Boynton to cut down on ‘unnecessary’ care

Several clinics are working to reduce costly and unneeded procedures.

Nicolas Hallett

The new message from doctors: Don’t get that next X-ray unless it’s really necessary.

Physicians say overused procedures, like X-rays, can harm patients and cost hospitals valuable resources. The American Board of Internal Medicine has launched a national campaign to eliminate “unnecessary” treatments, identifying more than 270 tests or procedures “that should be questioned and discussed between physician and patient.”

Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota is among seven clinics throughout the state that signed on as pilot members of Choosing Wisely, an initiative announced Wednesday that will ax unnecessary procedures and improve doctor-patient communication.

The Minnesota Medical Association received grants from the American Board of Internal Medicine to assist physicians in learning about the avoidable practices through videos, handouts and training for staff. The first training event will be held at the Guthrie Theater on April 11.

“In a few months, we will share the experiences of these clinics with all Minnesota physicians,” Janet Silversmith, association director of health policy, said in a release. “We hope to learn how to … create an environment where both physicians and patients can say no to unnecessary care.”

Minnesota Medical Association Quality Manager Barbara Daiker said the problem is caused by patients and doctors disagreeing on whether tests are needed.

Some patients enter the doctor’s office with preconceived notions and a strong belief they should receive a certain treatment, she said. Many times physicians are unable to dissuade them and then give in to their demands, Daiker said, resulting in
superfluous care.

Unnecessary procedures cost hospitals money and put the patient’s health at risk, she said.

X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans are the most overused procedures and can lead to cancers by exposing patients to harmful amounts of radiation, Daiker said.

“Any time you get a test you don’t need, there’s a chance there’s a side effect to it,” she said. “And so it’s best not to have those things if you don’t need them.”

Dr. Lisa Mattson, director of the Boynton Women’s Clinic, introduced the project to the University and said a reduction could lower the amount of student services fees spent on tests.

Mattson said the fact that the American Board of Internal Medicine is behind the project will tell people that money isn’t the only motivation, but too much testing is bad for everyone involved.

Mattson said Choose Wisely will help doctors explain to patients why they don’t need tests, allowing them to better understand their care.

Doctors should be clarifying their decisions with their patients already, Mattson said, but often don’t in order to save time. She said the program will put pressure on doctors to do their jobs better.

“It’s really an awesome program, because it is going to help both providers and patients understand that we don’t have to do a lot of tests for everything,” Mattson said. “I’ve been saying we should do this for years.”