There are a lot of medical treatments that aren’t necessary for patients. These include tests that don’t reveal a problem, medications that aren’t effective for the patient, and procedures that have more risk than benefit.
Almost three-fourths of doctors say the frequency with which they order unnecessary tests or procedures is a serious problem for American health care. But even doctors who recognize the problem and feel they are in the best position to address it often fail to reduce their unnecessary care.
1. Ask Your Doctor
It’s important to ask your doctor about any medical tests or treatments you may be scheduled for. This helps to ensure that you are getting the right care, and avoid unnecessary or duplicative care.
You should also ask your doctor about medicines you are prescribed, as many of them can have harmful side effects or be dangerous to take. This will save you time and money, and may help to prevent health problems in the future.
Your doctor has a baseline of your overall health that no one else does, and can better spot when a test or treatment may be unnecessary. The Choosing Wisely campaign wants to start conversations about potentially unnecessary tests or treatments and empower the public to ask questions when discussing options with their healthcare providers.
Most physicians say they have a great deal of responsibility to make sure their patients avoid unnecessary medical care. However, most still order tests or procedures they know are unnecessary. This is a huge problem for the American healthcare system, and physicians themselves agree.
3. Ask for a Second Opinion
Getting a second opinion can help ensure that you have a clear understanding of your diagnosis and treatment options. It can also help you avoid unnecessary medical care if you have concerns about the potential side effects of treatment.
Several studies have shown that patients who seek a second opinion on their condition often receive a new diagnosis or a modification to their treatment plan. This can save people from unnecessary surgery and medical costs.
The importance of a second opinion can’t be overstated. Doctors can sometimes misinterpret diagnostic tests, and this can lead to harmful delays in receiving proper treatment.
In addition, many doctors turn to their colleagues when they have a challenging case, or when they feel they don’t have enough knowledge about a particular disease or treatment. These professionals may have more experience than the doctor you are seeing and will be able to offer you more informed advice.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
The best way to avoid unnecessary medical care is to be proactive and take a more active role in your own health care. This includes educating yourself about your own condition and making informed decisions about your treatment plan. While you’re at it, remember to keep an open mind and ask questions, especially about the cost of care. Your doctor or other healthcare provider is more than happy to help. A little friendly advice can go a long way, and in some cases can make all the difference in avoiding costly treatments down the road. There are several online resources you can turn to for information, including The Patient Organization, The Patients’ Bill of Rights, and The Physicians’ Health Resource Center. The latter is a nonprofit healthcare advocacy group that provides free resources to consumers and doctors alike.