A campaign is being launched today aimed at reducing unnecessary
medical tests and procedures.
The Council of Medical Colleges, the Health Quality and Safety
Commission and Consumer New Zealand are behind the 'Choosing
It is backed by survey results from Consumer NZ and doctors'
groups which reveal that 56 percent of New Zealanders expect that
when they go to see a doctor they will get a prescription or a
letter for a test.
percent of people expect when they see a doctor they will receive a
prescription or a referral for a test.
One in five respondents said they believed the test or treatment
ordered wasn't needed - and up to 60 percent of doctors agree.
Council of Medical Colleges chair Derek Sherwood said the
problem spanned a range of investigations across all medical
"They involve blood tests, X-ray, CT scans and also a range of
different treatments, both medical treatments and surgical
He said harm could be done with X-rays and CT scans exposing
patients to potentially cancerous radiation. Blood tests could
produce false positive results, leading to more tests to rule out a
Dr Sherwood said it was time for a rethink, and today's campaign
will recommendations to guide health professionals.
Some will reiterate basic advice, such as not prescribing
antibiotics for viral upper respiratory tract infections, among
Baddock said patients wanted the right answer from their doctors,
not just any answer.
"Another one is not doing CT scans on children thought to have
appendicitis until an ultra-sound scan is done, which is a safer
test that can be done initially."
He said doctors may order tests because they didn't want to miss
anything, or because patients expected it.
"So they tend to order a test, worried that if they don't they
might be seen to be negligent. So there are a lot of things that
tend to push in the direction of over-investigation and
GP Kate Baddock of the Medical Association said it had led to a
huge amount of waste, whereas what patients needed was simple.
"What they want is the right answer, not just any answer.
"It's not very satisfactory to say, 'Well we know you haven't
got this and you haven't got that and you haven't got something
else, but actually we don't know what it is you do have. But we
have excluded all these other things'."
Those behind the campaign stress it is not about saving money
but making sure patients get the right and the safest care.
Dr Baddock said it was also sensible in a system with finite
"If we spend it on unnecessary investigations and unnecessary
tests, it leaves less money for those which are necessary or
desirable or useful or helpful in ways that we cannot yet do,
because we can't do because we don't have the money."
Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin is urging
people to ask their doctor whether they need a test, treatment or
procedure, about the risks, whether there are safer options, and
what would happen if they do nothing.
"The best advice may be that you don't require an X-ray, you
don't require a small procedure that might actually, you know, lead
to finding other things that are meaningless anyway."
Similar campaigns are also run in other countries, including
Australia, England and Canada.