A lot has been discussed in recent years about the ever-rising costs of healthcare. In our clinic, we see a lot of high deductible healthcare plans that place a large burden of affording modern medicine squarely on the shoulders of our patients. For the average American, healthcare co-pays and deductibles can be crippling to a family’s financial freedom and stability.

I have noticed a trend when evaluating patients for the first time in my clinic. A large percentage of them arrive in my office with a copy of a recent MRI–or other advanced imaging study–in hand. An imaging study is often useful, but sometimes it is unneeded and continues the unfortunate trend of placing an additional unnecessary financial burden on patients and their families.

As an orthopedic surgeon, I use advanced imaging studies but rather as a means to create a surgical plan (and only when needed) instead of as a way to simply diagnose the problem in the first place.

A patient with arthritis, for example, may need a knee replacement. If that is the case, undergoing an MRI is completely unnecessary as the MRI is only useful to help diagnose a problem where replacement isn’t necessary. We can determine whether a patient needs a knee replacement well before they should consider an expensive imaging study.

It is important to be as informed as possible so you can take a pro-active approach to manage your own healthcare. Doing so will help to ensure you hold on to those precious healthcare dollars as the cost of healthcare continues to be ever-rising.