Patients are often in a state of pain, fear and vulnerability when faced with a medical condition. They put their health in the hands of a doctor who they trust to take care of them.
Yet all too often, doctors are quick to order a slew of unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures – whether it is because they are too busy to truly evaluate the patient or because they are looking to earn more money for their hospital.
In many cases, these extra treatments do more harm than good, exposing already ailing people to dangerous side effects. Many treatments and tests result in stress, anxiety and pain for the patient whose condition doesn’t require any of these procedures, all for the extra dollar for the doctor or hospital.
In 2013, the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings published a list of over 146 contemporary medical procedures and practices that were found to be ineffective. The list was compiled after researchers investigated medical records over the past ten years. They found that countless patients had been subjected to treatments that not only resulted in little to no benefit, but also cost them both emotional and physical pain.
Many of these treatment methods were discarded and are no longer considered standard protocol, yet the damage has been done for millions. A few of these common procedures include hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women in an effort to improve cardiovascular function and the use of stents to treat stable coronary artery disease.
Furthermore, in 2011, the Archives of Internal Medicine reported on the overprescription of dangerous medications, urging doctors to find alternative means of treatment. The report found the side effects from two common prescription drugs, oxycodone and hydrocodone, far outweigh the benefits for many patients and the rate of ER admittance thanks to prescription drug complications had skyrocketed 98.4 percent from 2004 to 2009.
Unfortunately, patients have often found themselves at the mercy of the medical staff, not knowing which questions to ask or which treatments to forego. But that changed in 2012 when the program Choosing Wisely was unveiled in the United States.
Choosing Wisely was established to initiate conversation between healthcare providers and patients in an effort to provide the best treatment possible. Today, over 60 medical societies participate, each one providing a list of “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question.” Each list is designed to help patients and doctors question whether a specific treatment or test is warranted. Examples include when to treat with antibiotics or order X-rays for certain conditions.
While not meant to diagnose a patient, these lists help patients and physicians alike rule out costly procedures that may provide no benefit.
The program has seen great success in the United States since its inception in February 2012, and recently, Physicians in Canada announced the Canadian equivalent, Choosing Wisely Canada.
“Physicians must lead the effort to ensure that precious health care resources are used wisely,” writes Dr. Wendy Levinson in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Together with Tai Huynh, campaign manager of Choosing Wisely Canada, the two stress that, “every test, treatment and procedure physicians order must be evidence-based, have potential to add value and minimize potential harm to patients.”
Providing patients with more knowledge about their condition empowers them to make better choices and perhaps seek out second opinions when necessary. The program also encourages doctors to think twice before ordering tests and treatments, and instead, to collaborate with their patient to establish a treatment approach that will result in a return to health rather than causing more harm.
-The Alternative Daily