To Improve Patient Safety, Start With Avoiding Unnecessary Treatments
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans experience avoidable harm in our nation’s hospitals, and estimates suggest that tens of thousands of those people die. Medical errors and unintended harm in the US health care system are driven in part by the breakdown in the relationships that ought to be the foundation of good medicine.
|Shannon Brownlee, MS|
Part of the tragedy of harmful medical care is that often treatments that end up causing harm weren’t needed in the first place. Unnecessary medical procedures are shockingly common. Unnecessary or ineffective medical treatments, tests, drugs, and days in the hospital account for anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of total medical expenditures in the US. Examples range from PSA tests to CT scans, medication for mild blood pressure, and cardiac stents for patients who don’t have symptoms of heart disease. A recent analysisfound that in a single year, about 40% of Medicare recipients received at least one from a list of just 26 examples of useless or low-value procedures.
Asking questions can help patients better understand their treatment options. Patients and families can reduce their risk of suffering an error or hospital infection by avoiding unnecessary medical treatment in the first place. Here are five questions to bear in mind when discussing your treatment options with your doctor:
- What are all of my options for treatment? For many conditions and illnesses, there can be more than one treatment. Sometimes changing your lifestyle (diet and exercise) can reduce your symptoms or the risk of a bad outcome. Sometimes, not getting treated at all is a reasonable choice. Ask your doctor what all of your options are, and ask for clear explanations you can understand for each.
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