How the 5 Questions Can Help You

The Choosing Wisely ® campaign, an initiative by the ABIM Foundation  and its partner Consumer Reports , was created to help reduce the overuse of certain medical treatments by promoting conversations between doctor and patient. Designed for their directness and simplicity, the 5 Questions are an easy way to address whether a test, procedure, or prescription is necessary. They also help patients become active and engaged consumers.

Do I really need this test or procedure?
This is the first and most important question.  This question can be used to better understand why a specific test is being order, but also if it is the right test. It can also help to put less risk on patients. For example, imaging for low-back pain can over time pose health risks by exposure to radiation and is often times unnecessary. It can also prove to be very costly, which can present financial risks.

What are the risks?
R isks of all kinds should be weighed and assessed. Working together to find the right procedure is ideal and this question helps to do just that. Any potential risks, such as harmful side effects, should be made known. The process of testing can sometimes lead to false positives which can be difficult for patients as it can be draining on them not only physically, but also financially and emotionally. Knowing the risks can help patients feel empowered in their care.

Are there simpler, safer options?
Often times finding a simpler and safer option may be of greater use. Is the procedure needed or could a lifestyle change achieve the same goal? With low back pain, imaging is not always necessary and doesn't help a patient get or feel better faster. Staying active and utilizing physical therapy, chiropractic care, and/or acupuncture, can provide maximum and immediate benefits with little risk. Don't be afraid to make use of "non-traditional" options such as acupuncture or chiropractic care, as they are sometimes covered by insurances.

What happens if I don't do anything?
In other words, will the condition get worse - or better - without the test, procedure, or prescription? For colds and flus (which are viruses) medications like antibiotics do not work, and overuse of antibiotics can make bacteria become resistant. In most cases, at-home treatments and over-the-counter remedies are just as effective as antibiotics. Making use of saline nose drops and humidifiers can help with a stuffy nose, while honey and cough drops can help for a cough. As always, making sure to get enough rest and fluid is vital to treating any cold or flu. Watching and waiting can sometimes have the greatest impact.

How much does it cost?
Everything unfortunately comes with a price tag. Knowing what your insurance covers is the first step to avoiding some of these high fees, however, you should always ask about the cost of specific procedures and if there are less expensive options. Imaging tests, like MRIs and CT scans, can range into the thousands of dollars, while physical therapy sessions may only cost your co-pay. Utilizing the appropriate testing is imperative, but transparency in cost can help patients from going into medical debt or receiving a surprise bill - both of which can have a significant impact on a patient and their family.

Being an engaged consumer
Being an active and engaged consumer is the best way to help you and your family avoid unnecessary and expensive medical procedures, and a great step to getting started is by asking the 5 Questions . For both doctors and patients, having these dialogues can help combat medical overuse while helping to maintain open doctor-patient relationships.

Along with these questions, we have developed a number of different resources to help get you the care you deserve, and help patients and physicians alike get more involved in the process of care. To access more information, please visit our microsite - and remember: Always Choose Wisely !
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