Healthcare Education – It’s a Win, Win, Win!

More and more, we are expected to navigate the healthcare system alone.  When we are faced with a health condition, we research the options on our own, often fumbling through websites that may or may not be legitimate, trying to make sense of it all.  After this “research”, we bring a long list of questions about what we think the issue might be, along with our expectations of appropriate tests and treatment, to our doctor’s appointment.  Then, when being treated, we wonder if it's the best course of action or if we should get a second opinion. Should we blindly trust the advice clinicians offer in the very small amount of time they spend with us?

We live in a more is better society, and this has meant that many Canadians believe more health care means better care. In fact, that is not the case - unnecessary or inappropriate care can be harmful, and is not only a waste of your time, but also precious health care resources. But how can you know when you may need that test or treatment, and when you don’t?

What if I told you there was a website you could visit when you’re doing your research where medical experts provide insight on how you can make educated and effective choices about what you need, and what you likely don’t, when it comes to your own healthcare? The information covers family medicine, in addition to many medical specialties. Your doctor has likely seen this information – but even better –YOU have access to it too, and to patient pamphlets related to the information you’re researching as well.

It’s called Choosing Wisely Canada, and it’s a national, clinician-led campaign to engage patients and their healthcare providers in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments. As a physician and researcher in healthcare quality, Dr. Wendy Levinson helped bring this international campaign to Canada in 2014.  Today, more than 45 national clinician groups, including pharmacists and nurses, are putting out lists of commonly used tests and treatments that are not supported by scientific evidence, and/or could expose patients to unnecessary harm. The goal is to empower patients with that information, so you and your doctor can decide together what’s right for you.  You can find this information at ChoosingWisely.ca.

Hospitals are also embracing Choosing Wisely Canada to empower policy change for patient treatment and influence quality improvement projects, audit processes and measurement.  North York General Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre are two local hospitals already seeing positive results from incorporating the campaign. Given almost one-third of medical care in Canada is unnecessary, a natural by-product will be our healthcare system seeing less waste.  It’s a win for patients, a win for public spending and a win for insurance plan dollars.  How many things in life can we say are win-win-win?