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Choose Wisely

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“We know that Canadians have more than 1 million potentially unnecessary medical tests and treatments every year. By choosing wisely, we can improve the quality of, and access to, care for everyone,” said Dr. Stewart Kennedy, EVP, Medical and Academic Affairs at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

January 10, 2018

When it comes to tests, treatment and procedures, choose wisely

Up to 30% of medical tests, treatments, and procedures in Canada are potentially unnecessary, according to a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.  

Unnecessary tests, treatments, and procedures don’t add value for patients. Worse, they can potentially expose patients to harm, lead to more testing to investigate false positives, contribute to unwarranted stress for patients and their families, and consume precious time and resources (source: Choosing Wisely Canada).

“We know that Canadians have more than 1 million potentially unnecessary medical tests and treatments every year. By choosing wisely, we can improve the quality of, and access to, care for everyone,” said Dr. Stewart Kennedy, EVP, Medical and Academic Affairs at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Consider the effect of an increasing demand for MRI and CT scans; longer wait times for imaging services across the country.

Unnecessary tests, treatments, and procedures happen for a number of reasons. One is that patients often demand them based on misinformation. “Naturally, people turn to the internet for information regarding their health care concerns,” said Dr. Kennedy. “It’s difficult for people to tell what information is credible and what is not.”

For example, a person may read an article on-line that the “best” way to diagnose back pain is an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). In reality, causes of back pain are often complex and due to several factors.

Some patients request referrals to other cities, or even the United States for services not offered here. “Usually, those services don’t fall into the standard practice of care, and aren’t necessary,” Dr. Kennedy explained.  “If there is evidence that a patient will benefit from such a test, treatment or procedure, then a patient will of course be referred.”

The right approach is to discuss health care concerns and diagnosis options with your health care professional. “Physicians are trained to look for signs or symptoms that make certain types of diagnostic testing necessary,” advised Dr. Kennedy. “The goal is to identify the best care to meet the needs the patient. Talking about options and evidence-based practices can reduce those unnecessary appointments.”   

Choosing Wisely Canada is a national campaign dedicated to helping clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments, and make smart and effective care choices. To learn more, visit www.choosingwiselycanada.org.

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