Choosing Wisely

More health care is not always better health care.

Some tests, procedures and drugs are ineffective and can actually do harm. For example, taking antibiotics for viral infections like colds and most sinus infections is ineffective since antibiotics have no effect on viruses. The wrong use of antibiotics can have serious side effects for the patient and is creating new antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Choosing Wisely is a national initiative to educate providers and patients on the appropriate use of health care services. Under the leadership of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation, more than 60 physician and nursing organizations have each identified at least five tests, procedures or drugs in their area of expertise that have questionable value. Altogether, more than 250 tests, procedures and drugs have been identified as having low-value and should be ordered only after an informed discussion between the provider and the patient. All of these low-value tests, procedures and drugs have been selected by a health care provider organization based on current clinical evidence.

Choosing Wisely in West Virginia is a group of diverse organizations that is partnering with the national effort to promote high value health care in the state. It includes physicians, nurses, other health care providers, consumers, state agencies and payers.

Five questions patients should ask their health care provider to ensure the right care is delivered at the right time.

  • Do I really need this test, procedure or drug?
  • What are the risks? Ask about side effects and the chances of getting inaccurate tests results.
  • Are there simpler, safer options? A lifestyle change may help.
  • What happens if I don’t do anything? Ask if your condition might get worse – or better – if you don’t have a test, procedure or drug.
  • How much does it cost? Ask if insurance will cover the treatment. Are there less-expensive tests, treatments or procedures? Ask about generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs.

Patients and health care providers working together and having meaningful discussions on the appropriate and wise use of health care can improve the quality of health care and contain cost. It’s in everyone’s best interest to begin this important process.

The Choosing Wisely in West Virginia is funded by generous grants from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund.

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