Patients Continue to Ask Doctors for Unnecessary Tests, Study Finds

Two-thirds of physicians say they have a great responsibility in making sure their patients do not receive unnecessary tests and procedures, yet even more say American physicians today are ordering these exams every week, a new survey finds.

Conducted for the ABIM Foundation, the study has helped gauge physicians' attitudes about the issue of inappropriate medical tests and procedures in the U.S. health care system. 

The Choosing Wisely® campaign promotes healthy dialogue between physicians and their patients. Commencing in 2012, this physician-led movement attempts to eliminate unnecessary tests and procedures for patients based on evidence-based recommendations. These recommendations come from leading medical specialty societies that have identified the most salient issues patients should discuss with their physicians. 

TMA is working with the ABIM Foundation to make physicians and the public more aware of the lists and to encourage their use.

This study reveals physician opinions on unnecessary tests and procedures. Physicians are trying to steer their patients in the right direction, yet only 27 percent of physicians say patients listen to their advice half of the time. On the other hand, more than 1 in 3 physicians (36 percent) say they order unnecessary tests and procedures for patients "just to be safe." With rising health care costs and patients continuing to ask for unnecessary medical tests and procedures, communication between patients and physicians is more important than ever.

On the positive side, the survey found physicians are beginning to speak more to prevent their patients from undergoing unnecessary tests and procedures. The research found physicians who have seen Choosing Wisely material are more likely to refuse to order patient testing (44 percent) than those who have no knowledge of the movement (37 percent). "Physicians with exposure to the Choosing Wisely campaign are 17 points more likely to have reduced the number of tests or procedures they have done in the last 12 months," the study authors wrote. 

Through the help of the ABIM Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), more Texas physicians are continuing to use Choosing Wisely to guide patients in their decisionmaking on tests and procedures. Along with TMA, the ABIM Foundation has awarded 20 other state medical societies, specialty societies, and several regional health institutions to help promote positive conversations between physicians and patients on the overuse of medical tests and procedures. More Texas physicians continue to learn ways to decrease health care costs as well as effective ways to speak with patients about the medical care they need. 

The survey was administered via phone interview with 600 practicing physicians nationwide, including Texas physicians. RWJF, a supporter of the Choosing Wisely campaign, funded this analysis. 

Action, June 16, 2014


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