The next time you’re sitting in the waiting room of your doctor’s office, put down the People magazine and pick up your phone. Then download the Choosing Wisely app. Look up the reason for your visit and you’ll get clear, easy-to-understand information to guide your conversation with the doctor.
Choosing Wisely is an initiative by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation that promotes conversations between clinicians and patients to help patients choose care that is evidence-based, safe and truly necessary.
I wrote about Choosing Wisely in this space last fall and I am thrilled to learn that now there’s a Choosing Wisely app.
A family member recently experienced a sinus infection and Choosing Wisely gave us some guidelines. It said antibiotics kill bacteria — not viruses. Nor do antibiotics help allergies. Yet the app told me that viruses and allergies cause most sinus infections. We learned about the risks of antibiotics and the rare times they may be necessary. We also learned safer and less costly ways to treat sinus infections.
Meanwhile, a friend looked up migraines and learned that one of the medications prescribed to her daughter is a narcotic that can actually cause medication overuse headaches. On their next visit to the neurologist, she will ask the doctor to explain why this drug is being prescribed.
The app also explores more significant interventions, such as back surgery or expensive and invasive diagnostic tests. Choosing Wisely has a repeated headline: “When you need it – and when you don’t.”
As our elected leaders continue fighting over how we will pay for health care, we must also keep the focus on reducing the overall cost of health care. We must stop paying for tests, interventions, surgeries and medications that don’t help us — and may even harm us. The first place to start, in my opinion, is with Choosing Wisely, especially now when there’s an app for that.