New report: Too many Australians unaware of dangers of unnecessary tests

15 Dec 2017
More Australians need to understand the risks of undergoing unnecessary medical tests, with three-quarters of consumers believing there’s no danger if they do, according to Choosing Wisely Australia.

The Choosing Wisely in Australia 2017 Report released today shows only one-quarter (28%) of 2,500 consumers surveyed agreed that having a medical test when it wasn’t needed could be harmful to their health.

NPS MedicineWise Chief Executive Dr Lynn Weekes AM said, “Choosing Wisely Australia is working to change the misunderstanding that ‘more healthcare is better healthcare’.

“People need to understand there are risks and benefits associated with all tests, treatments and procedures,” Dr Weeks said. “Also, that not all healthcare is necessary.”

Australia is one of 20 countries implementing Choosing Wisely to help eliminate unnecessary healthcare. As part of the Choosing Wisely initiative, Australia’s peak health professional colleges, societies and associations develop lists of evidence-based recommendations on the way a whole range of conditions should be managed. Since the initiative was launched by NPS MedicineWise in April 2015, 80% of Australian medical colleges have signed up.

When asked about their role in reducing unnecessary healthcare, 61% of consumers believed they had a role to play in reducing the use of unnecessary tests.

In a separate survey, around half of general practitioners (GPs) (47%) and specialists (55%) strongly agreed they had a responsibility to help reduce the inappropriate use of tests, treatments and procedures.

“Key to reducing unnecessary healthcare is everyone having better conversations with their doctors and other healthcare providers about the course of action recommended for their particular condition, and its value,” said Dr Weekes.

“Choosing Wisely Australia identifies low-value or harmful care and supports consumers to ask healthcare professionals the right questions.”

This year, new recommendations have been released under the initiative on the use of imaging to diagnose bronchiolitis and asthma in children, administering anaesthetics for people aged over 70, and taking antibiotics and other medications when they’re not needed.

Since Choosing Wisely Australia launched, 158 recommendations about tests, treatments and procedures clinicians and consumers should question have been released. In addition, 12 Health Services across the country are implementing Choosing Wisely initiatives behind the scenes for the benefit of patients.

NPS MedicineWise has, for the first time, incorporated Choosing Wisely Australia recommendations into its national educational programs to improve the use of medicines and medical tests.

Around 7000 GPs across Australia participated in face-to-face visits in a program to reduce inappropriate referrals for ultrasound X-ray for acute ankle and knee injuries, and MRI for acute knee injuries. Early survey results showed 14% of GPs intended to change their practice around imaging referrals, with 40% saying they had already changed practice as a result of the program.

Dr Weekes said: “This is a great result and helps ensure many people won’t be exposed unnecessarily to the radiation from X-rays. At the same time, we are helping foster those important conversations between doctor and patient about why it might not be appropriate to have an X-ray for ankle and knee injuries.”

Choosing Wisely Australia has a 5 Questions to ask your doctor resource to help people know what to ask their healthcare professionals.

Last reviewed 12 December 2017