In April 2012, The Foundation of the American Board of Internal Medicine, in collaboration with Consumer Reports and nine other boards released the first list of medical tests, procedures or treatments that are routinely given to patients that are truly unnecessary, and can even cause patients harm. Titled "Choosing Wisely," the goal was to spark conversation between patients and the providers who might order these tests, and to reduce overall healthcare costs in the United States. Today there are 50 specialty boards that are part of the Choosing Wisely campaign.
Patients, providers and the healthcare industry were surprised that the list was released. After all, what we know about medical tests is that so often they are ordered because someone can make money from them, and not necessarily because patients will benefit from them. Since this list was created by those who typically profit from the tests, it becomes far more credible as information patients can use.
To be sure you are getting only the amount of medical care you need, learn about the causes of too much treatment and too much testing. Then look over the lists of tests and procedures found at the Choosing Wisely website to see if any are being recommended for you.
If your doctor orders one of these tests, procedures or treatments, here are some steps to take:
- Don't assume your doctor is doing something wrong. Instead, ask your doctor why he or she has ordered the test or procedure. What does he hope to learn? Is there some reason why she is ordering the procedure that may not be the circumstance described on that list?
- If you aren't convinced your doctor has a good reason for ordering it, find a second opinion doctor and ask whether he or she thinks it is necessary.
- As for any test, ask about its accuracy.
- In the case of a test, be sure you understand how to interpret the results.
- If you are still having trouble understanding your doctor's recommendation, and you don't seem to be getting the information you need from your doctor, then you'll want to follow the guidelines for preventing overtreatment or overtesting.