April 16, 2012
Recently, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation launched Choosing Wisely, an initiative designed to encourage physicians (and their patients) to reconsider their use of 45 common medical screenings and procedures that are overused. The coalition puts the onus on both the doctor and the patient by having the support of nine of the most prominent medical specialist societies and by encouraging patients to ask their physician if a recommended screening or procedure is truly necessary. In doing so, Choosing Wisely hopes to reduce some of the waste in the health care system, as some experts assert that one-third of the $2 trillion in annual healthcare spending is spent on unnecessary procedures, treatments and hospitalizations.
Reducing waste in the system presents a tremendous opportunity to make a substantial impact on health care spending in this country, helping to reign in the unsustainable growth that currently exists in the system. In addition to the savings that can be generated through reducing waste, there are even greater savings to be had by preventing chronic disease and their costly complications. With chronic disease accounting for 84 cents of every health care dollar, we can address this primary cost driver through proven solutions that focus on prevention of chronic diseases and well-developed disease management programs. One step to achieving the same goal with two different means seems to be patient empowerment, providing patients with the tools they need to take control of their health.
It is undeniable that there exists a growing and urgent need to collectively focus on investing in and promoting tactics that will both tackle the incidence of chronic disease and reduce health care spending, and waste. Focusing on evidence-based methods, including those that help diagnose and prevent costly chronic conditions, could achieve both of these goals. Coupling a reduction in the incidence on chronic disease with a reduction in health care spending is what will truly transform our health care system from a sick-care system to a well-care system.