Unnecessary Medical Testing

In the State of Florida, doctors are prohibited from ordering medical testing which is not reasonably necessary for diagnostic purposes. Medical testing which is not reasonably necessary to diagnose a patient or to provide care is classified as unnecessary medical testing.

Florida Statute 766.111 establishes the state definition of unnecessary medical testing, as well as the consequences. The prohibition against medical testing applies to all care providers licensed under Florida law. No care provider is permitted to “order, procure, provide, or administer” any type of diagnostic tests unless those tests have been “reasonably calculated” to assist in diagnosis or treatment. Care providers can face disciplinary action, and patients who file a civil lawsuit based on unnecessary medical testing are able to recover attorney fees and costs for a successful legal action.

A 2009 study reported on by the Washington Post revealed that $6.9 billion in costs were incurred on 12 common medical screenings and test which occur annually and which are not needed. A complete blood cell count was the most frequently performed unnecessary medical test; this test alone accounted for $32.7 million in unnecessary costs.

Care providers may recommend unnecessary medical testing for many reasons. One concern is doctors practicing defensive medicine: they recommend testing which may not be necessary in order to reduce the potential for a malpractice claim. Care providers may also order unnecessary testing for purposes of obtaining more money from Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurers. Intentionally ordering and billing for unnecessary testing may be a violation not only of Florida law, but also of federal anti-fraud laws, such as the False Claims Act.