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Unnecessary medical tests targeted

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/12/2016

A new nationwide health campaign aims to crack down on unnecessary medical treatment that New Zealanders are getting.

Organisers of Choosing Wisely say the campaign focuses on areas where evidence shows that a test, treatment or procedure provides little or no benefit to a patient and could even cause harm.

Council of Medical Colleges chair Dr Derek Sherwood says it's about shifting the thinking of health professionals and patients.

"More is not necessarily better when it comes to health care treatment," he said.

A survey by the council and Consumer NZ found that more than half of the respondents expected their doctor to provide a prescription or send them for a test.

But nearly one in five felt their doctor had recommended a test or treatment that wasn't necessary.

The campaign, launched on Wednesday, is being run by the council in partnership with the Health Quality and Safety Commission and Consumer NZ, and is supported by health sector groups.

Dr Sherwood said a large number of tests, treatments and procedures were available, "but that doesn't always mean we should use them".

He cited the example of X-rays and CT scans, which not only exposed patients to potentially cancer-causing radiation.

"But many studies have shown these scans frequently identify things requiring further investigation but that often turn out to be nothing," he said.

"This means patients can undergo stressful and potentially risky follow-up tests and treatments for no reason."

Another example was unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics for viral colds and flu.

Choosing Wisely's four questions for patients to ask their health professionals:

* Do I really need to have this test treatment or procedure?

* What are the risks?

* Are there simpler, safer options?

* What happens if I do nothing?

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