Stop wasting money on unnecessary medical treatments, say MDs and patients

Choosing Wisely NL - a group of doctors and patients - says the health care system must stop wasting money on medical tests and drugs that aren't needed.

Choosing Wisely NL says wasteful health care spending must end

Choosing Wisely NL wants to reduce the number of unnecessary medical treatments in the province. (CBC)

A new group is calling for an end to spending on unnecessary medical treatments in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Choosing Wisely NL members are both patients and health care professionals.

One of them, Lynn Wade, is the former director of laboratory services at Eastern Health. She said what she saw during her career at the province's largest health authority was shocking.

Lynn Wade is a patient representative with Choosing Wisely NL. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

"A tremendous amount of over-testing, inappropriate testing and aside from the financial perspective, the patients sitting to get their blood tests done and waiting to get a result."

"I know as a patient it's very stressful. So if they don't have to get it done and there is a lot of evidence for that, that's really important," said Wade, who is also a recent cancer survivor.

'Plugs it up'

Wade, who worked as a laboratory technologist, saw first hand what impact unnecessary testing had on the health care system.

"It plugs it up," she said. "It makes the patients in the blood collection area sit and wait. It uses up valuable resources in the lab."

Newfoundland and Labrador budgets more than $3 billion for health care annually. Choosing Wisely NL member Dr. Pat Parfrey said a surprisingly high percentage of that money is wasted.
Dr. Pat Parfrey, a nephrologist, is with Choosing Wisely NL (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"The cost per year of patient care [in Newfoundland and Labrador] is about $5,180 which is the highest in the country. Within that is unnecessary testing which probably amounts to about 30 per cent of that expenditure," Parfrey said.

How are we going to pay for schools and roads?- Pat Parfrey

Parfrey said skyrocketing health-care costs must be contained and the money that is budgeted should be spent on treatments that work.

"In Newfoundland we are using 40 per cent of our annual budget for health care. If that goes to 45 or 50 per cent of our budget, how are we going to pay for schools and roads and everything else? So I think nearly everybody agrees that the way the health-care system costs are going is unsustainable."

The group will give physicians guidelines on when they should and should not order medical tests or prescribe over-used drugs such as antibiotics.

Parfrey said the group's advice is based on research that shows what does and doesn't work.

"It's one thing to have a guideline but our interest is in the implementation of best practices so that we are capable of measuring utilization before the intervention is put into effect and after the intervention is put into effect," he said.