Providing high value, safe, and cost-effective care is the cornerstone of family medicine. However, there remains significant overutilization of low-value or even harmful care in the U.S. health care system. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) partnered with the Choosing Wisely Campaign to identify care that may be overused or misused and tackle this pressing issue. Founded in 2012 as an initiative of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, the Choosing Wisely campaign collates lists of procedures and tests that add little or no value to medical care. The AAFP was one of the first organizations to participate, submitting 5 initial recommendations and a total of 15 recommendations by 2013.
Once again, the AAFP has added 5 new recommendations to the Choosing Wisely campaign. Developed by the AAFP's Commission on Health of the Public and Science, these evidence-based recommendations are based on sources such as the Cochrane Collaboration and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality systematic reviews. Each recommendation focuses on a practice that is either harmful or has very little supporting evidence of benefit.
Here are the new recommendations:
Don’t perform pelvic exams on asymptomatic nonpregnant women, unless necessary for guideline-appropriate screening for cervical cancer.
Screening pelvic examinations, except for the purpose of performing cervical cancer screening at recommended intervals, have not led to reduction in mortality or morbidity. Additionally, they increase costs and expose asymptomatic women to unnecessary invasive testing.
Don’t routinely recommend daily home glucose monitoring for patients who have Type 2 diabetes mellitus and are not using insulin.
Self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) has no demonstrated benefit in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus who are not on insulin or medications associated with hypoglycemia. SMBG should be reserved for patients during the titration of their medication doses or during periods of changes in patients’ diet and exercise routines.
Don’t screen for genital herpes simplex virus infection (HSV) in asymptomatic adults, including pregnant women.
Serologic testing for HSV infection has low specificity and a high false-positive rate. No confirmatory test is currently available and the serologic tests cannot determine the site of infection. Given the prevalence of the infection in the United States, the positive predictive value of the test is estimated at about 50%. A positive test can cause considerable anxiety and disruption of personal relationships.
Don’t screen for testicular cancer in asymptomatic adolescent and adult males.
There is no benefit to screening for testicular cancer due to the low incidence of disease and high cure rates of treatment, even in patients who have advanced disease. Potential harms include false-positive results, anxiety, and harms from diagnostic tests or procedures.
Don’t transfuse more than the minimum of red blood cell (RBC) units necessary to relieve symptoms of anemia or to return a patient to a safe hemoglobin range (7 to 8 g/dL in stable patients).
Unnecessary transfusion exposes patients to potential adverse effects without any likelihood of benefit and generates additional costs.
Using tools like Choosing Wisely, family physicians can lead change and reduce unnecessary care in the US to cut costs, improve health outcomes, and limit harms. To help you put Choosing Wisely into practice, you can find the lists from the AAFP and over 80 other specialty organizations at choosingwisely.org and a search tool for primary care-relevant recommendations on the AFP website.
Drs. Coles and Stevermer are members of the AAFP's Commission on Health of the Public and Science. Dr. Coles is also an AFP Contributing Editor and Assistant Editor, AFP Podcast.