I was very fortunate to be invited to participate on a panel as a presenter when Choosing Wisely and its 21 grant recipients gathered along with insiders, media and partners at their third annual summit meeting in Washington D.C.
Choosing Wisely was introduced to Alliance members at our 2013 Annual Seminar. Dr. John Santa, medical director at Consumer Reports Health, presented the campaign and stunned the crowd with facts on overtreatment in the U.S.
I decided to write a blog post about the Choosing Wisely initiative and how it helped me decide whether I needed treatment for my severe headaches.
That blog post drew a lot of attention, including an appearance on the Consumer Reports blog. It still remains the most popular article to appear on The Alliance Blog.
Almost a year later, I was invited to share my story behind the blog post as a presenter on a panel that also included three physicians who promote Choosing Wisely to patients.
The experience was nerve-racking and exciting all at once. I spoke about the importance of being an informed health care consumer and doing my research before speaking with the doctor or scheduling an unnecessary appointment.
The physicians spoke about their desire to introduce Choosing Wisely within their practices and whether patients are receptive to these conversations.
Survey results on U.S. physician attitudes toward the overuse of medical services were announced to the media at the event and became a big topic for the panel. The survey was sponsored by the ABIM Foundation and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Survey highlights include:
- One-in-five physicians (21 percent) are aware of the Choosing Wisely campaign.
- 66 percent of physicians feel they have a great deal of responsibility to make sure their patients avoid unnecessary tests and procedures.
- 53 percent of physicians say that even if they know a medical test is unnecessary, they order it if a patient insists.
- 70 percent of physicians say that after they speak with a patient about why a test or procedure is unnecessary, the patient often avoids it.
What I Learned
In two years, the physician associations that received Choosing Wisely grants to develop education materials on overtreatments have reached 170,000 physicians and 16.2 million consumers nationwide. Unfortunately, that’s just a start on what needs to be done.
The major topic of discussion in many conference sessions – including our panel – was consumers’ lack of awareness of the need for Choosing Wisely in every sense. That includes the “Choosing Wisely” campaign as well as the need for “choosing wisely” in making thoughtful, informed decisions about whether to have a test or treatment.
The one-in-five doctors who are aware of Choosing Wisely are doing a great job promoting it, but more need to learn about it and act on it. As the survey results showed, when a patient asks for an unnecessary test or procedure, 53 percent of doctors order it anyway.
I’m a consumer, too, so I know that consumers want to be in control and have an ease of mind knowing that they are OK. But more consumers need to know Choosing Wisely was created for them so they don’t have to go through the hassle of having unnecessary tests that are costly for them, their employers and the entire country.
Beyond Choosing Wisely
Consumer Reports campaigns that complement Choosing Wisely include:
What to Do?
When the conference was over, I gathered my notes to review what I jotted down about how to get the word out.
The key is making consumers aware of the Choosing Wisely campaign at their point-of-decision. That might mean sharing the information in the home, community, pharmacy, workplace, television, online directory or other sites.
- Put posters in exam rooms or waiting rooms
- Promote the Choosing Wisely mobile app
- Attend town hall meetings or church groups to discuss Choosing Wisely
- Partner with local sports teams or local celebrities to promote the campaign
- Help self-funded employers create customized co-branded microsites
- Use the power of social media and prizes/incentives to get more people interested
Use the Materials!
Employers and consumers should also start using the great materials developed by Consumer Reports. I met their intelligent and inspiring staff at the conference and was impressed by how hard they work to create useful information that is easy to understand.
Consumer Reports offers more than 100 plain English and Spanish pamphlets, customized web pages, posters, videos, social media campaigns and events dedicated to the Choosing Wisely campaign, which is summarized here. They even have a staff member solely devoted to updating Choosing Wisely’s Wikipedia page which is truly informative and useful.
Overall, I am so happy I attended this meeting and met such wonderful people. We all want the same thing – the improvement of quality health care with an emphasis on patient-physician communication and informed decision making.
I urge everyone to look up Choosing Wisely and use it in their own lives as you never know what you can learn and start discussing with your doctor.