Medical investigations requested by patients: How do primary care physicians react?

Orly Cohen, Ernesto Kahan*, Simon Zalewski, Eliezer Kitai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objectives: We investigated the characteristics of patients who request medical investigations and the type of tests requested to study the manner in which primary care physicians react to these requests. Methods: The study was conducted within the framework of a national health insurance system. Twelve primary care practices from three randomly chosen clinics with different population characteristics participated in the study. The attending physicians were instructed to ask all patients who presented to the clinics within a 7-month period and requested a medical test to complete a questionnaire, indicating the type of test(s) requested and the reason. The physicians were asked to rate the manner in which the patient made the request, their own reaction to the request, and whether they ordered the tests that were requested. Results: During the survey period, 12,322 patients visited the clinics, of whom 295 (2.4%) were reported by a physician to have requested a medical investigation. More-educated patients were more likely to request tests for disease prevention. The types of tests requested were imaging scans, laboratory (blood) tests, and others. The main reason for the request was symptoms (60%), followed by disease prevention (25%). More than 30% of the requests generated self-reported negative feelings in the physician. Physician compliance with patient requests was not significantly correlated with the reason for the request. Laboratory tests were ordered significantly more often than other types. There was a strong correlation between physicians' compliance with the request and physicians' feelings about the request. Conclusion: Our findings raise questions about the frequency with which physicians order tests solely in response to patients' requests and provide information about circumstances in which patients make requests for medical investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-431
Number of pages6
JournalFamily Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes


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