• 25Oct

    Helping patients to ask questions and ‘choose wisely’

    The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have this week launched Choose Wisely, a campaign with a list of forty treatments and procedures that are of little or no benefit to patients.

    The list, which has been drawn up by the Academy’s member royal colleges and faculties, and patient groups, includes advice to both patients and doctors for treating health related  issues such as:

    • Cuts and grazes – Tap water is just as good for cleaning them as saline solution
    • Lower back pain – X-rays are of little benefit if there are no other concerning features
    • Terminal cancer – Chemotherapy may be used to relieve symptoms but can also be painful, cannot cure the disease and may well bring further distress in the final months of life
    • Prostate conditions – Routine screening using a test known as a Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA test does not lead to longer life and can bring unnecessary anxiety

    At the heart of the Choosing Wisely initiative is a call to both doctors and patients to have a fully informed conversation about the risks and benefits of treatments and procedures.

    The campaign promotes that patients should always ask five key questions when seeking treatment. They are:

    1. Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
    2. What are the risks or downsides?
    3. What are the possible side effects?
    4. Are there simpler, safer options?
    5. What will happen if I do nothing?

    In launching the campaign, the Academy site a study that found 82% of doctors said they had prescribed or carried out a treatment which they knew to be unnecessary. The vast majority of this group cited patient pressure or patient expectation as the main reason.

    The campaign is part of a global initiative to reduce over-medicalisation. In the US for example, which launched Choosing Wisely three years ago, over 450 recommendations for treatments or procedures that are unlikely to be of benefit to patients are listed.

    The UK list will be added to annually.

    You can find out more about Choose Wisely on the campaign website.