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Doctor shopping is the act of visiting multiple doctors without providing information about prior treatments. This act does not occur if a patient decides to change doctors, has several doctors for specific problems that all communicate together for treatment, or decides to get another opinion about a diagnosis. Having multiple doctors without just cause is often done by people who suffer from a drug addiction and are looking for doctors to prescribe those drugs. When people intentionally shop around for doctors and take advantage of services, the health care industry and patients suffer because costs increase and the medical community has to be stricter about patient care.
In the United States and many other countries, doctor shopping is a common part of the drug culture and illegal sale of prescription medications. For this reason, many countries have made it illegal and a federal offense to jump around to multiple doctors without needing specialized care for illnesses and diseases. The same laws apply to hospital emergency rooms as well.
Other than helping to fuel the sale of illegal prescription drugs, doctor shopping also has a negative impact on health care. Doctors have to be very particular about patient care. Previously, doctors could diagnose and treat medical conditions with minimal testing and less cost. Due to the volume of people who jump around to multiple doctors, more tests are often performed, which raises the costs of operation for doctors and increases the amounts billed to patients for care. Additionally, it becomes a longer process to progress from diagnosis to treatment.
Many governments are adding laws that determine doctor shopping penalties. These laws and penalties vary among countries and states, but the end goal of reducing this crime is the same. Penalties vary depending on a person’s reasoning for having multiple doctors and prescriptions as well as criminal history. If prosecuted and found guilty, a person can face time in jail. In many cases, a guilty party is also expected to pay fines associated with the crime.
Preventing doctor shopping can be a difficult task. Particularly with the drug culture, people are known for crossing state and country borders to get prescription medications they are after. It is difficult to catch these people because they use free or income-based clinics and pay cash for prescriptions, giving false identity information whenever necessary.
Doctor shopping prevention can be effective only when laws are enforced and doctors are educated. Many doctors are required to attend some form of classes that teach medical professionals what to look for. Doctors are also strongly encouraged to take a more serious approach to medication-prescribing practices. Instead of quickly writing out prescriptions a patient asks for, particularly those that are addictive and in high demand on the streets, alternatives treatments should be considered.