Consumer Reports: We'll help patients avoid unnecessary tests

Groups launch patient education initiative with informational brochures

April 23, 2012

Consumer Reports and the American College of Physicians (ACP) are partnering on an education initiative to help patients determine whether a medical test or procedure is necessary. 

The two organizations—which recently joined the “Choosing Wisely” campaign and helped identify 45 tests and procedures that may be unnecessary or overused—last week launched “High Value Care,” a patient education program.

“We feel very strongly that in many cases, patients are asking for tests or treatments that they see on an advertisement or a promotion,” says John Santa, director of Consumer Reports’ Health Ratings Center, adding, “We know from our surveys that consumers are fixed in their belief that more health care is better.”

Using brief brochures available in English and Spanish, the organizations advise patients on procedures to avoid because there is not sufficient proof that their benefits outweigh their risks and costs. The brochures are available on the ACP, Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM), and Consumer Reports websites.

The program’s first two brochures focus on back pain and diabetes. Each brochure contains ACP clinical practice recommendations published in AIM and a sidebar containing “Consumer Reports Advice” based on the magazine’s subscriber surveys.

For example, the diabetes brochure promotes generic metformin as a drug that is more effective than more expensive brand alternatives for diabetes management. It also recommends diet and exercise lifestyle changes and seeking advice from certified diabetes educators, endocrinologists, and dieticians.

"In these days of crisis in health care costs, the medical profession should take its ethical and professional responsibility to do what we can to reduce costs while not compromising care,” says ACP CEO Steven Weinberger (Carrns, “Bucks,” New York Times, 4/19; Gever, MedPage Today, 4/19; Knox, “Shots,” NPR, 4/19).

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