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ANOTHER VOICE: Are those tests really necessary?

I recently attended the Safe Patient Project Summit in Yonkers, N.Y., at the headquarters of Consumer Reports, the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. I was there with other patient safety advocates, and we were introduced to the new Choosing Wisely campaign.

According to the Institute of Medicine, up to one-third of all U.S. health care spending pays for duplicative or unnecessary tests or other medical services. The Choosing Wisely campaign was developed by the American Board of Internal Medicine to help providers, patients and other health care stakeholders think over and talk about the actual medical tests and procedures that are often ordered but may not, in fact, be necessary.

Do you really need that special medical test or procedure? You might be surprised. More care does not always mean better care. The Oregon Medical Association has collaborated with Consumer Reports to help physicians and patients have open conversations in order to make wiser choices about care.

To spark these conversations, leading medical specialty societies have created lists of “Things Physicians and Patients Should Question” — evidence-based recommendations that should be discussed to help make wise decisions about the most appropriate care based on a patient’s individual situation. More than 52 medical specialty societies have joined the campaign to date and participation continues to grow; there are now over 135 tests and procedures identified that may be unnecessary or over-utilized.

Consumer Reports has developed patient-centered materials to help patients engage in these conversations and ask questions about what tests and procedures are right for them. These questions evolve around five general areas outlined below that will encourage informed conversations between the patient and the health care provider and will make great strides to ensure that the right care is delivered at the right time:

  1. Do I really need the test or procedure? Medical tests help you and your health care provider decide how to treat a problem. And medical procedures help to actually treat it.

  2. What are the risks? Will there be any side effects? What are the chances of getting results that aren’t accurate? Could that lead to more testing or another procedure?

  3. Are there simpler, safer options? Sometimes all you need to do is make lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier foods or exercising.

  4. What could happen if I don’t do anything? Ask whether your condition could get worse — or better — if you don’t have the test or procedure right away.

  5. How much does it cost? Are there less-expensive tests, treatments or procedures? Do you know what amount your insurance will cover? And are there generic drugs rather than brand-name drugs that can be prescribed?

Patients can be safer, save money, avoid hassles and get better sooner if they know how and where to shop for their medical care.

This campaign is for health professionals, patients and consumers. For free reports and videos visit consumerhealthchoices.org.

Dee Dee Vallier is a resident of Hood River and has been a patient safety advocate for 10 years. She was appointed by the governor to serve on the Oregon Patient Safety Commission and is currently serving on the Oregon Health Care Acquired Infection Advisory Committee.

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