Position statement on responding to patient requests for tests not considered clinically appropriate
GPs occasionally receive requests from patients to order specific medical imaging or pathology tests that may or may not be appropriate in the management of the patient. Test requests arise from a variety of sources. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners might advise patients that they can avoid paying for specific tests if they ask a GP to order them through Medicare. Requests also occur when patients research their symptoms and present at the clinic with a proposed course of action.
GPs may experience pressure to comply with these requests in order to preserve good relations with their patients. They may also be concerned about medico-legal liability that might stem from delayed diagnosis. However, there are various risks associated with ordering tests that are unlikely to be of clinical benefit.
The RACGP Expert Committee - Quality Care (REC-QC) has developed a set of resources to address requests for diagnostic tests. This includes the RACGP position on the issue, a patient information sheet to inform discussion between GPs and patients, and a template letter to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners.
GPs are encouraged to import the relevant resources into their clinical information systems as required.