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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“Just in Case” Can Mean More Money and No Benefit

Alexandra Ernst

Staff Writer

As health care consumers, we can all agree that health care costs are too high. What we may not realize is that the “just in case” X-ray or CT scan that we request or that our doctor prescribes may be a major driver of these costs. But how do we know when “just in case” isn’t necessary or is potentially harmful?

In April of 2012, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation partnered with Consumers Union to create the Choosing Wisely campaign to start addressing the issue of overuse in our health care system. Each of nine national doctor groups, representing more than 375,000 members, created lists of five things physicians and patients should question, which provide evidence-based information on specific procedures or tests that are often used but not always necessary. Consumers Union and 11 other consumer-facing organizations have partnered with the American Board of Internal Medicine to disseminate this information and produce consumer-friendly resources to help patients engage in these important discussions with their doctors.

On Thursday, the Choosing Wisely campaign released an additional 18 lists, highlighting an additional 90 procedures and tests that patients and physicians should flag for discussion. The Choosing Wisely campaign now includes 25 leading medical societies, representing more than 725,000 physicians, and has reached a predicted 70 million consumers over the past year. Sixteen medical societies are expected to release new or updated lists later this year.

The Choosing Wisely campaign puts patients in the driver’s seat. Informed patients are empowered patients. Empowering more patients with necessary information to ask the right questions at the right time can lead to lower costs for all of us.

So the next time your doctor prescribes antibiotics for your sinus infection, stop and ask a few questions first. Let them know what you know—the majority of sinus infections are not caused by bacteria and this medication would be of no benefit to you. Choosing wisely is something we can all do to improve our own care and improve our health care system at large.

If you’re interested in other procedures and tests you should flag for further discussion with your doctor, check out the full list at