 was spent on PSA testing from Oct. 2011 to Oct. 2012, a quarter of which may have been unnecessary.

Wight, who was also denied a pap test this year, believes the pressure from Health PEI is inappropriate.

"The doctor actually sits and talks with you and finds out your background information and your symptoms, those details which make that decision informed," said Wight.

"The lab is essentially getting some swabs or a vial of blood and a sheet."

Wight said decisions on testing should be between doctor and patient.

For mobile device users: Are doctors on P.E.I. performing too many unnecessary tests? 

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