Doctors are being warned against doling out too many tests and treatments to patients who do not need them, as part of a new campaign being launched on Wednesday.
The intervention by the Council of Medical Colleges follows a recent survey of New Zealand doctors, which found half thought the provision of unnecessary tests, procedures or treatments was an issue.
The new Choosing Wisely campaign focuses on areas where evidence shows that a test, treatment or procedure provides little or no benefit to a patient and could even cause harm.
The initiative aims to get doctors and their patients to consider whether a treatment or procedure is necessary.
"Choosing Wisely is about shifting thinking by health professionals and patients that more is not necessarily better when it comes to healthcare treatment," says chair of the Council of Medical Colleges, Dr Derek Sherwood.
"Health professionals will be encouraged to discuss the risks and benefits of these tests with patients, so patients can make an informed choice.
"There are a large number of medical tests, treatments and procedures available, but that doesn't always mean we should use them," he says.
"For example, not only do X-rays and CT scans expose patients to potentially cancer-causing radiation, but many studies have shown these scans frequently identify things requiring further investigation but that often turn out to be nothing.
"This means patients can undergo stressful and potentially risky follow-up tests and treatments for no reason."
Patients also have a part to play.
The initiative encourages patients to ask their health professionals these four questions:
Consumer NZ is supporting the Choosing Wisely campaign.
More tests and treatments don't always deliver benefits for the patient, says Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin, pointing to the overprescription of antibiotics.
"Antibiotics treat bacteria, not viruses, and won't do anything to cure a cold. Overuse of antibiotics is also a major factor in antibiotic resistance, a growing global problem," she says.
The campaign is being run by the CMC in partnership with the Health Quality and Safety Commission.
It is also supported by the Ministry of Health and PHARMAC and follows similar campaigns being run around the world including Australia, Canada and the UK.