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70% of clinicians concerned about unnecessary interventions

Survey finds nearly 70 percent of clinicians concerned about unnecessary medical interventions
19 December 2018

A survey of around 800 doctors and nurses has found that nearly 70 percent consider the provision of unnecessary tests, procedures or treatments an issue for New Zealand health care.

The survey was recently undertaken by the Choosing Wisely campaign in September and October 2018, working with the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA), and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO).

Choosing Wisely, coordinated by the Council of Medical Colleges, supports reducing unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures in health care.

Choosing Wisely Chair Dr Derek Sherwood says more isn’t always better when it comes to medical tests, treatments and procedures.

“Unnecessary interventions are stressful, and potentially expose patients to harm, leading to more testing to investigate false positives.”

Choosing Wisely encourages consumers to ask health professionals four questions:

• Do I really need to have this test, treatment or procedure?
• What are the risks?
• Are there simpler, safer options?
• What happens if I do nothing?

Health professionals are encouraged to discuss the risks and benefits of tests, treatments and procedures with consumers, so an informed choice can be made.

The survey found that the percentage of respondents who considered the provision of unnecessary tests, procedures or treatments a somewhat serious or very serious issue for New Zealand had risen from 62 percent in 2016 to 68 percent in 2018.

Other findings included:

• An increase in the percentage of health professionals advising against a particular test, procedure or treatment and not providing it (77 percent to 84 percent)
• A decrease in the percentage of health professionals advising against a test but providing it anyway (14 percent to 9 percent)
• A large increase in the percentage of clinicians surveyed who had knowledge of Choosing Wisely (41 percent to 80 percent in 2018).

Dr Sherwood says it is encouraging to see the high levels of understanding among clinicians about the need to consider whether a test, procedure or treatment is really necessary, before recommending it to a consumer.

“The key is to have a really good discussion with consumers about the pros and cons of interventions, so a decision about going ahead can be made together.”

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