One in five Kiwis believe their doctor has recommended a test or treatment that is not necessary, a survey has shown.
Despite this suspicion, 20 percent of people went ahead and had the test or treatment anyway rather than speaking to their doctor about why it was necessary.
The survey was jointly carried about by Consumer NZ and the Council of Medical Colleges, as part of the organisations' 'Choosing Wisely' campaign to encourage consumers to communicate more effectively with doctors.
Over a third of the survey's respondents felt that some tests or treatments recommended by doctors did not benefit the patient.
Council of Medical College chair Dr Derek Sherwood said: "There is mounting evidence that more tests and procedures don't always equal better care. While modern medicine has given us more ways than ever to diagnose and treat illness, sometimes, the best option may be to do nothing."
Dr Sherwood said the use of antibiotics in particular should be scrutinised. He said they should not be prescribed for viral illnesses like the common cold, sinusitis, pharyngitis and bronchitis.
"Using antibiotics when they're not needed can lead to antibiotic resistance - when antibiotics are no longer effective against the bacteria they once killed. This means in the future you might have an infection for longer and be more likely to pass it on to others," Dr Sherwood said.
"In many cases, the best treatment might be rest and over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain or fever."
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said consumers should feel comfortable with asking their doctor questions, so they can make informed decisions about healthcare.
"Always talk to your doctor if there are things yo
u don't understand or ask them to give you information you can read. Take a support person if you don't feel confident asking questions," she said.
"You can make a follow-up appointment to ask further questions or talk about your decisions after you've had time to consider the options."
The Choosing Wisely campaign encourages people to ask the following questions when a test or treatment is recommended:
- Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
- What are the risks?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What happens if I don't do anything?