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Kia āta kōwhiri Choosing Wisely

The Choosing Wisely campaign seeks to reduce harm from unnecessary and low-value tests and treatment.

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On Older Persons Day, think twice about that medical test or treatment

Te Tāhū Hauora Health Quality & Safety Commission
01 October 2019

On International Day of Older Persons, the Choosing Wisely campaign is encouraging people to think twice before they have a test, treatment or procedure.

Choosing Wisely clinical lead Dr Derek Sherwood says just because medical interventions are available doesn’t mean we should always use them.

Choosing Wisely, coordinated by the Council of Medical Colleges, supports reducing unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures in health care.

'There is mounting evidence that more tests and procedures don’t always equal better care. While modern medicine has given us more ways than ever to diagnose and treat illness, sometimes, the best option may be to do nothing.'

He points to X-rays for people with back pain as among the tests that need to be considered carefully before use.

'Back pain is one of the most common reasons we visit the doctor. But evidence shows most of us recover without needing scans or other tests.

'Not only do X-rays and CT scans expose people to potentially cancer-causing radiation but many studies have shown scans frequently identify things that require further investigation but turn out to be nothing. This means patients can undergo stressful and potentially risky follow-up tests and treatments.'

Dr Sherwood says the ‘less is more’ approach can also be relevant for medicines.

'In New Zealand, 35 percent of people aged over 65 are taking five or more long-term medications. It is important older people get their medicines reviewed regularly.

'This helps make sure you are receiving the best treatment. When a doctor or pharmacist reviews your medicines they will check things like what medicines you are taking and why, how many different medicines you are taking and any side effects you may be experiencing.'

Dr Sherwood says stopping a medicine can seem daunting, especially if you’ve been taking it for a long time.

'However, many older people successfully stop medicines without feeling worse. In fact, you may feel better and improve your quality of life – especially if your symptoms were being caused by your medicines. Talk this over with your GP or specialist.'

The Choosing Wisely website has lots of resources about different tests, treatments and procedures that you might want to discuss further with your health professional.

They include information on:

  • allergies and allergic reactions
  • tests before surgery
  • back, knee and ankle x-rays
  • using antibiotics
  • blood tests
  • coughs, colds and sore throats
  • dementia
  • ear infections
  • electrocardiograms (ECGs)
  • end of life care
  • reviewing and using medicines.

Find out more at

Choosing Wisely sponsors are the Council of Medical Colleges, Southern Cross Health Society and PHARMAC. Consumer NZ and the Health Quality & Safety Commission are Choosing Wisely partners, and there is wide health sector support for the campaign.

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