Contributed by Karen Born, Choosing Wisely Canada. The theme of Patient Safety Week is “Take with Questions,” and Karen’s post illustrates why questions are a key part of reducing unnecessary medical treatments. Read on:

The Canadian Institute for Health Information report outlines up to 30% of medical tests and treatments in Canada are unnecessary.

Unnecessary tests and treatments are not only clinically useless, they potentially expose patients to harm, lead to more testing to investigate false positives. This contributes to unwarranted stress for patients and their families, and consumes precious time and resources for everyone involved.

Choosing Wisely Canada is a national campaign to help clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments, and make smart and effective care choices.

So why do unnecessary tests take place? Well, there are many complex drivers of this problem, including:

  • Clinician practice habits are traditionally difficult to change, even in the face of new evidence
  • Patients may request tests and treatments they believe will be beneficial
  • Lack of time for shared decision-making between clinicians and patients
  • Outdated systems (such as order sets) that encourage over-ordering
  • Defensive medicine and fear of missing something
  • Payment systems reimburse clinicians for doing more

Choosing Wisely Canada inspires and engages clinicians to take leadership on reducing unnecessary care, and enables them with simple tools and resources that make it easier to choose wisely.

Have you had a discussion with your health care provider about what you need, and what you don’t? Here are four questions you can ask at your next appointment start the conversation.

  1. Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
  2. What are the downsides?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I do nothing?

These questions will help you and your provider have an open, informed discussion, and allow you to make the best decision for your health and care.

Thanks Karen! Make a pledge to ask these four questions at your next appointment, or make another pledge for patient safety!