Better questions can help you make better healthcare decisions. By asking these 5 questions every time a practitioner recommends a treatment, procedure or medication you can not only take control of your healthcare but also possibly reduce unnecessary costs. 


Much has been researched and written about the glut of unnecessary tests and treatments performed by healthcare providers in the United States. There are many reasons for potentially over treating. For example:

  • Patients often feel reticent about questioning their doctors (the doc knows best mentality).
  • With so much direct to consumer advertising, particularly for prescription drugs many patients feel empowered to demand what they think they need.
  • A provider may be wary of angering a patient by denying a requested treatment or worse becoming subject to a lawsuit should a failure to test result in a failure to diagnose a serious illness. 
  • The prevailing school of thought is that it is better to test than to assume the risks of not testing.
  • Some physicians have spent large sums to acquire expensive testing equipment and can only recoup their investment if that testing equipment is billed out.

The reasons for over-treatment are various and complex. Still, many experts agree that over utilization of healthcare is a costly and sometimes dangerous problem. 

By asking questions you can open a dialogue with your physician so that you can make shared decisions.

Here are the questions to ask:

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure?
  2. What are the risks and side effects?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I don't do anything?
  5. How much does it cost, and will my insurance pay for it?   

These questions are part of the Choosing Wisely Campaign put forth by the American Board of Internal Medicine and Consumer Reports. The campaign goal is to reduce healthcare related costs and waste while also reducing harm to patients. 

In 2016 the State of Rhode Island adopted the campaign and was designated a "Choosing Wisely State." It is getting traction with many big companies endorsing the program. What we need is participation by both consumers and providers. 

As employers who offer health benefits and plan administrators you have an opportunity engage your people with this campaign. Encourage your employees to speak up and ask the five questions of their providers. Share your own stories of how the questions helped you and your doctor make decisions together. 

We don't have to over-complicate it; small decisions by individuals can have a big impact. These simple questions could help to address the complex matter of over treatment and bring patients the peace of mind in knowing that they are a partner in making their own healthcare decisions. 

The Choosing Wisely Campaign has cards that you can carry in your wallet so you always have the questions handy at office visits. Consider distributing this free resource to your employees during open enrollment this year. 



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