A new campaign looking to cut down the number of unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures carried out by health professionals has been launched in New Zealand today.
Choosing Wisely focuses on areas where evidence shows that a test, treatment or procedure provides little or no benefit to a patient and could even cause harm.
A recent survey of New Zealand doctors found that half thought the provision of unnecessary tests, procedures or treatments was a serious or somewhat serious issue.
The Council of Medical Colleges also worked with Consumer to survey consumers about unnecessary tests, treatment and procedures. The survey found that when they visited a doctor, 56 percent of respondents generally expected the doctor to provide a prescription or send them for a test and 41 percent of these agreed some tests or treatments which are carried out do not benefit the patient in any meaningful way. Nearly one in five felt their doctor had recommended a test or treatment to them which wasn’t necessary.
The campaign is being run by the Council of Medical Colleges, in partnership with the Health Quality & Safety Commission and Consumer NZ. It is supported by many health sector groups. Similar campaigns are run in Australia, Canada, England and several other countries.
'Choosing Wisely is about shifting thinking by health professionals and patients – that more is not necessarily better when it comes to health care treatment,' says Dr Derek Sherwood, ophthalmologist and Chair of the Council of Medical Colleges.
'Health professionals will be encouraged to discuss the risks and benefits of these tests with patients, so patients can make an informed choice.'
Many medical colleges and specialist societies working in New Zealand are engaged in Choosing Wisely and have developed a list of recommendations in relation to unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures for their area of practice. Several more are developing recommendations.
'There are a large number of medical tests, treatments and procedures available, but that doesn’t always mean we should use them,' Dr Sherwood says.
'For example, not only do X-rays and CT scans expose patients to potentially cancer-causing radiation, but many studies have shown these scans frequently identify things requiring further investigation but that often turn out to be nothing. This means patients can undergo stressful and potentially risky follow-up tests and treatments for no reason.
'Another example is avoiding prescribing antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infection.'
Choosing Wisely encourages patients to ask their health professionals these four questions:
- Do I really need to have this test treatment or procedure?
- What are the risks?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What happens if I do nothing?
Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin says modern medicine has given us more ways than ever to diagnose and treat illness but more tests and treatments don’t always deliver benefits for the patient.
Ms Chetwin pointed to the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics for viral colds and flu.
'Antibiotics treat bacteria, not viruses, and won’t do anything to cure a cold. Overuse of antibiotics is also a major factor in antibiotic resistance, a growing global problem,' she says.
Consumer is supporting the Choosing Wisely campaign by providing information to assist discussions between consumers and health care professionals.
The campaign consists of a mix of stakeholder work, public relations and paid advertising and is being funded by the Council of Medical Colleges, Health Quality & Safety Commission, Ministry of Health, Pacific Radiology and PHARMAC.
To find out more about unnecessary tests, procedures and treatments, go to www.choosingwisely.org.nz. The site includes information for patients and evidence and resources for doctors and others in the health care team.
Download questions and answers (DOCX, 42KB) about the Choosing Wisely campaign.