The influence of medical testing on patients' health: An overview from the gynecologists' perspective

Jolande Y. Vis*, Myra C.B. Van Zwieten, Patrick M.M. Bossuyt, Karel G.M. Moons, Marcel G.W. Dijkgraaf, Kirsten J. McCaffery, Ben Willem J. Mol, Brent C. Opmeer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A medical tests may influence the health of patients by guiding clinical decisions, such as treatment in case of a positive test result. However, a medical test can influence the health of patients through other mechanisms as well, like giving reassurance. To make a clinical recommendation about a medical test, we should be aware of the full range of effects of that test on patients. This requires an understanding of the range of effects that medical testing can have on patients. This study evaluates the mechanisms through which medical testing can influence patients' health, other than the effect on clinical management, from a gynecologist's perspective. Methods. A qualitative study in which explorative focus groups were conducted with gynecologists, gynecological residents and gynecological M.D. researchers (n = 43). Discussions were transcribed verbatim. Transcriptions were coded inductively and analyzed by three researchers. Results: All participants contributed various clinical examples in which medical testing had influenced patients' health. Clinical examples illustrated that testing, in itself or in interaction with contextual factors, may provoke a wide range of effects on patients. Our data showed that testing can influence the doctor's perceptions of the patients' appraisal of their illness, their perceived control, or the doctor-patient relationship. This may lead to changes in psychological, behavioral, and/or medical outcomes, both favorably or unfavorably. The data were used to construct a conceptual framework of effects of medical testing on patients. Conclusions: Besides supporting clinical decision making, medical testing may have favorable or unfavorable effects on patients' health though several mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2013


  • Diagnostic test
  • Methodology
  • Patient outcomes
  • Qualitative research
  • Test evaluation


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