Choosing Wisely: 5 Questions to ask your doctor

choosing wisely 5 questionsCutting the waste

I’ve posted several times about the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Developed by Consumer Reports and the American Board of Internal Medicine, Choosing Wisely hopes to educate both physicians and patients, and cut back or eliminate unnecessary medical tests, procedures and treatments.

Over-testing and over-treatment are estimated to cost about $200 billion every year. I think that’s a conservative figure, as the financial—not to mention emotional—consequences of too much medicine can be difficult to quantify.

Bringing about change in our behemoth, for-profit healthcare system is a daunting task, and I’m always happy to see signs that it’s catching on.

Consumer Reports and Choosing Wisely provide lots of tools for both healthcare providers and patients. They know change will only occur if both sides of the healthcare equation work together.

5 questions to ask your doctor

One patient tool I especially like is the simple wallet card that lists “5 questions to ask your doctor before you get any test, treatment, or procedure.”

Over the years I’ve helped several friends and family members write up lists of questions to bring to their doctors’ visits. Most questions are variations of these 5:

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure?
  2. What are the risks and side effects?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I don’t do anything?
  5. How much does it cost, and will my insurance pay for it?

I know from experience that many physicians will stumble over question #5! But I think they need to know that cost is a valid concern for most of us.

Be your own advocate!

Although I read about the Choosing Wisely tools being used in healthcare settings, I’ve never seen them used by any of my physicians.

So don’t wait around for your healthcare provider to start the discussion. Contact Consumer Reports for a free card and use it the next time your doctor wants to order any tests or prescribe a medication.

Before seeing your doctor, read the 5 questions and then write down new questions as they come to you. At your visit, let the medical assistant or nurse know that you have a list of questions you would like answered. If possible, have an extra copy of the questions that they can give to the doctor before he or she sees you. Better yet, see if you can email the list a few days before your appointment.

These questions aren’t only relevant if you’re facing treatment for cancer or another serious health condition. The costs, benefits or frequency of many common screening tests are being questioned. Before you consent, ask questions!

Choose Wisely!


Frugal Nurse

Want to know more about over-treatment and what you can do? Here are some great books:


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