Most Read: National

Live Discussions

There are no discussions scheduled today.

Martha Stewarts' tips for the holidays

Martha Stewarts' tips for the holidays

Chat transcripts

Martha Stewart joined a special Home Front chat to help make your holidays a good thing.

Weekly schedule, past shows

The Checkup
Column Archive |  On Twitter On Twitter: J Huget and MisFits  |  Wellness News  |  RSS RSS Feed
Posted at 12:32 PM ET, 04/04/2012

Doctors groups call for end to unnecessary procedures

Citing unnecessary medical tests and procedures as a major driver of soaring health-care costs, a coalition of doctors groups and consumer groups Wednesday unveiled a campaign to push doctors and patients away from 45 tests or procedures that are overused and often unhelpful.

Sponsored by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, the “Choosing Wisely” campaign aims to get doctors and patients talking about these procedures to achieve “better decision-making,” said Christine K. Cassel, chief executive of the ABIM.

“Patients are going to say, ‘Why can’t I have this X-ray or this CT scan, just in case?’ There’s always that ‘just in case,’ ” Cassel said. Yet studies show that the procedures on the list might harm patients instead of helping them, by delivering unnecessary radiation or leading to unnecessary surgery or other invasive procedures.

A 2005 National Academy of Sciences report found that 30 percent of U.S. health-care spending was unnecessary or wasteful; more recent studies arrive at similar figures. That amounts to a staggering $600 billion to $700 billion annually.

Here are some of the tests, medicines and procedures that, according to the campaign, “should be questioned”:

Antibiotics for sinus infections: The vast majority of infections are not caused by bacteria

• X-rays for low back pain: Unnecessary unless “red flags” signify possible serious disease

Stress tests for healthy people: Heart screening tests don’t make sense unless the patient has diabetes or other heart risk factors

CT or MRI head scans for fainting: Unnecessary unless signs of a seizure are also present

CT scans for appendicitis in children: Less expensive ultrasound scans are preferred

Repeat colonoscopies within 10 years: For those at low to average risk for colon cancer, once a decade is enough

PET, CT, bone scans to determine spread of early prostate and breast cancers: If tumors are low grade — meaning they present a low risk of metastasis — scans can lead to unnecessary surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

“We’re not saying you should never do these things,” Cassel said. “We’re saying that these are things that are often overused. So, if you think you need it or your doctor recommends it, raise the question: ‘Do I really need this?’ ”

The nine doctors groups, which include 375,000 members, are: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Cardiology; American College of Physicians; American College of Radiology; American Gastroenterological Association; American Society of Clinical Oncology; American Society of Nephrology; American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.

Each group identified five procedures in its speciality that are overused or often unnecessary.

The doctors groups are partnering with Consumer Reports, AARP and 10 other consumer groups to get out their message.

The entire list of 45 (often) unnecessary tests and procedures is online at choosingwisely.org

By  |  12:32 PM ET, 04/04/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company