One in five Kiwis think their doctor has recommended an unnecessary test or treatment and a third think some tests don’t benefit patients, a survey for the Choosing Wisely campaign has found.

The survey was carried out as part of the Council of Medical Colleges’ and Consumer NZ’s Choosing Wisely campaign.

The campaign encourages people to ask their health professional four questions to clarify the risks and reasons for the recommended test or treatment and what other options there were (see questions below).

Of those who felt their doctor had recommended an unnecessary test or treatment, nearly 20 percent said they went ahead and had it anyway, rather than talk with their doctor about why it was necessary. Twenty-two percent ignored the doctor’s recommendation.

Overall, just over a third (35%) of consumers felt some tests or treatments did not benefit the patient.

Council of Medical College chair Dr Derek Sherwood says just because tests and treatments are available doesn’t mean people should always use them.

“There is mounting evidence that more tests and procedures don’t always equal better care. While modern medicine has given us more ways than ever to diagnose and treat illness, sometimes, the best option may be to do nothing.”

Using antibiotics was also something that needed to be carefully considered, Said Cherwood.

“Antibiotics do not help viral illnesses such as the common cold, sinusitis, pharyngitis and bronchitis, and should not be prescribed for these illnesses.

“Using antibiotics when they’re not needed can lead to antibiotic resistance – when antibiotics are no longer effective against the bacteria they once killed. This means in the future you might have an infection for longer and be more likely to pass it on to others.

“In many cases, the best treatment might be rest and over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain or fever.”

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says consumers should feel able to ask their doctor questions so they can make informed decisions.

“Health care choices can have major implications. Always talk to your doctor if there are things you don’t understand or ask them to give you information you can read. Take a support person if you don’t feel confident asking questions,” said Chetwin.

“You can make a follow-up appointment to ask further questions or talk about your decisions after you’ve had time to consider the options.”

Sherwood also encourages patients to ask their doctor or other health professional about proposed tests or treatments.

“Just by having these discussions you and your doctor will be clearer on what is the best thing to do for your health and wellbeing.”

As well as encouraging patients to ask the doctor about tests and treatments, the Choosing Wisely campaign has comprehensive information for health professionals about which tests, treatments and procedures to question.

Choosing Wisely sponsors are the Council of Medical Colleges, Southern Cross Health Society, Pacific Radiology and PHARMAC. Consumer NZ and the Health Quality & Safety Commission are Choosing Wisely partners, and there is wide health sector support for the campaign.

Choosing Wisely questions

  • Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
  • What are the risks?
  • Are there simpler, safer options?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything?

See the Choosing Wisely website for more information or contact.

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