Citizens mistrust pathology labs: Survey

There is a deep mistrust among citizens with pathology labs and people feel there is a strong need to address the doctor-pathology lab nexus.

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New Delhi: Citizens mistrust pathology labs and people feel there is a strong need to address the doctor-pathology lab nexus.

These are the findings of a survey by Local Circles which found that 35 per cent of citizens do not trust the pathology lab they use and want the government to cancel their licenses if they are found incentivising doctors.

As per the survey, 66 per cent say their doctor has suggested a specific pathology lab for getting medical tests done and 34 per cent say they have received wrong pathology reports.

The survey highlights the mistrust that citizens have with pathology labs and how, according to people, there is a strong need to address the doctor-pathology lab nexus on the ground through the formation of clear consumer protection rules and then driving enforcement of these rules via the local Health and Consumer Affairs Departments.

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Local Circles will be writing to the various stakeholder departments of the government urging them to act on this issue.

Many small pathology labs have mushroomed across the country in the last decade. Over the last 24 months, citizens have been raising the need for better regulation of pathology labs on LocalCircles, it said.

After the Consumer Protection Act 2019 was cleared in Parliament, consumers have been requesting that rules be made in the healthcare sector and within healthcare, functioning of pathology labs has been a top area of citizens’ concern, just after functioning of hospitals.

To get a collective citizen pulse on this issue, LocalCircles conducted a 6-point survey which received more than 48,000 responses from over 22,000 unique citizens located in 215 districts of India.

Approximately 37 per cent of the respondents were women, while 41 per cent of the participants were from Metro/Tier 1 cities, 37 per cent from Tier 2 cities and 22 per cent were from Tier 3 and rural locations.

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To the first question about how much do citizens trust the pathology lab that they generally use for getting medical tests done.

Only 17 per cent said they fully trust them while 48 per cent said they had a high level of trust but still stay vigilant.

28 per cent said they had a low level of trust and therefore they stay vigilant, while 7 per cent said they had very low or no trust in them.

The next question asked people if the doctors they have visited for themselves or their family over the last one year tended to suggest that they use a specific pathology lab for getting medical tests done.

To this, 33 per cent said most of the doctors did it while 33 per cent said some of them did it. Only 29 per cent said none of the doctors indulged in this behaviour.

Asked how many cases they had in the last three years where the pathology reports for them or their family member was wrong.

34 per cent said it had never happened with them while 30 per cent said it had happened up to three times and 4 per cent said it had happened with them more than 3 times. 32 per cent were unsure about it.

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With many consumers reporting that their doctor asks them to get general tests like blood count, urine test, LFT, KFT etc done quite often, even if there might not have been a need for it, the next question was how many times in the last three years did they feel that their doctor ordered more tests than were actually necessary.

To this, 35 per cent said never, 31 per cent said one to three times, 19 per cent said more than three times and 15 per cent said they were unsure.

Recently, an audio clip of a doctor talking to a path lab representative went viral on social media, where they were talking about the commission on prescribed tests and generating false reports.

Then, “sink tests” have become quite common nowadays where a lab takes a sample only to throw it in a sink and generate a false report, causing much distress among the patients.

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The penultimate question asked if pathology labs should lose their certification license if found incentivising/commissioning doctors to prescribe medical tests and 92 per cent said ‘yes’ while only 2 per cent said ‘no’.

Many of us have heard stories of how the remuneration of doctors in hospitals is linked to the amount of business they get for the hospital. This leads to doctors prescribing unnecessary tests and keeping the patients in hospitals for a longer time than actually required.

Thus, to the final question, 89 per cent said that doctors’ earning in a hospital should not be related to the tests they refer to its lab and only 9 per cent disagreed.

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