Thursday, April 5, 2012

Choosing Wisely Campaign Seeks to Limit Wasteful Healthcare

The rising cost of health care is a fear and focus across the nation including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  NPR reports on nine national medical groups that are launching a campaign called Choosing Wisely to get U.S. doctors to back off on 45 diagnostic tests, procedures and treatments that often may do patients no good.  It is estimated that unnecessary medical treatments account for $250-750 Billion dollars per year.

I think this is a good idea.  Doctors, however, note problems implementing the pull back.  The primary obstacle in limiting various procedures and treatment is many patients' desire to have as many tests done as possible for a condition they are concerned about, even if the additional care is of little or no benefit.  Limiting healthcare often gets labeled as "rationing" and patients quickly become suspicious of and angry with doctors that refuse to provide unnecessary treatment.

From my lay perspective there seems to be a fairly simple solution to the patient demand problem- guidelines.  If medical professionals would come up with strict guidelines for what care may/should be given for a given condition then treating doctors could show their patients that they are simply following the rules.  They could explain to worried patients that the guidelines were developed by the healthcare profession at large for the benefit of patients.  When people see that actions are governed by rules they are more likely to capitulate to the suggested course of care.  Guidelines, as I have written about before, help unify and make standard the treatment that patients receive across the country.  This also simplifies the process of determining whether health care professionals did "the right thing" in treating a given patient.

In the end, however, I am not particularly optimistic about the Choosing Wisely campaign for the simple reason that powerful entities and businesses are getting rich off the wasteful medical expenditures.  Hospitals are businesses.  Medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies have a huge stake in the perpetuation of wasteful healthcare.  These entities are much more powerful then a doctors lobby.  These companies are not going to sit idly by while money is taken out of their pockets.  Otherwise, I think the Choosing Wisely concept would have been more successfully implemented already. Share this post :
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