Over-diagnosis shows value of patient questions

The risks of over-diagnosis which may lead to more harm than good underline the need for patients to discuss treatment decisions with their doctor to ensure they are well-informed, the Consumers Health Forum says.

CHF has joined other health organisations in endorsing the Wiser Healthcare collaboration promoting the development of a national action plan to prevent over-diagnosis and over-treatment in Australia.  This follows rising concern around the world about over-diagnosis that can result in healthy people being diagnosed as “sick” because of expanding disease definitions.

The Chief Executive Officer of CHF, Leanne Wells, says the emergence of this issue is a further good reason why patients should feel comfortable about asking their doctor about a new treatment and what evidence there is for its efficacy.

“Medical advances have brought huge benefits of course but that has also increased the risk of doctors going a step too far in treating patients.  The British Medical Journal has raised concerns about the over-diagnosis of common conditions including pulmonary embolism, chronic kidney disease, depression, high blood pressure and osteoporosis,” Ms Wells said.

“This not only exposes patients unnecessarily to risk but also generates extra costs at a time when health budgets are under pressure.

“The more patients are engaged and informed about their treatment the more likely their outcomes will be positive.

“Choosing Wisely Australia has suggested five questions patients should ask doctors and healthcare providers:

  • Do I really need this test or procedure?
  • What are the risks?
  • Are there simpler, safer options?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything about the condition?
  • What are the costs?





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