Doc groups pinpoint top sources of unnecessary care

Nine physician specialty societies collectively representing about 375,000 physicians nationwide, this morning released a list of five procedures or tests for each of the nine specialties that they think their colleagues should think twice before ordering. The announcement is the result of a two-year effort led by the ABIM Foundation, in partnership with Consumer Reports, to educate physicians and patients about potentially unnecessary care through a campaign called "Choosing Wisely."

Because the guidance comes from respected physician groups, rather than non-healthcare sources, it may stand a better chance of resonating with doctors or patients, noted The New York Times.

Examples of tests and procedures identified by the groups as being overused without necessarily benefiting patients (or the healthcare system) included the following:

  • Screening for osteoporosis with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry in women under 65 and men under 70
  • CT scans or antibiotics for chronic sinusitis
  • Chest X-rays prior to outpatient surgery when the patient has an unremarkable history and physical exam
  • Routine cancer screenings for dialysis patients with short life expectancies or no symptoms of cancer

Although the groups, which include the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the American College of Radiology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and others, based their advice on clinical expertise and evidence-based research, Christine Cassel, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine and ABIM Foundation, which organized the Choosing Wisely campaign, admitted to the Chicago Tribune that it could be a tough sell to some patients.

"Unfortunately, in some of the political rhetoric about healthcare costs and all of the accusations about rationing, consumers get understandably worried," she said. Cassel added that patients often "think more is better, and 'Maybe I'm not getting something I need,' when, in fact, more is not necessarily better. There are a number of things that not only aren't necessary and are potentially costly, but also have a risk of harm to the patient."

To learn more:
- see the statement from the ABIM Foundation
- read the article from The New York Times
- see the story from the Chicago Tribune
- see the article from Reuters
- check out the story from ABC News