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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Choosing Wisely- Right Care, Right Patient, and Right Time

Cate Hulme

Staff Writer

Not a week goes by without another report reminding us that the United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, yet has worse health outcomes than most. How do we solve this problem and get more for our money? We need to focus on getting each person the right care at the right time.

In an effort to do this, nine leading doctors' groups, like the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Cardiology, recently came together as a part of the Choosing Wisely campaign. This new campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of relying on evidence when deciding what tests and procedures to do and to encourage doctors and patients to discuss the pros and cons of various courses of treatment. To achieve this, each of the nine specialty groups involved in the campaign created a list of five tests and procedures that are frequently overused or misused. Doctors and patients can use these new lists when deciding an appropriate course of treatment.

Sticking to evidence-based medicine limits a patient's exposure to possible harm. For example, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends that doctors treating patients with uncomplicated sinus infections avoid prescribing antibiotics, let alone ordering CT scans, as long as the illness is mild and the patient has access to follow-up care if he or she needs it. The vast majority of these infections are viral, so antibiotics will not help at all and, in some patients, they can cause significant side effects. Likewise, jumping to a CT scan will unnecessarily expose patients to radiation and will not help them get any better.

To ensure that patients are able to get the most of this valuable resource too, Consumer Reports will publish each of the lists in easy-to-understand language. This will help patients become active participants in their health care and encourage an informed dialogue with their health care providers. If more people start using information like this to make health care decisions, we will see quality improve and costs come down. This is a win-win situation for everyone.