February 13, 2013

In My Opinion: Doctors support Choosing Wisely

Americans pay more for health care than anywhere else in the world, but we don’t enjoy better health than most Western countries.

Insurance companies and the government have tried to reduce payments for many years. HMOs were not very successful in reducing costs. Most politicians will not discuss anything that might be politically unpopular, even if it might be helpful.

Perhaps one thing we can all agree on is that money spent should be spent wisely. Yet experts estimate that in a single year over $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) is wasted on unnecessary medical testing — about $3,000 for every person in this country.

You may wonder why there is any wasteful spending at all. Sometimes, it is because doctors have not kept up with the latest research. Sometimes, patients believe that they should have a test. Finally, some inappropriate testing or treatment may be encouraged by drug companies, medical-device manufacturers or physicians who will make a lot of money if their products are used.

Think about how many television commercials you have seen encouraging us to take medications (Viagra) or get tested for different conditions (“low T”). Most are devised to make money for pharmaceutical companies, not to make you healthier.

Choosing Wisely is a campaign designed to try to reduce unnecessary medical testing or treatment. Choosing Wisely was not designed by the government or insurance companies; it was designed by doctors. Some of the best medical experts in this country have worked together on this project.

The physicians at CVPH Medical Center have agreed that we support Choosing Wisely, and we want to help the community learn more about it.

It is important to stress what Choosing Wisely is not:

1. Choosing Wisely is not rationing. Rationing is when medically necessary tests are not done because we don’t have enough resources. For example, only 10 percent of people who need a heart transplant will receive one, because we don’t have enough donor hearts available.

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