Professionals unite for health care efficiency

Professionals unite for health care efficiency

Photo Credit: Laura Fox

You may be spending too much money on healthcare, according to a group of professionals who met last Monday at UVU for a panel discussion about their campaign. Choosing Wisely is a campaign which aims to educate the community about making wise health care decisions.

“The Choosing Wisely campaign is about education, information and the individual,” David Shute, physician advisor to the campaign and internal medicine doctor said. “We want to help physicians and the community by sharing information about specific tests that are either harmful or have little to no value for the individual.”

Representatives of the campaign have compiled a list available online of Utah’s top five unnecessary or low-value medical tests. Antibiotics for colds caused by a virus in children are number one, followed by CT scans and MRIs for headaches and head injuries.

“Antibiotics have been on the radar screen for problems with overuse for the 30 years I’ve been in practice,” Shute said. “Another example is imaging-taking X-rays for routine back pain and CT scans for headaches and abdominal pain. These are things we clearly overuse, and could probably do harm when we overuse them.”

Scott Barlow, CEO of Central Utah Clinic, shared a story about a mother who brought her son into his facility for an evaluation of a head injury. She insisted her son undergo a CT scan, although the doctor saw no reason for that kind of imaging. Ultimately, the doctor issued a CT scan for her son to ease her nerves, but there was no medical reason involved.

Barlow stressed that although a CT scan can provide ease-of-mind, patients should consider radiation exposure as it can be significant. According to mayoclinic.org, radiation from CT scans has a small potential to increase the risk of cancer.

The risks of exposure to radiation during medical imaging processes are meager compared to the benefit of determining a life-threatening or serious issue. Members of Choosing Wisely hope to educate the community about when is the right time to undergo this kind of testing.

“The average patient in America will see the doctor about two times a year, but an average person with a chronic illness will see at least six different doctors over the course of a year,” Barlow said.

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Graphic by Trevor Robertson

Another initiative of the Choosing Wisely campaign is promoting conversation between physicians and patients. Shute said education must start with the consumer—before walking into the office of a medical professional, the consumer should be prepared with questions about the resources available to them.

Finding transparency in the medical industry was suggested as a way for young adults to improve their overall healthcare experience. Some students may not be accustomed to asking questions in the doctor’s office because they were never in charge of their own healthcare.

“Healthcare has not been very transparent, but the younger generation is used to searching for and having readily available information,” Barlow said. “The system itself has not facilitated an easy way for them to access the information they need, but that’s changing. There are organizations such as Choosing Wisely working to make connections that have never been there before.”

The event was moderated by Jennifer Napier-Pierce of the Salt Lake Tribune and also featured panelists Jason Stevenson, Consumer Advocate of Utah Health Policy Project and S. David Jackson, Benefit Consultant of First West Benefit Solutions.

In order to save money on health care, the representatives of Choosing Wisely are encouraging the community to facilitate discussions with their physicians. The campaign will continue in Utah with open forums and by providing updated information on their website, choosingwisely.org.

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