The importance of reducing unneeded medical testing and medications can be a complicated message for consumers to absorb, physicians say.
The ABIM Foundation has awarded a second round of grants for its Choosing Wisely campaign, which aims to educate clinicians and patients about reducing unneeded medical testing, procedures, and medication use.
The grants, which are funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have been awarded to seven initiatives, all of which will work toward reducing the use of antibiotics for viral infections by at least 20% over nearly three years.
Lisa Letourneau, MD, MPH
The grantees each also chose at least two other Choosing Wisely recommendations to focus on, from the dozens of tests and procedures that Choosing Wisely recommends be scaled back, such as reducing imaging for low-back pain and reducing prescriptions for benzodiazepines for adults 60 and over.
The importance of reducing unneeded testing and medications can be a complicated message, especially for consumers, who have been conditioned to think that "more is better," says Lisa Letourneau, MD, MPH, executive director for Maine Quality Counts, one of the grantees.
"It's so counterintuitive to the culture in terms of accessing healthcare," she says.
The Maine Quality Country regional health improvement collaborative will work with other health organizations throughout Maine's Midcoast and Greater Bangor regions to spread the Choosing Wisely messages not only with patients, but also with clinicians.
Maine Quality Counts was a grantee during the first round, too, and heard a loud "we get it" from physicians, who said they felt like they were "swimming upstream" with patients who demand certain tests and medications when they're not feeling well.
"Stop beating us up," Letourneau said she heard physicians express. "Spend your time with the public."
This time around the focus will be not only on communicating the "choosing wisely" message to the public, but also figuring out the best way to do it. Letourneau says the key to spreading the word and making things click with the public is by conveying a complicated message in a succinct way.
She compares the "choosing wisely" message to other public health campaigns such as "don't drink and drive." But acknowledges that "choosing wisely" is more complex because it's not simply a question of convincing the public to stop a specific behavior.
"You don't want people to skimp on care they do need," she says. "What really resonates with people?"
The message for patients is: "Get the care you need and not the care you don't," she says. But in order for it to stick in people's minds and catch their imagination, "it's got to be a little sexier and catchier than that."
Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.