Experts say more care doesn’t equal better care

By Staff Writer • Published: January 3rd, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’ve heard the phrase “Talk to your doctor” dozens of times, tacked onto ads on everything from cold medicine to antidepressants. But now experts are bringing new meaning to the phrase as they ask patients to think twice about requesting tests and procedures physicians say are often unnecessary. is a campaign led by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and Consumer Reports. The site features a collection of evidence-based lists citing “Five Things Patients and Physicians Should Question” in nine medical specialties. The goal is to help patients cut back on care they don’t actually need. Eight more specialties will join the effort by the end of the year. Eleven consumer-oriented organizations, like AARP and the Leapfrog Group, have already begun spreading the word about the lists.

The Institute of Medicine reported in September that one-third of health care expenditures, about $750 billion, don’t actually improve health. For instance, according to the American College of Physicians, patients without signs of seizure or other neurological symptoms don’t need CT and MRI scans. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Family Physicians says certain osteoporosis screening procedures for women under 65 and men under 70 aren’t helpful, either. And the American College of Cardiology says stress imaging tests often received during annual checkups don’t really benefit healthy adults without cardiac symptoms.

But for many, it’s difficult to shake the sense of security that comes with running every possible test, no matter what the cost or harm could be. The idea behind the campaign is to counter the notion that more care means better care by educating those ordering unnecessary tests in the first place — the patients.

So whether you’re going in for an EKG or you’re scheduling your next colonoscopy, be sure to wise up and ask your doctor, “Do I really need this?”