The first thing most patients undergo when they have a complaint with an unknown source is a medical test.
It might be a screening test, which looks for the likelihood, or risk, that they have a particular condition, or it may be a diagnostic test, which actually diagnoses the condition.
But how well are these tests regulated, and how much can they tell us? Some are tried-and-true, with a solid base of research that makes them highly valuable in health care. But others may not be all they’re cracked up to be, or they may outright confuse patients and doctors, potentially leading to serious harms.
Beth Daley, an investigative reporter at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, dove into these questions about the reliability of various tests, such as one used to detect Lyme disease.
Her series, “Unregulated Tests,” won first place in the small market investigative category of the AHCJ Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. Although she provided some background in her award submission, she explains in detail in a “How I Did It” feature how she reported on one of the stories in particular, “Oversold prenatal tests spur some to choose abortions.”
Using the narrative of a mother who nearly aborted her healthy child because of a false positive from a screening test, Daley used medical research to help explain what these tests can and cannot do, how they are being used in OB-GYN offices across the country and what the implications are of misunderstood test results.