Monday, July 30, 2012

Making wiser choices about medical tests and treatments

- Kenny Lin, MD

The July 15th issue of AFP features an special online editorial by AFP editor Jay Siwek, MD that compiles family medicine-relevant items from the multi-specialty Choosing Wisely campaign that aims to reduce the provision of "unnecessary" care, defined as medical tests and treatments that offer no health benefits and may result in harm to patients. Based on trusted sources of evidence-based medicine such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Essential Evidence Plus, these "don't do" recommendations have the potential to save both lives and money, if they can be effectively put into practice. To inform patients about the campaign, Consumer Reports has created fact sheets about many of the included items.

Reactions to the Choosing Wisely campaign in the blogosphere have been varied. Calling it "the health reform we need," cardiologist John Mandrola writes, "I hope it sticks like super glue." On the other side, emergency physician William Sullivan argues that the campaign "has good intentions, but isn't a good idea," noting that "there isn’t a Suing Wisely campaign for attorneys and there isn’t a Legislating Wisely campaign for Congress." Similarly, family physician Mike Sevilla contends that while Choosing Wisely may "score political points" for sponsoring physician organizations, it is unlikely to change their members' behavior, which is also driven by patient demands and fears of lawsuits over interventions not taken. Where do you stand on this spectrum? Is the Choosing Wisely campaign good or bad for family medicine, or perhaps some of both?