Medical specialty societies expand assault on unnecessary procedures

The medical specialty societies participating in ABIM Foundation’s Choosing Wisely have grown in number and have identified 90 more commonly-used tests and treatments that are not always necessary and may even cause harm, the foundation announced today.

Choosing Wisely, a campaign developed by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation in partnership with Consumer Reports, was launched in 2011 with nine medical societies participating. Today the initiative has grown to 25 societies, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

[See also: New campaign seeks to curb unnecessary healthcare services.]

Each medical specialty society researches and reviews the most current evidence about commonly-used tests and procedures done within each specialty then recommends five specific tests and procedures whose use should be questioned.

[See also: Physician groups identify 45 common and often unnecessary services.]

With today’s announcement, the medical societies have identified more than 130 tests and procedures. Among those announced today, the American College of Obstetricians and the AAFP are recommending that non-medically indicated inductions of labor or cesarean deliveries before 39 weeks not be scheduled and that feeding tubes should not be used in patients with advanced dementia.

These are procedures, said Christine Cassel, MD, outgoing president and CEO of ABIM, that have scientific evidence supporting that their use is not warranted in many cases and may even cause patients harm.

[See also: Christine Cassel to join NQF as president.]

The medical specialty societies are the ones putting their expertise behind these recommendations, she said, and that is what makes the recommendations so powerful.

“The goal of this is to get the same scientifically-based information about waste in healthcare out to patients, and to the specialists in the area, from the people who are really the experts in the field,” she said. “That’s what’s really so powerful about this. It’s not about the government policies and it’s not about insurance companies. It’s about doctors and patients working from the same research-based information and having that available.”

As more patients have conversations with their doctors about the necessity of tests and procedures, Cassel said, waste in healthcare and healthcare costs, are bound to be reduced because patients and their doctors will not automatically request or order tests and procedures. “In a culture like America where always think more is better, this really is a game changer,” Cassel said, “… to sort of get the broad range of consumers to not take that for granted and to ask, ‘You know, do I really need this?’”