Kiwi health experts warn of surge in unnecessary testing

A coalition of medical colleges and societies is warning of a surge in unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures in the health system.

The group says such interventions are stressful - and potentially expose patients to harm.

More isn't always better when it comes to medical tests, treatments and procedures, according to the alliance of six high-profile medical colleges and societies.

"Just because medical practitioners have tests or treatments available doesn't mean they're right for that patient at that time," rheumatologist Rebecca Grainger told Newshub.

The 'Choosing Wisely' campaign launched on Thursday aims to encourage both patients and doctors to think twice about treatments which perhaps seem routine, but could be unnecessary.

"If you are going to come up with something that's a risk of doing harm and actually no benefit, you shouldn't do it. That's what drove it - it's like overtreating with antibiotics," Council of Medical Colleges deputy chair Dr Ian Page said.

A recent survey of 1300 doctors found more than 61 percent believe unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures are a serious problem in the New Zealand health sector.

Doctors say the 'Choose Wisely' isn't about saving health dollars, but instead making sure Kiwis get appropriate care based on evidence.

As an example, Dr Ian Page points to the treatment of ovarian cancer as an area where patients often go through unnecessary screenings.

"It hasn't yet worked; we haven't got the right tests, and some people end up having surgery for harmless lumps - and any surgery has a risk of harm," Dr Page said. 

Industry leaders say in many cases there are safer options to address ailments - such as simple lifestyle changes like eating more healthily or exercising more.

And people who are seeking peace of mind from a test are often better off simply talking to a doctor instead, they suggest.